The Pariah (Covenant of Steel #1) – Anthony Ryan

“Every man is a liar, but the worst lie is the one he tells himself”

Rating: 2 out of 5.

2 out of 5 stars

Thank you Orbit and Netgalley for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Well lets just jump right into this. As we can all see I had a vastly different reaction to this story in comparison to others who have read this. This is actually my first full length novel by Anthony Ryan, but not my first foray into his writing, I’m actually reading his novella series The Seven Swords, and I enjoy them. So I figured I would enjoy this as well since I had been wanting to read a longer story of his, but alas this did not work for me, this actually proved to me that I prefer his short story telling over his long.

To start, that tag line by Mr. Gwynne is full of lies and I say that in the nicest way possible. This was not full of vengeance and betrayal. This is why I do not read them and take them with a grain of salt.

The Pariah reads like its historical fiction and not fantasy, and while there is absolutely nothing wrong with historical fiction, I actually enjoy the genre, when I am in the mood for it, but this being pitched as fantasy with such minuscule feels of fantasy made it a tough read to get immersed into. I kept waiting for that fantastical element to pop up but nothing ever did. This lead to me being very bored with the story, it felt like it took ages to get through the chapters and I found myself more times than not becoming sleepy because it felt like so very little was happening even though a lot was happening, the material wasn’t presented in an engaging manner. Towards the end and I say this with all grace and honesty I started actively avoiding picking it up because I knew I was not enjoying it and could tell nothing was going to make this turn around for me. I even dropped my rating after finishing, I was originally leaning towards a 3.

The most frustrating bit for me comes from the fact that the focus of the story shifts drastically . When starting out you are lead to believe that this is going to be a tale of Alwyn getting revenge for his fallen outlaws, a betrayal of the deepest kind, and a tale of two men, a true king and false king fighting for control, and some how Alywn will become entwined in this, and part one even ends on this note. But once part two got going slowly that story-line started to fall to the wayside and the religious story-line with the Covenant, the Seraphile, the scourge and malecite took over and everything that part one set up, just feels completely thrown out the window to be lost and forgotten. Sure at times its mentioned that Alwyn still wants his revenge and a few moments are taken to bring that part of the story back into play but its very short lived and then quickly removed from the forefront again but even after awhile that stops.

I enjoyed the start of the tale immensely, all the moments of going through Alwyn being part of the outlaws was interesting and engaging. We learned how he came to be part of the crew, where he stood, what their punishments were like under the Outlaw king. The whole Outlaw king portion was so interesting and it ended way to quickly and it was set up to make you feel like it was important but it really wasn’t, it was just filler to move the start of the story along, and that is so frustrating as it was the most interesting part. I wanted to know who betrayed who, and its of course reveled so far late in the story after having felt like it was forgetting about that I no longer cared, nor believed it when it was told yet Alywn was like “yup okay that checks out because now I’m apparently more focused on being obsessed with Evadine” and then that’s it for the revenge plot line.

I don’t care for religious plots, so that in of itself was not interesting for me (I can handle it as a side plot), but in this tale it was slow, and felt dragged out and a lot of the time confusing, and its heavily focused on, its clearly the main plot, not the stuff that went on with the outlaw king.

The story is also told from Alwyn’s pov in 1st person, and once again I am coming to conclusion that this style is my least favorite. It does nothing for the larger cast of characters. We only get to see one side of everyone because we are only seeing them through Alwyn’s eyes and while they each had their own personalities none of them shined or stood out because they only acted one way, which was the way Alwyn claimed they acted. You never get to see their full reactions to any of the situations, you never get to see the more complex sides of any of them. I enjoyed the first meeting with Ayin, that was wild and unexpected, but aside from that nothing drew me to anyone. To add more frustration all of this led me to I feel nothing for anyone, some other reviews talk about the heartbreak this conjured and I being the sensitive little lady that I am, felt no heartbreak for anyone. The deaths felt flat, and some where mentioned in passing that you didn’t get time to take them in and it didn’t help that Alywn had little to no reaction to any of the deaths and since we see this all through his eyes him having no real deep reaction ruined any sentiment that could have been formed. Outside of that death is so prevalent that it left nothing to be hurt about. Also another point to be made, Alywn is so far from being deft with a sword, don’t believe the lies the synopsis tells you.

The reason for the lower rating was the absolute off the wall and straight out of left field take on Alywn being in love with a certain character. This is just randomly thrown at you at the end with zero build up, zero evidence that it was ever a factor and its presented like it was always there. It was jarring, off putting and instantly grated on my nerves. I have a feeling what kind of “love” this is going to turn into, but the lack of build up to it makes it fall completely in the realm of “wtf”.

The last bit is the magic.. at least I think its magic, its never really stated if there is or isn’t magic. There is talk of witches with gifts, but of course they are heathens and its presented in manner that leads one to believe its just false rumors flying around. Evadine has visions.. The closest thing to magic that appears is all related to the Sack Witch and its not until the end that it starts to make you think “oh look there is magic in this world”

The good of this story falls into the writing, while it was long and at times exasperating it is the writing of someone who has clearly been doing this for a long time. It easy to picture what is going on based on descriptions and the battle/fight scenes are well thought out and constructed wonderfully. I’m not big into structure battlement fights, I find them boring and they are used in this and while I did not like them I can say they where written with knowledge and managed to portray what was happening. Although the world is kind of bland and boring, nothing new and exciting. Also the illuminator, he appeared for like one chapter but oh my gosh I loved learning about him and what his job entailed.

All in all, this just was not the story for me, and i’ll probably not pick up book 2


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