Books are many, many different things and they are wonderful for different reasons, but sometimes, it’s nice to just read a book about overcoming some really awful odds, whether that be by magic or sheer determination or anything of the sort. Pariah’s Lament by Richie Billing was exactly that sort of book, and I am glad for it.
1. Thoughts on the plot
This book follows a somewhat standard low-magic, epic fantasy plot, with two warring nations, the political scheming to deal with the war, and much of the story being driven by people who would, under normal circumstances, never become anything other than what they are at the beginning of the story, but who become something more because of the specific circumstances brought about in the book. This book follows two primary characters: Edvar, a young councillor to the Keeper (similar to a King), who is trying to thwart assassination attempts and other problematic situations; and Isy, a girl with a birthmark on her face who has been shunned by her town and family and falls into extraordinary situations one day in the forest. The two of them, as well as a lost people called the Amast, various forces loyal to the Keeper, and other sundry forces, must work together to try and overcome a threat from their neighbours as well as from within.
In general, the plot is a fairly standard epic fantasy, low-magic plot. I have absolutely no problem with this, as it is one that I enjoy quite a bit. I think this book really shines in the details, though, giving each character something to work through personally while also trying to sort out the external situations. Everything flows well and it was never confusing to try and sort out what was happening. A very good plot!
2. Thoughts on the characters
I liked the characters in this book, on the whole. I think Edvar and Isy are both relatable in that they have struggles they seek to overcome, but also strive towards something better. I like reading about flawed characters who actually work hard to achieve something more than characters who suddenly excel and become something far more than an average person could achieve. This book was definitely more realistic with the characters, I think, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.
I will say that the main villain of the book, while obviously with justified motivations for doing what he did, felt a little flatter than I would have expected. He did not seem to have any other motivations or feelings besides those that drove him to such ends, and it felt more plot-central than character central. However, given that I liked the main characters so much, I think it wasn’t that much of a problem.
3. Favourite part
I think following Isy in overcoming her personal setbacks was probably my favourite part. She never let her situation completely overwhelm her, as Edvar occasionally did, and her growth felt very steady and sure, as if she just needed an extra push to set her off on her path. Relatively speaking, Edvar and Isy both managed to achieve their goals, and I liked them both a fiar bit, but Isy just struck some chord in me that made her fascinating to read. Possibly because she liked books so very much.
My only real critique for this book is the very ending. Not the entire ending, since I think Edvar and Isy both did what they needed at the end of the book. I think the way that things ended was a perfect conclusion tot he situation, except in the fact of the main villain. This is where the problem of his lack of other motivation besides the ones that drove him to do what he did really shows through. The way that Tesh reacts at the end, leading to the concluding scenes and the end of the immediate struggles, was so sudden and overwhelming. He just seems to disregard previous motivations and reactions. It makes sense from a plot perspective, but from a character perspective, it does not quite fit.
On the whole, I think Pariah’s Lament was a good book, exploring how people can struggle to overcome the things that plague them, external or internal, and not lose themselves in the process. I think the plot was rich and entertaining and the characters both relatable and something to strive for in the way that all the best book characters are.