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Who will take up the mantle and slay the evil in the Frozen North, saving all from death and destruction? Not Kell Kressia, he's done his part... Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of grizzled fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice r Who will take up the mantle and slay the evil in the Frozen North, saving all from death and destruction? Not Kell Kressia, he's done his part... Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of grizzled fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe. Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer's life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich's abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more. For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He's not a hero - he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he's a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone...


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Who will take up the mantle and slay the evil in the Frozen North, saving all from death and destruction? Not Kell Kressia, he's done his part... Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of grizzled fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice r Who will take up the mantle and slay the evil in the Frozen North, saving all from death and destruction? Not Kell Kressia, he's done his part... Kell Kressia is a legend, a celebrity, a hero. Aged just seventeen he set out on an epic quest with a band of grizzled fighters to slay the Ice Lich and save the world, but only he returned victorious. The Lich was dead, the ice receded and the Five Kingdoms were safe. Ten years have passed Kell lives a quiet farmer's life, while stories about his heroism are told in every tavern across the length and breadth of the land. But now a new terror has arisen in the north. Beyond the frozen circle, north of the Frostrunner clans, something has taken up residence in the Lich's abandoned castle. And the ice is beginning to creep south once more. For the second time, Kell is called upon to take up his famous sword, Slayer, and battle the forces of darkness. But he has a terrible secret that nobody knows. He's not a hero - he was just lucky. Everyone puts their faith in Kell the Legend, but he's a coward who has no intention of risking his life for anyone...

30 review for The Coward

  1. 5 out of 5

    Holly (Holly Hearts Books)

    With a rich world that creates a great sense of grand scale, and piles and piles of heart, Stephen Aryan writes more beautiful terrain and fame thirsty warriors. It makes the adventure a blast and is buoyed by some fantastic enemy creature designs, though these successes are married to a fairly basic and repetitive first half as a story that seems to regularly overstate its own substance. Personal rating: 3.75 Full review to come on my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/hollyheartsbooks With a rich world that creates a great sense of grand scale, and piles and piles of heart, Stephen Aryan writes more beautiful terrain and fame thirsty warriors. It makes the adventure a blast and is buoyed by some fantastic enemy creature designs, though these successes are married to a fairly basic and repetitive first half as a story that seems to regularly overstate its own substance. Personal rating: 3.75 Full review to come on my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/hollyheartsbooks

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Sometimes you’re so busy and have little time to read yet the books you’re reading arent remotely interesting but at the same time don’t want to start anything else… so you end up distracted by tv series or youtube or whatever during those precious free moments you get.. 2 stars to the book that took me weeks to finish while I finished no other ebook meanwhile. So boring. Review to come. Thanks to publisher and Netgalley for sending me an e-arc of this book

  3. 5 out of 5

    Edward

    This book was so much fun! Some serious Kings of the Wyld meets David Gemmel vibes here. I love the idea of real discovering who the heroes actually are, and the whole 'meet strangers and become a team' trope. Loved it and what's even better is that it sets up the idea of a sequel! The writing style here is easily accessible and told in a very chatty way, with great humour and dialogue, short and sharp chapters and some beautiful descriptions. The characters are excellent. Each was different, quir This book was so much fun! Some serious Kings of the Wyld meets David Gemmel vibes here. I love the idea of real discovering who the heroes actually are, and the whole 'meet strangers and become a team' trope. Loved it and what's even better is that it sets up the idea of a sequel! The writing style here is easily accessible and told in a very chatty way, with great humour and dialogue, short and sharp chapters and some beautiful descriptions. The characters are excellent. Each was different, quirky and had their own individual arcs and moments, and the ending of The Coward was top notch. I love how each characters has mystery and moments to shine, and how humour is interweaved throughout the story. I cannot wait to dive into Aryan's backlog, now! All in all, a fun and personal tale, that adds a new and modern twist on the 'heroes' trope. 'Kings of the Wyld' meets Gemmell's 'Legend'. We need more books like this in fantasy! Thanks to Stephen for sending me a review copy. THE COWARD is out June 8th!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Library of a Viking

