Cover Image: The Martyr

The Martyr

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Member Reviews

2.5 stars

The Martyr is the sequel to The Pariah and whilst I really enjoyed book 1 I was left a little disappointed by this one. We continue to follow Alwyn the Scribe on his adventures as he and the risen Martyr Evadine get sent by the King to pursue peace across the kingdom and ensure the loyalty of the dukes.  

I think the main reason I didn't enjoy this book as much as book 1 was Alwyn as a character. In book 1 he had such a cheeky, charming, loveable vibe but in this book he literally just felt like generic fantasy dude bro no78. I'm not sure if it is because he is older in this book but he just seemed a completely different character from book 1. 

I also felt like 90% of this book was battles about things I didn't really care about. My favourite bit was when Alwyn ends up in the care of the Caelish people and befriends a young warrior called Lilat but this was quite a minor part of the book. Other than that dynamic there wasn't really any relationship between two characters in the book that I really cared about - even Alwyn and Evadine's interactions felt so surface level. (Also I missed Toria :'( ) 

I also felt like book 1 had a lot of interesting themes around religion, religious fervour and fanaticism but this book didn't really add anything new or interesting to those themes despite there being so much potential. It was sacrificed in place of battle scenes and action, which if that is your preference you will probably really like this book however I much prefer interesting philosophical and religious themes to action. 

I will say Anthony Ryan's prose is excellent and that is probably what compelled me to keep reading rather than just DNF'ing. It is very relaxing to read (even when bad things are happening) and the story and text flow nicely - even if I wasn't all that interested in what was happening.
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Rating: 3.5 stars 

This is shaping up to be a very solid fantasy series. 

That being said, if you’re not interested in reading about the politics of religious institutions, or about siege warfare, then you might be a little bored in sections of this book. It’s definitely a bit of a slow-burn (like the first book in the series) and parts of the book definitely drag a little. 

However, Alwyn is an engaging narrator, and the ending of the book definitely left me looking forward to the third book in this series!
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The Martyr is the second book in Anthony Ryan’s Covenant of Steel trilogy and picks straight up from where its predecessor ended. Thankfully, the author includes a detailed recap of book 1, so there’s no need to re-read that first to refresh your memory.

All in all a highly enjoyable read, but I do have a few minor quibbles. The pacing is somewhat uneven – the first 50 of the book centres around a single siege/battle and the plot only really moves forward from that point onwards. There are also a *lot* of battle scenes in the book which perhaps will not be to the taste of all. They’re consistently well-written though and, indeed, the quality of Anthony Ryan’s writing is superb throughout. Alwyn Scribe remains a compelling central character and I’m intrigued at the direction in which Anthony Ryan takes him here. Roll on book three.

If you liked The Pariah, you’ll adore this. Recommended. 

Thank you to NetGalley and the Publishers, Orbit Books, for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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First off, there's no need to reread the first book. The author has included a very detailed summary in the form of a letter written by someone who is reporting on Alwyn's autobiography, which I thought was very clever.

Just like the first book, this really worked for me. This is mostly because Alwyn is a very compelling character, and we've been getting hints that there is so much more to him than we initially think. I was really hoping to find out more in the second installment, and it did not disappoint. Where The Martyr has Alwyn moving through different settings and companions, this book has him mostly by Evadine's side. This also means that a lot of this book has to do with war, battles, and sieges. I personally thought it was a bit too much. By the time I was 50% in, not much else had happened, and it was starting to get tedious. Fortunately, the author did switch it up in the second half, which was a lot more interesting to me, and really makes me eager for the last book. I love the direction it ended up taking and can't wait to see how the story ends.
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This one of the best fantasy series of these years and this book is even better than the The Pariah.
There's a lot of action, battles,  but also politic and the game of the powerful.
Great world building and storytelling, the character development is brilliant and i'm wondering about their character arc.
I loved it and thoroughly enjoyed this story.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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The second book in the author’s new trilogy (?). The first book established Alwyn Scribe as a character, ex outlaw, with a passion for history, who becomes part of a religious army The Covenant Company, being led by the charismatic and serene Evadine.
Now, in the second book, Alywn is a trusted advisor although the reader is never quite sure where his loyalties lie and what his true agenda is. The company is being used in a political and religious war and there are questions about which is the true faith and what Alwyn’s role might be.
Anthony Ryan is an author of some great books, this is a diversion from his norm. He is a kind of successor to the late and great David Gemmell, but this is not about iconic heroic types it is about the strength/stupidity of faith. Yep, plenty of meaty battles and interesting characters (plenty of interesting females ones interestingly) but the challenge here for readers is to understand agendas and the direction of travel.
Maybe not quite up to the standards of previous books but the author always produces interesting and engaging fantasy.
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Once again we follow Alwyn – known as ‘The Scribe’ through a war torn kingdom. No longer an illiterate bandit, he’s fighting for and with Evadine, a beautiful woman who claims to be a ‘Risen Martyr’.

