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The Pariah: The Covenant of Steel #1    by Anthony Ryan order for
by Anthony Ryan
Order:  USA  Can
Orbit, 2021 (2021)
Softcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Anthony Ryan's The Pariah launches his new Covenant of Steel series. At first it has the feel of a dark fantasy re-telling of Robin Hood, then introduces a lead reminiscent of Joan of Arc, and becomes a very different story.

Born in a whorehouse, Alwyn grows up among forest outlaws in the kingdom of Albermaine. He's smart, quick, ruthless, and good with a blade. He's content to follow the orders of Deckin Scarl, Outlaw King of the Shavine Marshes. Deckin's lover Lorine teaches Alwyn the arts of disguise and more. All goes well till Deckin's ambitions lead to betrayal, his death, and Alwyn on the run.

Captured, he's sent to the Pit Mines, along with newly met Toria. They make plans to escape but fail. In the Mines, Alwyn is mentored by Sihlda, an Ascendant of the Covenant of Martyrs, who has long laid escape plans. Alwyn works as a scribe in return for extra food for Sihlda's people, and so becomes Alwyn Scribe.

He and Toria escape and find shelter in the sanctuary city of Callintor. When that refuge fails, they volunteer for the crusade of Lady Evadine Courlain, who's had visions of an apocalypse. She's opposed by dark forces, and Alwyn is torn between a strengthening allegiance to her, and his basic instinct to save himself.

But his part in events was foretold long before - does he have any control over his destiny? As this episode ends, he comes full circle, back to forest outlawry. Fans will be anxious for more, as I am.

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