    A heartwarming, engaging and fun fantasy adventure! The Coward is the first book in the Quest of Heroes series, and is the first book I have read by Stephen Aryan. After seeing the beautiful cover and reading the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. The Coward follows Kell Kressia, who is a legend and a celebrity. Kell gained his status after going on a quest, when he was only 17 years old and killed the Ice Lich. Kell thereby secured peace in the Five Kingdoms. However, 10 years after this epic qu A heartwarming, engaging and fun fantasy adventure! The Coward is the first book in the Quest of Heroes series, and is the first book I have read by Stephen Aryan. After seeing the beautiful cover and reading the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. The Coward follows Kell Kressia, who is a legend and a celebrity. Kell gained his status after going on a quest, when he was only 17 years old and killed the Ice Lich. Kell thereby secured peace in the Five Kingdoms. However, 10 years after this epic quest, a new terror is threatening, and the King wants to send Kell to defeat this evil, but Kell Kressia is not planning on going. He has already done his part. The Coward uses the ‘quest trope’, which I typically do not enjoy reading. However, Aryan sets up the plot incredibly well, making the reader engaged in Kell’s story from the first page. Kell is such a relatable, stubborn and funny character that I thoroughly enjoyed following. Furthermore, the reader is given hints that there is more to Kell’s story than meets the eyes. Moreover, The Coward has some truly memorable characters, which will pull at the reader’s heartstring. My favourite characters were definitely Kell and Gerren! The Coward also focuses on the harsh reality of being depicted as a ‘hero’. Aryan masterfully displays that even heroes have weaknesses and imperfections, and society’s unrealistic expectations of these ‘heroes’ can lead to disastrous consequences. The Coward reads and feels much like a standalone, although there are some plotlines that are not properly concluded. If you do not want to commit to the whole series, you can absolutely just read The Coward. My main criticism is that the section from 50% - 85% focuses a bit too much on action/battles for my taste. While the first half of the book focuses a lot on setting up the plot, building character relationships, and world-building, the second half is much more action-focused. Although I do not mind a bit of action, some of the scenes just felt a bit random or forced. There are at least three battle scenes that our cast are just suddenly thrown into (it makes sense in the story), which made the plot feel a bit repetitive. However, The Coward has a satisfying conclusion, which I appreciate. In conclusion, The Coward is an enjoyable read with a memorable protagonist, great characters and an interesting world. The Coward takes an honest look at, what it means to be a hero and how all humans have imperfections. If you do not enjoy the ‘quest trope’ you might not enjoy this book, but I would still recommend giving this book a try. 4 / 5 stars  

  5. 5 out of 5

    Virginja ↢ 99% imp

    2🌟 I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quotes reported are susceptible to changes upon publication The Coward is the first book in a new duology by Stephen Aryan, this name might right a bell: he is also the author of Battle Mage, a book that has been in my radar for some time now. The Coward is my first experience with this author, but I’m still willing to read other books by him, this time with lower expectations though. Even if I was 2🌟 I received an ARC (advanced reader copy) from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The quotes reported are susceptible to changes upon publication The Coward is the first book in a new duology by Stephen Aryan, this name might right a bell: he is also the author of Battle Mage, a book that has been in my radar for some time now. The Coward is my first experience with this author, but I’m still willing to read other books by him, this time with lower expectations though. Even if I was not impressed with this book, I really like Aryan’s writing style, and I think his opera might work for me if I don’t l know what the book is about, since this author is apparently very fond of tropes. “The quest had broken Kell. He’d become fragile in a way that Lukas recognised. Warriors who’d spent too long fighting on the front lines had the same look.” The Coward is a structured like a well worn classic, a quest to a faraway land to destroy a supernatural menace. Ten years ago, a party of heroes went to the Frozen North to slay a creature known as the Ice Lich. A seventeen year old boy, Kell Kressia, followed them in the journey, and ended up being the sole survivor of their quest. Now it seems the Ice Lich has returned, so Kell is forced to journey to the North once again. It’s unfortunate to say so, but this book failed in both tracing a compelling old school fantasy and being original. I’m really baffled by how plain the story was despite all the fantastic premises. First off, we should follow a coward as he is forced to go on a quest, the problem is Kell is not a coward. Upon reading the book, I assumed Kell was a coward in the sense he had lied about everything. I expected him to be a fake hero that killed everyone in his party and then headed back home with the work unfinished. The story even teases that what the public knows of Kell’s first quest is partial and heavily romanticized, but when the whole story is revealed it only confirms Kell to be brave and noble soul. Kell sins of cowardice only in the sense he is a reluctant hero and would happily live in his small farm for te rest of his life. “No one understood. The only people who might have understood were dead.” Even if the initial premise is not completely fulfilled, this book had still many chances to be a compelling redaction of the quest trope. Aryan however decided to fill the plot with useless scenes, where the reader was supposed to fear for the characters’ safety, but they all fell short and only provided a noisy diversion from the plot. The problem is that it is established early in the narrative that the only dangerous place in this world in the Frozen North, but characters reach it only at the 60% mark. Before that point we follow them as they travel through the civilized world, where nothing feels threatening apart from the occasional pack of wolves. There are no wars, no clan feuds or otherwise interesting dynamics that could make this part of the travel difficult. Aryan tried very hard to make the journey high stakes, but the lack of impending antagonists made it all the more predictable and boring. Instead of using the journey to make us care for the characters, with their past stories, their true motivations, the growing complicity between them, Aryan made their quest boring and endless. “Ten years ago I was afraid of everything. It’s taken me a long time to recover. Now, I’m just afraid of dying.” The characters, as much I liked what Aryan was trying to do, fell flat for me. The most part of the story is told from Kell’s point of view; still he felt like a very generic reluctant hero, with little depth to his true motives. Kell’s companion were just representative of character types. I would be surprised if, when doing a DnD alignment chart, all these people could perfectly fit info a square. The only one with whom Aryan did something interesting was Willow, a non-human character. We never know what she is thinking, she never talks unless asked specific questions, and when she answers it only make sense to her. I think Aryan did a great job in rendering this mysterious character, I could see there was more to her, but the choice to keep her a secret worked really well. The only other character of notice is Revered Mother Brytak. She was in absolutely the most interesting part of the narrative. If Aryan has just given her a solid plot line, her story could have been the saving grace of The Coward.However, I think Aryan introduced her show the readers that not everyone was positive about Kell’s quest. I was very excited to read about her, but about halfway through the book she never appears anymore, probably because Aryan didn’t know what to do with her. As a final not, I don’t think The Coward needed to have a sequel. With an Epilogue set some years after, this book would work perfectly as a stand-alone. All the important plot lines (in reality, the only important one) were perfectly tied up in this book. We are left with only some very minor loose threads, I don’t think that’s enough to justify a sequel since there is no foreshadowing of future conflicts.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nils | nilsreviewsit