Due to events that transpired in the previous book, Alwyn doesn’t believe this claim, but is bound to Evadine nonetheless.

And so, with the newly empowered Evadine at his side, Alwyn tries his best to protect her from those who would use her popularity and Martyr status – and those who would kill her for it.

I won’t give any more of the plot away.

What I want to talk about is the writing – this is a masterpiece in how to build tension. We have several battles in the book, but it’s the words between them that build the story. Subtle changes to status, new lessons and new realisations heighten everything.

We see the story through Alwyn’s point of view, but he’s so bound by Evadine that he does things for her he knows he shouldn’t. And as he helps her, his own star grows. Kings and traitors alike notice Alwyn. His gift for detecting lies makes him an invaluable asset – and that also makes for an interesting part of the story. Power struggles are within as well as without.

In terms of setting – this feels like a real mix of Joan of Arc, Robin Hood and a period of British history known as ‘The Anarchy’ – alongside a Black Plague like ‘Second Scourge’ that is on the way. The set up for book 3 is incredible – and I’m really excited to see where the story goes.

There are many new characters to meet. My favourites were Lilat and Lord Roulgarth – and this is something else that Anthony Ryan excels at. Characterisation. He can very quickly draw a character that is both believable and intriguing. So much so that characters from The Pariah (who don’t appear in The Martyr) are still vivid in my mind.

I found myself thinking of this book often. Alwyn’s voice is very close. We know every thought. Every hidden desire. Every lie.

The ending was quite the cliffhanger too.

I don’t know how I’m going to wait for book 3 to be released.
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Martyr by Anthony Ryan 
The Martyr is the second book in Anthony Ryan’s brilliant Covenant of Steel series.  It is told in the first person, which gives an immersive reading experience.  The story is narrated by Alwyn Scribe as he rises up from an outlaw in book one The Pariah.  In Martyr, Alwyn is now a spymaster and the sworn protector of Lady Evadine Courlain.  Lady Evadine, whose visions of a demonic apocalypse have earned her the fanatical devotion of the faithful.   Yet times have changed and Evadine's growing fame puts her at odds with both Crown and Covenant.  Alwyn is sent to Alundia to put down a rebellion, Alwyn relies on his old outlaw instincts to fight for his cause.  In a world where religion and politics are constantly at war with each other. 

The story is riveting and flows from start to finish, maintaining a steady pace.  The writing is well balanced and exciting, and the characters emerge in all their complexity.  The narrative is wholly absorbing and although this is a long novel, it is so immersive the pages just fly by! The world-building is fantastic and what you would expect from Ryan based on his previous fantasy stories.   Alwyn's flaws are many and Ryan doesn't shy away from exposing us to his flaws, yet for all Alwyn's moral shades of grey, he is such a likeable character.  There is also a huge cast of secondary characters that are engaging and help to move the story along.  

The Martyr is dark, brutal, entertaining, and a fantastic reading experience.  The set-up for the final book is going to be explosive, I can't wait!  I would like to thank both NetGalley and Orbit Books for providing me with a free e-book for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.
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I received an advance review copy for free and am leaving this review voluntarily.

It has been a while since I read the first book; I couldn't remember much of book 1. Luckily there is a handy refresher at the start of the book.
Our hero, Alywn, awakens just after the end of book one. The story continues without a break, though I can't say the same for Alywns injuries. Fighting a Knight has changed Alywn; pain from the battle haunts his journeys. In some ways, Alywn is a darker anti-hero than before.

