Review | The Pariah – Anthony Ryan

About the Book

From the international best-selling author of the Raven’s Shadow and Draconis Memoria series comes the spectacular first novel in an all-new epic fantasy trilogy.

Born into the troubled kingdom of Albermaine, Alwyn Scribe is raised as an outlaw. Quick of wit and deft with a blade, Alwyn is content with the freedom of the woods and the comradeship of his fellow thieves. But an act of betrayal sets him on a new path – one of blood and vengeance, which eventually leads him to a soldier’s life in the king’s army.

Fighting under the command of Lady Evadine Courlain, a noblewoman beset by visions of a demonic apocalypse, Alwyn must survive war and the deadly intrigues of the nobility if he hopes to claim his vengeance. But as dark forces, both human and arcane, gather to oppose Evadine’s rise, Alwyn faces a choice: can he be a warrior, or will he always be an outlaw?

600 pages (Kindle)
Published on August 24, 2021
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This book was sent by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Anthony Ryan is one of those authors whose books I almost hate reading because they are so good it’s hard to parse out all the ways they are amazing. I’ve read almost all his books now, and I will say, The Pariah is probably my favorite one he’s written. So, keep that in mind as you read this review. Anthony Ryan is an incredible author, and in this book he takes everything that makes him so amazing and magnifies it. 

Honestly, I’ve been a bit burnt out on epic fantasy and grimdark in my free time reading, not because I don’t like the genre, rather because I have been editing a lot of epic fantasy for my day job and it makes reading it feel like work. For that reason, I put off reading Ryan’s newest book for a while. Eventually, however, I saw enough people foaming at the mouth about how wonderful it is, I realized I needed to just read it and see how great it is for myself. 

Reader, it’s amazing. 

Ryan has a way with writing that captivates me. He’s known for strong worldbuilding and captivatingly created characters, and in both of these respects, I feel like he’s taken his strong points, and really leaned into them. The world was brilliantly created, with every detail perfectly captured and his characters were so real, they breathed on and off the page. These two elements worked together to make The Pariah not just a book that was interesting, but a book that made me feel like I wasn’t reading the story but living it. 

If good fantasy is supposed to transport the reader, that’s exactly what this book did. I lived this story while I was reading it. The real world fell away, and I was transported to somewhere else. A dark reality fraught with mystery and drama, personal stories that were woven through a tapestry that felt both familiar and strange. 

Alwyn was a character with a powerful voice and a unique perspective. A man with a dark past, and darker experiences, he’s both an outsider and… not. Valuable skills keep him connected to others, and yet he always seems to be hovering on the fringes, not quite accepted, which gives the reader a unique perspective into events. Alwyn always seemed to be gathering more depth and nuance as well, to the point where he was both unpredictable and dazzling, surprising me with, if not his actions, his clarity. It’s rare I see a character in a book that is this fully realized, this cunningly developed, with a voice that is this remarkably memorable. 

The plot is masterful as well, twists and turns, hidden elements around each corner. I quickly learned to try not to predict where things were going, because I was always wrong. Where I’d think the plot would go right, Ryan wouldn’t even go left, but rather he’d do something just completely and absolutely unpredictable. I fell in love with the dark notes woven throughout, the intense atmosphere and succulent tension so thick I could taste it. the best way to approach The Pariah is to sit back, and just read the story. Don’t think about it, just read. I tend to read and edit so many books these days, it’s really hard for me to find one I can’t predict, and yet here was one. Almost from cover to cover, I found myself surprised, and I savored that. 

The Pariah has a lot of your standard grimdark offerings, gods, churches, power plays, secrets, and Alwyn woven throughout all of it. I am a huge fan of first-person narratives. I love how deeply entrenched they allow the reader to get in the character’s perspective, and that was a big benefit here, making this grimdark story and world really shine. I love grimdark. I even write grimdark. I love the gray morality, and the characters who are often bogged down by pasts that are as dark as the story I’m reading about. Ryan unflinchingly leans into this. Yet the book itself never really felt like something I’ve read before, which I was concerned about when starting it. Through a crafty weaving of Alwyn’s voice, perspective, and the plot itself, The Pariah felt continually new, like he was exploring undiscovered grimdark territory and that newness was something I truly enjoyed.

The ending was great. It had me on the edge of my seat, and answered enough questions to satisfy me, but left doors open for future installments in the series. Honestly, reader, I’m almost mad at Ryan for not having book two ready right away. I mean, the sheer audacity of making me wait. (/sarcasm font)

As you can see, I loved this book. The Pariah hit all my buttons. Fantastic writing, an amazing world, a plot that won’t quit, and an unforgettable character, The Pariah starts out a new fantasy series that is sure to become one of his best, foraging new ground and, at the same time, reminding readers why Anthony Ryan is one of the best epic fantasy authors out there. His skill is unmatched.


5/5 stars