Book Review: The Pariah (The Covenant of Steel, #1) by Anthony Ryan

Book Review: The Pariah (The Covenant of Steel, #1) by Anthony Ryan

ARC provided by the publisher—Orbit—in exchange for an honest review.

Cover art illustrated by: Jaime Jones

Cover art designed by: Lauren Panepinto

The Pariah by Anthony Ryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Series: The Covenant of Steel (Book #1 of 3)

Genre: Fantasy

Pages: 576 pages (UK Hardcover edition)

Published: 26th August 2021 (UK) & 24th August 2021 (US) by Orbit


I’ve read every novel by Anthony Ryan, and The Pariah just might have his best prose so far.

“When the task is a killing, be quick and make sure of it. Torment is an indulgence. Save it for only the most deserving.”

There were three reasons why I was incredibly excited to read The Pariah. One, excluding novellas and short stories, I’ve read every novel by Anthony Ryan, and I plan to keep it that way. Second, the cover art is illustrated by Jaime Jones, one of my favorite cover artists. Lastly, I heard that Anthony Ryan is sticking with one POV for the narration of The Pariah, and this made me gleeful.

“All ambition is folly when it fails to be matched by reason.”

The story in The Pariah is told exclusively through the perspective of Alwyn Scribe. Raised as an outlaw and quick on his wit, Alwyn is content with life on the woods and the comradeship he has with his fellow thieves. At least, until a brutal event changes his life completely. That is pretty much all I can say regarding the premise of the novel. If you’re really averse to spoilers, I suggest you not check out the official synopsis of this novel; there’s plenty of spoilers in there, and frankly, quite a few inaccuracies. There’s close to zero magic in The Pariah, and Alwyn definitely wasn’t skillful with a blade. Seriously, do not start The Pariah expecting a lot of actions, magic, or fantastical creatures; The Pariah takes place in a medieval world, and at times—for now, anyway—it almost felt like I was reading historical fiction. Again, these aren’t negative things to me. I highly enjoyed reading The Pariah. It’s a compelling slow-burn narrative filled heavily with themes of religions, justice, and freedom.

“We fought and we bickered, but we also suffered cold and hunger together, as families do, and family is to be cherished, as is life… And life should not be wasted on pointless feuds or hopeless endeavours. This much I’ve learned.”

Whether you love The Pariah or not, I think, would depends a lot on whether you could click with Alwyn’s narration or not. As I said, Alwyn is the only POV character in this novel, and the novel is told in a diary format written by him, similar to The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell. Sometimes, Alwyn himself mentioned “dear reader” in his narration to remind us of this fact. I personally think that The Pariah exhibited Ryan’s prose at his best. I’ve mentioned it several times now, and this is obviously just my preference, but I feel like I always enjoy reading Ryan’s fantasy books the most when the story is told from the perspective of one or two POV characters. For example, just like Blood Song, The Raven’s Blade duology, and this.

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

However, this doesn’t mean that there weren’t any memorable side characters. Throughout the story in The Pariah, Alwyn encountered several individuals that ended up being crucial in influencing the path of his life. Deckin, Toria, Shirlah, and Evadine Courlaine being the most pivotal of them all. Plus, although I stated that there weren’t a lot of action scenes, the few battle scenes that exist in The Pariah hits immensely hard. Invigorating battle speeches, vivid chaotic battles, and each intense battle sequences were bloodsoaked. If there’s anything that I wanted more out of The Pariah, it would have to be for the series to exhibit more fantasy elements. The Pariah felt like the groundwork for the rest of the series on this aspect. There are hints of these to come; religions and faith are dominant in the narrative, and we’ve heard about the Scourge, Seraphile, and Malecite in this book. I hope the sequels will feature more of them.

“Rage can make us feared and compel the obedience of the weak as a wolf compels its pack, but also it blinds us, as Deckin learned too late.”

The Pariah is a superbly written beginning to The Covenant of Steel trilogy. The first-hand account of Alwyn Scribe is rich with personality and distinction. I definitely loved it, I have no idea where the story will go from here, and I’m excited to find out what’s next in Alwyn’s adventure.


Official release date: 24th August 2021 (US) and 26th August 2021 (UK)

You can pre-order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Blackwells (Free International shipping) | The Broken Binding (Use my code: NOVELNOTIONS121 for discount!)

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