The fallout and consequences of book one determine the path of book 2. The royal family plot Lady Evadine's destruction. Covenant company travels to the Duchy of Alundia, ordered on a suicide mission. The Royals mean to get rid of the company, their deaths justifying a war. What follows during the first half of the book is siege warfare. Excellent writing and vivid battles captivated and enchanted me. I'll stop there to avoid spoilers.

Book two is different. I think many of us love his first books because of the hero's journey. In the Pariah, we saw Alywns journey. A child grows from humble origins into a warrior. There was constant growth.

Much like the empire strikes back, Book 2 has a different purpose, growing the world and seeding the story with roots of new plots. Although I like the book, the first half has little character growth. It's mainly an extended battle sequence. Great for me since I enjoy action sequences. I like the Martyr. It's as good as book 1, and I'm looking forwards to the final part of the trilogy.  Recommended and worth buying.
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My thanks to the Author publisher's and NetGalley for providing me with a Kindle version of this book to read and honestly review.
Master at work.
Asolute quality entertainment, the writing is everything you have come to expect from this brilliant Author. Atmospheric clever descriptive imaginative intelligent totally engaging from first to last page. Terrific action scenes with palpable tension that makes the reader feel part of the plot. Brilliant characters throughout how does he keep track of them all. This is the second book of this superb series, but includes a brief catch up at the start, but would work as a standalone story anyway, and the ending suggests there is more of Alwyn the Scribe to come I for one would certainly hope so, the sooner the better.
Completely and totally recommended.
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I liked The Pariah when I read it last year and The Martyr was just as enjoyable. Ryan continues the story he started and builds on it, so it becomes a multi-layered and very interesting book.

I continue to like Alwyn as the main POV character and it’s great to see him develop more throughout the novel. I like his interactions with the other characters and his narration is always entertaining.

One of the things Ryan does very well is seamlessly weave the politics and religion of the world into the narrative.  Sometimes, this can bring a book down and make it a lot less enjoyable to read but Ryan not only makes it readable, he makes it interesting. The world created in this series is fascinating and the dominance of religion just adds to that.

The Martyr was a very enjoyable read. Ryan is very good at writing entertaining and sympathetic characters even when they’re not doing particularly likeable things and I love the world he has created. The book just sucks you in and you don’t want to put it down until you have found out what has happened. It’s dark, brutal and funny like The Pariah. It was a very entertaining novel which furthers the story of Alwyn and makes you want to know what happens next.
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Did you read my review of "The Pariah"? Take everything I said there, and triple it! Lordy gosh, but I loved "The Martyr"!! There is a huge, major, massive twist that I truly couldn't have imagined... and it's sent this series in a direction that is absolutely brilliant. The plot, characters, writing are all superb (of course!). I desperately need more Alwyn, more Albermaine, and more of Anthony Ryan's writing!

