“To hold faith in one’s self, in one’s convictions and choices, is, when you come to think of it, a curiously difficult thing.“
– Pariah’s Lament, opening line –
** DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Nevertheless, all opinions presented here are my own. **
How could I turn down a review request for an epic fantasy novel? Especially one that has been compared to Brandon Sanderson’s works? One that takes place in a world created as a collaboration between multiple fantasy authors?
** Immediately gets jealous of anyone working on this project and decides she wants a writing group like this in the future. Just imagine all the nerdy conversations one could have! **
Of course I couldn’t turn this opportunity down! And although I didn’t quite think Pariah’s Lament was on par with Sanderson, I did enjoy reading it. I very much appreciated how much detail had been put into creating the world and making it come alive on the page, and how the protagonists were characters you couldn’t help but root for.
Still, this is probably never going to be a favorite of mine. While the book wasn’t bad by any means, I did think that the plot was rather straightforward and that the relationships between the characters were pretty black-and-white. If Pariah’s Lament had wanted to make me truly love it, it would have needed to add a bit more complexity to the mix…
But let’s get into some details!
SOME GENERAL INFO:
Title: Pariah’s Lament
Author: Richie Billing
Page Count: 426
Publication Date: March 17th, 2021
Date Read: December 27th – 28th, 2021
Rating: 3/5 Stars
SYNOPSIS (FROM GOODREADS)
“So often it’s the forgotten who possess the power to change the world”
When an attempt is made on the life of Ashara, Keeper of Yurr, his young, hapless advisor Edvar must uncover and stop those behind it.
With enemies in the capital city and the belligerent Tesh, Keeper of neighboring nation Karrabar stirring trouble in the Borderlands, can Edvar hold together Ashara’s brittle reign?
The troubles ripple throughout Yurr, affecting an ancient race of people known as the Amast, who in their time of utmost need, turn to pariah Isy for salvation. Rejected by society, kith and kin, can Isy guide the Amast to safety during the greatest turmoil Yurr has known since the War of the Damned?
As I already hinted at above, the thing I liked most about this book was the world-building. The detailed descriptions of cities, landscapes, people, customs, and mythology truly made Soria and Yurr come alive, and I loved all of the constant hints at there being a much richer history and scope to this story than we were actually getting to see. It really shows that multiple people put a lot of thought into this, and, in my opinion, it definitely paid off!
Furthermore, I really enjoyed having Edvar and Isy as the story’s main protagonists. Both of them gave off those “misunderstood underdog” vibes that I somehow end up falling for every single time – Edvar because he feels like an imposter, an incompetent young boy who will never be able to live up to his father’s political greatness, and Isy because she has always been bullied for looking different, for sporting a birthmark that her fellow villagers see as a sign of dark magic. So obviously, I couldn’t help but root for both of them! Edvar putting a ton of pressure on himself to live up to the weight of his expectations was something I really related to, and I also loved how open-minded and eager to learn Isy was, in spite of how badly people had treated her in the past.
In fact, even though I did think that Isy was almost too perfect and should have had least a few more character flaws, her storyline was probably my favorite. Her interactions with the Amast, a people forced to leave their home in light of the persecution they had faced there, were some of the most interesting parts of the book and, overall, I really liked how Richie Billing was able to use this fantasy setting to draw attention to the plight of refugees and some of the obstacles they face. (I mean, there were language learning scenes! 🥰 Sure, the Amast did learn to speak grammatically perfect Yurrish unrealistically fast, but I’m willing to attribute that to their unique fantasy-worldly brain power and simply enjoy that those scenes were there in the first place! 🤗)
And the showdown at the end! We got a battle scene with chaos, unexpected surprises, and major character deaths, which is something my evil dark heart always yearns for 😈 Tragic deaths always make a story so much better and heartbreaking!
That being said, though, there were also a few things that I didn’t like about this book.
First, I felt that apart from Isy and Edvar (and possibly Vil and Jem), none of the characters were explored in a lot of depth. Especially from important side characters like the Keeper or the Amast, I wanted more emotion! I wanted arguments between the characters! I didn’t want everybody mindlessly accepting Edvar’s plans, I wanted people to discuss things and disagree on which course of action to take. I wanted to see their pasts and personalities influencing their decisions, but, unfortunately, there was very little of that.
In general, I thought we saw very little development regarding the development between different characters. Like, from the get-go, Edvar and the Keeper inexplicably trust each other with their lives. And nothing changes. Even when Edvar fails to protect the Keeper in a crucial moment, the Keeper’s trust doesn’t waver. Even when the Keeper withholds the truth from his people, Edvar never doubts him. I mean, their faith in each other is sweet and all, but I would have loved this relationship so much more if they had questioned it at some point! If they had actually had to fight to regain the other’s trust and come out stronger for it!
The same goes for the romance, if you could even call it that. The parties involved simply like each other, and that’s pretty much it. There is no slow burn. There are no arguments. There is nothing that really goes beyond a cute childhood crush.
My biggest gripe, though, was with the plot. Not that it wasn’t interesting, mind you! There were lots of politics, a bunch of intrigue and betrayal, and multiple storylines that were definitely all engaging. The problem was that, at least in my opinion, every chapter was very obviously written to further a particular one of them. If a chapter was about Isy trying to sneak into the city, then the chapter was only about Isy trying to sneak into the city. If a chapter was about Edvar confronting the Keeper’s other advisors, the chapter was only about confronting the advisors. At the beginning of the chapter, the protagonist would decide what their objective was, then there’d be loads of description on how they reached that objective, and by the end of the chapter everything would be wrapped up with a neat little bow, with no distractions in between. There was no complex web of interwoven plotlines, where you never really know what’s relevant but slowly have to figure it out along with the protagonists. Instead, I kind of felt like I was reading the protocol of a D&D campaign, cobbled together out of random, self-contained encounters that were meant to show off the world and ultimately culminated in a big battle scene.
As a result, the characters often got out of situations really easily. Oh, you were kidnapped? Well, good thing your kidnappers don’t actually mean you any harm, but simply wanted to find a way to talk to you! You want to negotiate with a political figure who never shows himself in public? Good thing you arrived on the one day he decided to leave the safety of his Keep and that he apparently isn’t at all intimidated by weird strangers in cloaks! There are soldiers following you? Good thing they turn out to be on your side after all! You need a way to get into the city unnoticed? Good thing you just happen to know about a secret tunnel that has never been mentioned before!
Look, I don’t mind lucky coincidences diffusing a tricky situation once or twice, but when characters never have to plan ahead and things always work out with no foreshadowing at all, I get bored. I prefer my fantasy novels to leave me stumbling in the dark for a while, to have me piece together clues as to what is actually going on in the world, to blow my mind with unexpected but well foreshadowed plot-twists, and to make me watch characters make plans and fail, while I slowly get to know and fall in love with them.
So, overall, would I recommend Pariah’s Lament? Partially. It’s a pretty standard “hero goes on a journey” and “political leader fights against evil threat” kind of story, so if you’re newer to the fantasy genre, this might be a good introduction. It has unique world-building, plenty of action, likeable characters, and a bit of politics, but things never get as crazily confusing, multi-layered, and dense as in some of the big, multi-tome fantasy series à la Wheel of Time, Way of Kings, Lightbringer or Kingkiller Chronicles. As for seasoned fantasy readers, I still think you might enjoy this, but I doubt the plot is necessarily one that will sweep you off your feet, either 😅
So yeah, that’s it for today! If you’ve read Pariah’s Lament or plan to, I’d love to hear your thoughts down below! And other than that, I’ll see you on Friday with my last post of the year!