|Synopsis||A tentative peace between two kingdoms becomes all the more fragile as two heroes are whisked into a story they would have never expected. Edvar must overcome his insecurities as he protects the Keeper of Yurr. Isy will have to find inner strength to help a group of people she never expected to meet.|
|Release Date||March 17th 2021|
Pariah’s Lament is the debut novel from author Richie Billing for the relatively new publishing company called Of Metal and Magic Publishing (OMAM). The book is set in the land of Soria. Pariah’s Lament has a lot riding on its success, as one of the first novels of a brand-new publishing company. Novels like these could propel a company forward or hold it back early in its lifecycle. Does Pariah’s Lament get the job done? Let’s find out!
Violence: Substantial amounts of violence. Most is battle violence and is seldom grotesque. However, there are still some gritty scenes. Characters are killed by numerous means typical to a late-medieval setting: swords, spears, bows, and siege weapons. Many characters also die from monsters and creatures.
Sexual Content: Almost none. There is some romantic tension in the story, but overall, mostly clean from a sexual content standpoint, other than a crude joke or two. There is mention of people being raped in war, but it’s always discussed at a distance. No sexual violence takes place in the story itself.
Drug/Alcohol use: Very little. Some characters drink in the story and get drunk. It’s rare and mostly glossed over.
Spiritual Content: Very little. There is some discussion of gods, but it’s limited. There are two powerful daggers in the story that are revered to a near religious position. They are treated as dangerous, but also as almost holy relics.
Language: A moderate amount. Several uses of swear words such as b******, ar**, d***, and sh***. Crude language; such as c*** and pr***.
Other Negative Content: One common theme we see in Pariah’s Lament is the mistreatment of people based on things they cannot change about themselves. For example, Isy has a facial skin issue, and it is considered a blight in her home town. She is effectively treated as a leper. Additionally, we see people reacting poorly to groups of people that are different from themselves.
Positive Content: Readers find some true acts of heroism, sacrifice, and humility. Characters choose to put aside comfort and stability to do the right thing. Our heroes in this story are flawed, but they are still heroes and demonstrate acts of true courage.
A review copy was provided by Of Metal and Magic Publishing.
Before I actually dive into my review of Pariah’s Lament, I want to provide my take on Billing’s publishing company. Pariah’s Lament is set in a shared universe called Soria that is controlled by OMAM. Any novels taking place in Soria are referred to as OMAM’s CORE stories. OMAM also publishes books outside of the shared universe of Soria (these are not CORE stories), but we’re going to focus on their CORE stories.
This is a very creative approach and a unique way to build out an entire world with considerable control. It’s hard to compare it to any other property out there. The closest comparison I could find is the Star Wars Universe, which has different authors contributing to a shared universe. However, Star Wars did not have its start as a publishing company with the intent of fleshing out a shared universe controlled by a select set of authors. OMAM and Soria is more of an intentional design, and I am very interested to see what they do with that property going forward. I think, if done well, it could set a new standard in the fantasy/sci-fi genre. However, while I think OMAM is a fascinating concept, that’s not why we are here. We’re here for Pariah’s Lament.
Pariah’s Lament is a high fantasy tale about two kingdoms in a fragile state of peace. Our story takes place in Yurrisa —one of the two kingdoms — following two central characters, Edvar and Isy. Edvar is an adviser to the Keeper of Yurrisa. The Keeper is effectively the king, but they serve a secondary purpose. (I will leave that nugget for the reader to find out on their own.) Edvar is trying to live up to his father’s reputation and be as good of an adviser to the Keeper as his father before him. Our second character is Isy, a young girl from a smaller town in Yurrisa who is the victim of scorn from her community and her own father, because she has a unique facial skin condition. While there are a few other POVs in the story, we spend about 90% of our time with Edvar and Isy.
Bottom line up front, I really liked this book. It had some unbelievably strong moments in the narrative that kept me sucked in for hours. Sometimes, I would grab the book any chance I got! However, where I found its greatest weakness was in the first third of the book. I think the best way to structure this review is to talk about that first third, and then finish off strong for the rest.
I usually like to start with the good stuff, but I think for this review, it makes more sense to start with the weaker elements of the story, the first third of the book. Pariah’s Lament actually started out quite exciting for both of our key characters. Edvar began with an assassination attempt on the Keeper of Yurrisa, and Isy was kidnapped by a mysterious group of people. These moments were tense and had strong pacing. After those tense moments, though, the story came to a grinding… not quite halt… but slow down.