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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Absolutely loved this brilliant follow up to The Pariah. We rejoin Alwyn Scribe, now knighted and still in thrall to the mysterious Joan of Arc-like Evadine Courlain. Every single character in this story is well imagined, and you care about all of them, They are all interesting, all with their own histories, secrets, needs and ambitions and you could read a book about each and every one. I also really very much appreciated the summary of the previous book at the start - it can be a long time between publication of a series of books and having that summary really helps to dive back in to the story more easily. 
I cannot wait for book 3!
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Aww man that was so good.
The second instalment in the Covenant of Steel series, where Alwyn Scribe continues to narrate his story. 
I found this a very satisfying read and Alwyn is a great character, the story flows well, and there's a couple twists that you don't see coming.
Essential reading for fans of Historical fantasy - this will be going on my recommends shelf. 
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Anthony Ryan delivers another bloody, engaging volume in the second book of his Covenant of Steel series in The Martyr. It has been a couple of years since The Pariah so Ryan gives not only a character list but a short precis of the preceding book (although from a point of view not particularly enamoured of its protagonist). And after a short reintroduction to the characters he is right back into the intense medieval fantasy action.
Alwyn Scribe, narrator and key figure in the narrative he is writing, is now one of the key advisors to the Risen Martyr Evadine. Only he and one other know that Evadine was not spared by the grace of the gods (known as the Seraphile) but due to Alwyn’s intervention and the intervention of a foreign magic user, the mysterious Sack Witch. Evadine is now on a mission but does not have a large enough power base so makes a deal with the king to go to a neighbouring vassal state and deal with those who have broken away from the Covenant. While this is supposed to be a trap that is likely to see her killed, Alwyn once again uses his guile to fashion Evadine a victory. The narrative follows not only Evadine’s rise, but also Alwyn’s on her coat tails although along the way he learns more about the mysteries surrounding both Evadine and himself, knowledge that just gives rise to more questions.
The Martyr is a perfect second book. While The Pariah was a coming of age story, The Martyr sees Alwyn fully in control of his powers and influence. He is much less a pawn of fate (for the most part, a middle section throws him back into this role) and knows when he is doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and does them anyway. Ryan answers some questions but actually spends most of his time setting up bigger questions about the world in which Alwyn lives and the mystical world to which it seems to be connected. It does this while also delivering the things that make this series so strong – a post-Game of Thrones bloody, muddy and often desperate view of medieval politics, conflict and warfare.
The Covenant of Steel series is perfect for fans of horse and sword filled medieval fantasy with a touch of magic. Ryan has shown not only in this series but in his steampunk dragon-filled Draconis Memoria series and others his ability to deliver engaging and page turning fantasy narratives full of grey characters and plenty of cliffhangers. And The Martyr is no exception with a propulsive set up and last sentence cliffhanger setting things up for the third and final volume of this series where there is plenty to be resolved.
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3.75 rounded up ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Will post review on goodreads two weeks prior to release as instructed in the e-mail.

Thank you so much to Little Brown Book Group/Orbit and NetGalley for an e-arc of this book.

Wow, can I just say anyone who read the first book and thought it wasn’t worth continuing-please do! This book is 100% better.

The prose is more coherent, the characters more engaging and the story better paced. It was almost like reading a book from a different author.

In this instalment we delve more into the mythology of the world, and we start to get some answers about who, how, when,what and why. Alwyn is eminently more engaging as a narrator.

I will say for me, I still have some issues with the prose. I often find a scene has changed but with no indication it has changed for a page which can be quite confusing and takes me out of the world as I have to go back and re-read to figure out what has happened. But as I say this book is a massive improvement on book one in this regard.

Looking forward to book three!
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Book Review - The Martyr by Anthony Ryan


I only recently read The Pariah and LOVED it so was really excited to get this arc - I had high expectations and it did not disappoint. 

We continue directly where book one finished, with Alwyn Scribe continuing to impart his tale on us, his 'dear readers'. There are battles galore, which as we know from Pariah, Ryan does exceptionally well, but my favourite parts were actually the intervals - the mundane, everyday conversations, Alwyn's sword practice, his reflections on decisions he made. The character development of Alwyn is outstanding; he is as flawed as anyone and with the benefit of hindsight, he can see that. We're also introduced to some new side characters as well - The Widow and Lilet are fantastic new additions who I hope to see more of in the next book. 

The world building and lore are further built upon in Martyr, and I loved learning more about the Caerith. 

Aside from all the above, The Pariah and The Martyr really do a deep dive into the impact of religious fanaticism - belief in one's self, belief in others - and both the personal and wide reaching consequences it can havoc. 

Damn - the ending though - the last four words changes everything and I cannot wait for the next instalment!! Anthony Ryan is quick becoming one of my favourite authors.
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When I was reading The Pariah, I noticed that each Part of the story was preluded by a quote 'from the Pretender's account to Sir Alwyn Scribe'. And I kept asking myself:
How did an outlaw who mostly has a talent for talking himself out of trouble become a knight?
And then it was... 
How the hell did this guy who is thrown in the Pits become such an important Scribe his vocation literally became his last name?!
And then, when he unwillingly became Evandine's infantry fodder, it was: 
"But, how did he come so close to the Pretender?"

