Today’s team review is from Aidan. he blogs here https://ricketttsblog.wordpress.com/
Aidan has been reviewing Pariah’s Lament by Richie Billing.
If I had to sum up this book in one word it would be inconsistent. There were flashes of absolute brilliance, then those same aspects would fall flat just pages later. Therefore, the book averaged out as a fairly average read for me. Nevertheless, there is an argument to be made that those moments of excellence, which I’ll expand on below, make it a worthwhile read, if you are inclined that way.
The book is pretty typical high fantasy, albeit one that leans less into the fantasy elements, and more into the warfare and politics of a fictional world. It seems to be set just as the industrial revolution is beginning, but the world is substantially the medieval style one that is typical of the genre.
The first thing to mention is definitely the writing style. Richie Billing consciously uses a high level of vocabulary in order to make the book engaging, and when it comes together, it’s phenomenal. The issue is it can feel clunky and unnatural in places. He also uses small snippets of dialogue to enhance the realism of the soldiers, and to add some humour to lighten the darker scenes. However, I also found that in places the dialogue was too similar to the other parts of the prose, which didn’t allow the characters to fully come to life.
I thought the plot was reasonably good, if a bit formulaic toward the end. I really enjoyed the political intrigue that was peppered throughout the novel, as well as Isy’s relationship with the Amast. However, I always felt the plot was just a tool for deepening characterization in this novel. I felt some of the scenes, particularly battle and journey scenes, within the novel could be stripped away, to give a more compact feel without substantially losing anything.
Of the two main characters, I preferred Edvar to Isy, although both were decent. I feel I just connected to Edvar’s issues more than Isy’s, yet they are both probably relevant to a wide audience. However, I felt these issues were dealt with in quite a heavy-handed way sometimes. By that, I mean the key elements of their characters were repeatedly brought up, which unfortunately created the impression that they lacked depth, which they certainly didn’t. Again, shortening the novel might alleviate this problem somewhat.
I appreciate that Billing always tried to create nuanced secondary characters, even if he didn’t always succeed. Of them all, I think Vil was the best, as he felt the most genuine. His emotions were shown well through his actions without being over-explained, and his unrequited love was painful. For most of the book, I found Ashara, the keeper (essentially the monarch of the land), to be quite simplistic, but there was a moment in the final section of the book that completely made me rethink him, which was great to see. Nevertheless, the villain, Tesh, didn’t really work for me. He had well-developed motives, and was morally grey to an extent, but I just didn’t find him very believable unfortunately.
The book has some strong themes. There are some comments about what it means to be part of a community, and the social exclusion of people who look different. There’s also a decent amount about the brutality and pointlessness of war. Thinking back, the themes are actually quite well developed, although they are by no means subtle.
Overall, I give the book 4 out of 7. As I said at the beginning, it is inconsistent, but Billing clearly has potential. I can see the reasoning behind many of his stylistic choices, and, as this is his debut novel, I’m sure his writing will grow. If you like high fantasy, then this certainly has good elements within it.
“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 kingdom 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?