Let’s start with Isy. Isy was done very well overall from beginning to end. She had strong development and was consistent. However, early on, her plot was extremely slow. I know Billing was trying to build her up and develop the cast of characters around her, it was still sluggish and at times, not terribly interesting. I know that sounds harsh, and another reader may find that build-up more interesting. I personally need faster pacing… not necessarily more action, but faster pacing.
Edvar was more complicated. He was focused on court intrigue and dealing with the aftermath of the assassination attempt. I also found these sections pretty slow, and Edvar came off as more… inconsistent. He would be a fairly normal, noble individual and then suddenly become an aggressive rhetoric courtier. While I understand that the author was trying to create tension in the character, as Edvar never felt quite at home with court politics, it wasn’t presented clearly and made the character feel inconsistent. The build-up to that tension just wasn’t always there. One minute, Edvar was normal, calm, cool, collected, and then he just… explodes.
Now, before you ask, “Mike, is this book worth it then?” I have an answer to that. I can say unequivocally, yes! If you move through these slower and slightly more inconsistent sections, I can assure that it pays off. Some of the slow build contributes to the strong middle and even stronger, almost epic, finish. Let’s get into the good stuff.
…Strong Middle, and Stronger Finish.
After the first third of the book, the story started to weave together in a way that finally hooked me. The setup and character development early on in the story paid off, and I felt like I started to see some real progression. Characters evolve and change, learning from their prior insecurities and mistakes. This comes through naturally for Isy, who lived her life scorned and accused of being cursed because of a skin condition. Edvar also started to become more consistent as he began the process of coming out of his father’s shadow and becoming his own hero. The way the characters engage each other felt so natural. The dialogues were like conversations that real people would have. I loved some of the fire-side chats between certain characters; it was in these moments that I really started to understand what motivated Edvar and Isy.
By the end of the book, we are at the crescendo, and it is quite the epic moment. I won’t say what happens, but it is truly impressive. I went from being hooked to utterly absorbed into the story. I picked up the book every moment I could snag a free minute or two. I’ll be honest, I felt like Isy was the overall more well-done character and grew steadily beginning to end. However, I came to like Edvar the most by the end, in the way he slowly stepped out of his father’s shadow and became the leader and warrior he aimed to be.
I’ll comment on one other thing, as well. Billing did a great job of dissolving some initial “eye roll” moments. Earlier, some of the motivations for particular characters were just not convincing for me. After a while, I started to come around that these are believable motivations. I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you hit one of these moments, just give it time and it should make sense. For example, one character is driven entirely by jealousy. When I remember that jealousy has driven men and women to do terrible things, I became convinced.
I want to jump back to Edvar’s and Isy’s character progression. They each came with pain and insecurities. Edvar felt out of place in the palace court to advise the Keeper because of the constant politicking taking place. Meanwhile, Isy had to contend with feeling rejected by her community and family. I felt like Billing took these challenges and turned them into strengths as they each grew into their own and found companionship with those who accepted them. I really appreciated this because our heroes weren’t the picturesque image of what we would expect from heroes in stories. They were flawed, broken, and imperfect, and Billing made these characters true heroes in the end.
This is reminder to me that as a member of the larger church, when people are broken, rejected, and feel worthless, we need to be there to show them the light of Christ. As Christians, we pass thousands of people who have been rejected by their own families or are struggling where they are in life, and we hold the truth. We can offer them a family that has eternal implications. I am active in the Geeks Under Grace discord server and see an active faith community in that space. Brothers and Sisters in Christ who come along side each other Every. Single. Day. Billing created a story that reflects something that as a Christian community, we should be emulating every day.
Do I plan to read more books by Of Metal and Magic Publishing?
Yes, I plan on picking up more of their books. While I know OMAM is run by a plurality of authors, and maybe not all are as strong as Richie Billing, I’m sold enough on what they are trying to accomplish with their company. I am willing to try any one of their books to see how the other authors hold up. Additionally, I will absolutely pick up more books by Billing. I was impressed by his writing style and the way he wrote character interactions was enough for me to come back to his work.
+ Great character interactions
+ Strong middle and end to the story
+ Rich world
+ Strong central characters
+ Great action sequences
- Slow beginning for both Edvar and Isy
- Edvar is inconsistent early on in the narrative
The Bottom Line
Pariah's Lament is an extremely enjoyable read if you can get past the first third of the book. The narrative has incredible pacing and character interactions if the reader fights through the early slow portions.