That little sentence, my friends, was the driving force that made me turn the pages. There is just something arresting in knowing that main character started from less than humbling beginnings and seeing only a glimpse of how far he went. The drive, of course, lies in answering to all of my how's, but the real charm of the book is the narrative, as it comes directly from the pen of none other than the "figure of direst legend" himself.

<u>Bare bones</u>: The Martyr follows Alwyn through his starting years as Evadine's closest advisor.  Her fame as a Risen Martyr brought her a lot of loyal followers, but it also put her into a precarious situation with the Crown and the Covenant. The Crown will not have someone being more popular even if they fight the battles in the name of King Thomas and The Covenant despises Evadine's claim to martyrdom considering her to be a fraud. As a result, she is shipped to duchy of Alundia to stop the rise of anti-Covenant sentiments. With fanatics on both side, the conflict escalates and with Alundia bordering on Caerith Wastes, Alwyn comes face to face again with unknown forces and powerful individuals.

I am first to tell you that out of all significant figures in Alwyn's life in previous novel, Evadine was the one I was most baffled with. It's pretty clear she was inspired by Joan of Arc due to religious aspect of her convictions and the fact her sanity was questioned several times in previous novel. It's not the first time Ryan brings up in his writing cult of personality theme, zealotry and devotion charismatic figure can inspire in others and dangers it brings with it. He's touched upon it in Queen of Fire and Raven's Blade duology, but in this novel he's done the best job jet. Because of the role he played in her resurrection, Alwyn is constantly surprised by the number of people Evadine's martyrdom/sainthood seems to attract and why they follow her. And because there is no Toria to ask Alwyn why is he doing the same thing, you figure out the answer on your own. Evadine still remains the most detached character to me, because you can see in his own words as he describes the events, she is this, almost mythological figure and you actually realize he fell under her spell just the same despite knowing the secret behind Risen Martyr. In this way Ryan showed that Alwyn's cleverness doesn't mean he's immune.
Alwyn also steps seamlessly into the role of Evadine's personal advisor. Playing backstabbing politic and making thorny remarks suited him perfectly considering his beginnings. 
He also assumes the role of military strategist and Ryan, to my delight, wrote not one, but two sieges in this novel. The one in [book:The Wolf's Call|41021418] still remains my favourite, but I love how he writes them, so I flew through fight scenes.
So, yes, we can see Alwyn is shaping into that important person of legends, but the best thing about this is that Ryan made a point of showing that as much as he appears natural, he can still be outsmarted in every aspect by those with more experience and knowledge and has a lot more to learn.
Which bring me to magic, the fantastical part of this book. I never thought Ryan is particularly great in explaining how the magic really works in the worlds he imagines. It's always this esoteric plain of existence our heroes get a glimpse of and unexplainably omnipotent individuals they barely come in touch with. Later part of the book is Alwyn learning more about mysteries of Caerith magic and Sack Witch and I thought I would like this more than battles with the Crown and Alundia, but it wasn't the case. I actually have more questions now. Final conflict was all about the magic and, on one hand, I think I actually preferred magic being in the background of the story, just something unexplainable. On the other hand I didn't enjoy the culmination scene as much because Alwyn foolishly stepped into an obvious trap and he should have known better. Yes, he addresses this after, but for me it was perhaps the most random, greatest step-away from that outlaw boy we got to meet in The Pariah and who up to that point is shaped by early part of his life.

Despite those minor complaints, I am yet to come across book by Ryan I couldn't get into and read it in a span of few days. His writing just works for me, and it was the case with The Martyr as well. It's a good sequel novel that brought some answers and opened up the world beyond the Kingdom of Albermaine and petty skirmishes between the duchies. There is a bigger fight coming and our heroes are intended to play an important role in it. I, personally, can't wait to read Alwyn telling us all about it. :)
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Its been an age since I started writing a piece knowing I was actually going to finish it. As per usual apologies for the prelude before the review, but this one is slightly relevant to the book, you can always skip to a couple paragraphs down if you just want to hear my thoughts on the book and if you really don’t care you can skip to the bottom for a tasty little tl;dr.