    The Coward is the first instalment in The Quest for Heroes duology by Stephen Aryan. Although Aryan has published two previous series, this is actually my first taste of the authors’ work and it must be said, I was by no means disappointed. The Coward is a fantastic thought-provoking exploration of what it truly means to be a hero when legends and myths are stripped away and truths are revealed. The story follows Kell Kressier, once a legendary hero who at just seventeen years of age went on a qu The Coward is the first instalment in The Quest for Heroes duology by Stephen Aryan. Although Aryan has published two previous series, this is actually my first taste of the authors’ work and it must be said, I was by no means disappointed. The Coward is a fantastic thought-provoking exploration of what it truly means to be a hero when legends and myths are stripped away and truths are revealed. The story follows Kell Kressier, once a legendary hero who at just seventeen years of age went on a quest with a band of infamous warriors to the frozen North to slay the Ice Lich, who was causing an unnaturally long and harsh winter throughout the Five Kingdoms. Unfortunately Kell was the only warrior to live to tell the tale from that journey, and the memories have haunted him ever since. Where our story begins, ten years have passed and once again a deep cold is creeping from the North and spreading its way through the Kingdoms. Kell is called upon to take the journey to the North for a second time, and slay whatever new or old evil that dwells there now. The problem is Kell is not the hero the legends have portrayed him to be, and he has no intention of reliving his nightmares and risking his life ever again. From the very beginning of the book Aryan clearly illustrates the differences between myth and ‘men’. A majority of the opening chapters consist of stories within stories, where we hear tales of the former heroes Kell journeyed with, most told through rose-tinted glasses, until Kell debunks those myths and gives us the truth. He shows us how stories can be twisted to paint a prettier scene, whereas in reality all the heroes had flaws, they were violent brutal men, whose deeds were often cruel, their journey had been harrowing, and their deaths had been far from peaceful, they all tasted fear. “ Somewhere along the way the youth who’d set off on the journey had died. A broken man had ridden home in his place. Kell had tried to put the pieces back together but they never fit right. There was no going back. The past was immutable.” Aryan vividly paints a picture of the horrors Kell and the other heroes faced on their first journey and the realities of the toll it had cost Kell. He is a character left with PTSD and anxiety, seeking only solitude, he can never quite leave behind all the dread he had faced, much as a soldier never leaves behind the aftermaths of war. It was never a tale with a happy ending as the bards sing of, it was a tale filled with blood and gore. Kell may seem a reluctant hero, but when you look beneath the surface, you can completely understand why. As the story progresses, and Kell comes to a decision, he prepares to gather a team to take to the North with him to better their chances of success or even just survival, and we begin to see these horrors in an even starker light as a new set of ‘heroes’ emerge. However, as much as Kell was a somewhat austere character, I appreciated that many of Aryan’s other characters brought much humour and light-hearted scenes throughout. Gerren, our youngest member, Vahli the mysterious bard, feisty Bronwyn of Kinnan, boastful Malormir, and Willow the Alfar, formed quite the entertaining ragtag crew, who made me laugh on several occasions. Yes their journey and the terrain they travel through is ruthless, and each of them have their limits tested, but their story is not without moments of joy and companionship either. I particularly enjoyed the great coming-of-age story arc from Gerren. His progression throughout the book felt realistic as he goes from being an idealistic hero, with notions of valiant deeds, to quite sullen and petulant, and finally to being a man who truly appreciated what it means to be alive, what it means to have comradeship, to be a part of history. I also absolutely loved Willow, our non-human character. I felt the significance of the Alfar was to show us that even though they’re different, deemed as savage allusive beasts, and even though people show them much prejudice, Willow is still willing to go where most men won't. She is still willing to risk her life and help her friends, when most men turned their backs. Aryan admirably reflects that at the end of the day it is people’s deeds which count, not where they come from, what race, gender or even what species they are. Out of the characters, I believe she was the true hero. Outside of this band of characters was Revenant Mother Britak. An aging woman who was a devout believer of The Shepherd. Actually, devout is putting it mildly, she was more of a fanatic. Through her character we see a bigger picture of a looming threat amongst the Five Kingdoms, for Britak seeked to eradicate those who she deemed as heretical. I’m not entirely sure if I was supposed to find this character rather darkly humorous, but nevertheless I did. Britak is a fascinating character, who through her own ignorance becomes more monstrous than the actual monsters of the North. “Saving people from themselves was never easy. Progress was always an uphill struggle but she was strong enough to shoulder the burden, alone, if necessary.” I did find some of Kell’s initial journeying a touch repetitive as he visited tavern upon tavern searching for warriors to join in his quest. However, during part three the narrative certainly picks up the pace, and hits us with such heart-pounding battles against an array of monsters from The North. I kid you not, Aryan fantastically delivered an action-packed, unputdownable ending. Lastly, I have to say how much I loved the gorgeous map by Tom Parker. It really enhanced my enjoyment as I kept searching where the characters were on the map and how much further they had to travel. Aryan also mentioned there were Easter eggs within the map, I did find one, but I’m going to have to study it harder to find more! Or just cheat and ask Stephen Aryan for the answers!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Holly (The GrimDragon)

