A young outlaw faces a brutal and uncaring world amidst a company of rogues and oddballs. When betrayal shatters his oddly idyllic banditry, his life becomes a fight for survival, for answers, and ultimately for revenge. The plot is simple and yet compelling, propelled by its rich characterization.
Ultimately, it is the characters that are most remarkable in this novel. Although the inhabitants of this story are familiar in the sense that we have seen many characters like them, they feel uniquely motivated and articulated. Without ever sacrificing the novel’s forward momentum, Ryan delivers a well-imagined cast that lives off the page.
The setting was probably the most generic element of this story. It’s reminiscent of medieval England in a way that makes it almost transparent. We specifically get some Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest vibes in the early chapters. While I don’t think this detracted from the story, it didn’t necessarily add much either.
Anthony Ryan’s writing is excellent. His storytelling voice really draws you into the Pariah in a way few authors can manage. He doesn’t do it with florid prose, he does it with deceptively straightforward writing that echoes a good yarn told around the campfire.
This book was a joy to read. A well-paced, utterly thrilling book full of memorable characters and heart-pounding action. My favorite novel of the year.