I’ve found it genuinely hard to write in the past year. I think the majority of us readers want to do the writing thing, the idea of free books and being read by many is a very powerful motivator, but realistically the free books are payment for the hard work that is blogging and social media and I think as the time passes I write less for people to read and more for myself. It’s still super rewarding to be part of the community and I will try my best to get back on track, but reading has been so much more enjoyable since I stopped reading to review and instead do what I’ve done today, review because of what I read.

 I sat down to write a review for this book because its fantastic and I want others to read it, but honestly its my way of passing love notes to my favourite authors. In reality I do this because every retweet by the people I count as celebrities is that little dopamine rush I need. But realistically I need/have started to change my attitude to how I do this whole thing, and hopefully this is the start of my comeback as I find a happy medium.

 Apologies by the way, I’m a little rusty.

When I wrote my review for The Pariah last year one of the things I knew without a doubt was that in my opinion it was Anthony’s best book to date, and I say this as a massive fan of all of his current works. It was a blend of everything I loved about Anthony’s previous books but felt more refined. Blood Song and its following books had these incredible characters and exhilarating action scenes, Draconis Memoria series had much the same but with some truly spectacular world building. Its clear Anthony just keeps getting better, and because of that what we got last year was Alwyn Scribe, one of our best characters of 2021, in The Pariah, one of the best character driven Fantasy books of 2021, written in what was a year of truly exemplary character driven fantasy.

I loved The Pariah, it was everything I want from a proper fantasy book, but I really loved The Martyr. It was overall a very different vibe than the previous book, Alwyn feels very much the character he is going to be now, meaning less growth and instead a lot more refinement of who he is as he struggles with the man hes become and the choices hes made. I really loved his whole arc throughout this entire book, Alwyn really matured from that coming of age archetype we had in the first book to this mature and devastating man. The books story arc feels quite set in stone which would mean we wouldn’t have much new bought into the world, however, we still had some incredible twists thrown in that I really didn’t expect and some stupidly good supporting characters where introduced, the Widow (who you won’t have to wait long to meet, and I won’t spoil) was one of my favourite things about the whole book.

“I rolled onto my back, looking through recurrently blurred eyes at the strangely pelasing sight of a cloudless night sky speckled with stars, only partly occluded by the dark veins of tree branches. I always liked to comtemplate the trees, I thought, surprising myself when the notion brought a laugh to my lips”

With Alwyn seemingly locked into his path it meant we got swooped up in the adventures of the Risen Martyr (who is genuinely good enough to be a main character in her own right, I can imagine her POV and background/story would be an incredible read) and the Covenant Company as they are embroiled in the dirty politics of the land. This was a big win for me because it meant we got plenty of big set pieces that included some excellent stabby action we all know I really love. A moment to recognise that Anthony continues to write battle scenes that are just *chefs kiss*

“I tried to resist the lure of grim arithmatic but my mind was ever drawn to calculation. In comparing the number of days we might expect to sustain ourselves in this castle to the time required for our messnegers to complete their task, I arrived at a dolefully inevitable conclusion. “Oh,” I signed, finding wisdom in a dead mans mundanity as a fresh tumult of drums and shouts sounded from the west-facing wall, “shit on it.”

This was my first “middle” book review and it’s a different kettle of fish, the first book is easy to review because you have everything new to write about, the final book is probably quite easy in the sense you can discuss the wrap up, so the thing I decided was the most important to a middle book is did the author advance the story and keep it exciting? Yes, he did. Series like Wheel of Time have entire books that feel like waffle and can be really hard to get through, plenty of trilogies have entire middle books that just feel like one big time waste followed by a cliff-hanger to set up the third book. The Martyr didn’t feel like this at all, I think overall Anthony did an incredible job of advancing the story, everything carried on feeling fresh and exciting and everything introduced felt necessary to the story instead of being there to progress a point.

As far as I’m concerned Anthony wrote what I would class as a perfect fantasy book and its an easy 10/10 for me.

tl;dr Anthony Ryan continues to write incredible, gritty fantasy that ticks every box every time. Perfect Fantasy.
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Anthony Ryan is on the top of his writing game, this continues where  the martyr stop. A fantastic piece of writing the pace continues at such a high level and with such drama and tension and intrigue well worth reading this is highly recommend it to all lovers of fantasy hope you enjoyed  it  much as I did a good five star book.
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