cover image The Pariah

The Pariah

Anthony Ryan. Orbit, $17.99 trade paper (608p) ISBN 978-0-316-43076-0

Ryan (the Raven’s Shadow series) impresses with this fantasy trilogy opener set in the kingdom of Albermaine. The author makes buy-in easy thanks to three-dimensional characters and intelligent prose that grips from the opening sentence: “Before killing a man, I always found it calming to regard the trees.” These words are Alwyn’s, a quick-witted young man who belongs to a gang of thieves headed by a duke’s bastard. Alwyn is introduced while pretending to be witless in order to halt a procession of carts—thereby enabling his comrades to steal the loot and massacre those protecting it. The haul includes a confidential message concerning King Tomas Algathinet’s ongoing war with challenger for the throne Magnis Lochlain. Thanks to an epigraph teasing dramatic changes for Alwyn, readers know from the start that he will rise in station to become a knight in the king’s army—and that eventually Lochlain himself will describe Alwyn as the “far bloodier man” of the two of them. Ryan manages to make this early warning not to be charmed by the roguish Alwyn recede in readers’ minds—until a shocking betrayal brings it back to the fore and catapults Alwyn on his journey. Gritty and well-drawn, this makes a rich treat for George R.R. Martin fans. (Aug.)