“I am a pariah to be shunned by churl and noble alike. this land and his people have no use for me safe to earn an ugly death and and an unmarked grave fighting their wars”
The Pariah by Anthony Ryan is the first book in the Covenant of Steel series. Having been left in the woods as a child(he is the bastard child of a Duke), Alwyn Scribe is saved by Deckin and Lorraine, leaders of a band of outlaws. Alwyn has grown up to become an outlaw and lives together with his fellow thieves in the safety of the forrest in the Albermaine kingdom. However, an act of betrayal sets Alwyn’s sights towards getting justice for those close to him that were killed. In turn, his path alters from being an outlaw to a soldier under the leadership of Lady Evadine who is a noblewoman plagued by visions.
The Pariah is the first book I’ve read by Anthony Ryan and it definitely won’t be the last. I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to see what comes next for Alwyn Scribe. Anthony Ryan’s writing is so detailed that you can picture everything happening in front of your eyes. What really grabbed me in particular were the speeches before battle which could make the hair at the back of your neck stand up. Ryan does superbly in creating a tense atmosphere before and during battle.
“Scum, villains,” she went on. “The wretched dregs of the realm. That is what your comrades think of you. I will not ask if you agree, for I know they are wrong. I know that I would rather stand here with you than alongside the finest knight in all the Covenanted kingdoms of the earth. For I look upon true hearts and true souls. I look upon the true blades of the Covenant”
In terms of the characters, I really like the character of Alwyn Scribe as he was complex, intelligent, and most importantly genuine. He’s just trying to survive the shit life throws at him. The story is told from his POV alone so you really get first insight into what is going through his mind. Especially when it comes to his quest for vengeance on the individuals who killed and betrayed his fellow thieves. Alwyn is an incredibly complex character who I enjoyed learning about. His growth and character development again is very natural and genuine. Alwyn also isn’t a saint and definitely strays over the “erm I don’t think you should’ve done that” line. There are also many great side characters such as Evadine, The Sack Witch, Caerith,Toria, Wilhelm, Deckin, Lorraine, and many more who add to Alwyn’s journey.
When considering the narrative style, The Pariah is incredibly dark and gritty. The life of an outlaw and soldier are not pretty and Anthony Ryan definitely doesn’t sugarcoat that aspect. The depiction of the battles are especially epic and raw. I was genuinely on the edge before the battle scenes and during them.
As a narrator Alwyn was very engaging and the details of what he saw and how he felt were great. I do wish though that we could’ve seen things from the POV of others such as Toria and Evadine. If would’ve been great getting to know what was going on in their minds at key moments. I do hope that we get to see from the POV of others in the next book.
In terms of the world building it’s bloody, dark, and definitely gave me a medieval vibe. Different regions and dukes are competing to see who can reign over whom. Peasants are treated like shit with no regard for their wellbeing. So yeah not everything is sunshine and smiles in the world of the Covenant of Steel. Many of the elements throughout the story include religious elements, political elements, and treasures that were assumed to be myths. The story is partially heavy on the religious elements which in turn goes hand in hand with the political elements. One character in particular draws Alwyn into learning about the religion of focus in the story.
Overall, this was an epic and dark fantasy novel that I really enjoyed. I was pretty nervous about how I’d find it reading an Anthony Ryan novel for the first time but I was pleasantly surprised at how great it was. Alwyn is a really great character but I would like to see from the POV of others! But I’m really excited to see what the second book brings 😊