    The Coward is the first book in the Quest of Heroes duology by Stephen Aryan & it releases this Tuesday! From the first page, hell, the first sentence, I knew I was going to dig the shit out of this! A book that I had read recently was one of my most anticipated of the year that ended up being quite a letdown, whereas The Coward was definitely on my radar, but it turned out to be so much more than I was honestly expecting! A reluctant hero & his ragtag group of misfit warriors go on a quest to save The Coward is the first book in the Quest of Heroes duology by Stephen Aryan & it releases this Tuesday! From the first page, hell, the first sentence, I knew I was going to dig the shit out of this! A book that I had read recently was one of my most anticipated of the year that ended up being quite a letdown, whereas The Coward was definitely on my radar, but it turned out to be so much more than I was honestly expecting! A reluctant hero & his ragtag group of misfit warriors go on a quest to save the Five Kingdoms. There's banter! Battles! Beasts! Friendship! Political intrigue! A sprinkling of romance! Brutal terrain! Dark humor! And an Alfár named Willow! The Coward was a wickedly entertaining read & there are just.. so many possibilities of what will happen in the second installment after that wild ending! Many thanks to Angry Robot Books for the copy!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Goblin Reaper

    "You can hide from other people, but you can't hide from yourself. I'm proof of that." Thank you, NetGalley and Angry Robot Books for providing me with an e-arc of this book, and I swear that this review is my honest opinion of the book and not at all biased. This is my first time reading a Stephen Aryan book, and I am all ready to jump into his backlog, cause this book was fantastic. I already added all his books to my Mt. TBR, which I hope to climb to the top of one day. The Coward is the first "You can hide from other people, but you can't hide from yourself. I'm proof of that." Thank you, NetGalley and Angry Robot Books for providing me with an e-arc of this book, and I swear that this review is my honest opinion of the book and not at all biased. This is my first time reading a Stephen Aryan book, and I am all ready to jump into his backlog, cause this book was fantastic. I already added all his books to my Mt. TBR, which I hope to climb to the top of one day. The Coward is the first book of the Quest for Heroes duology and it follows Kell Kressia, a hero. He's hardly a hero, though. Last time, he was lucky enough to survive the Ice Leech, uh, sorry, Ice Lich, and other heroes' sacrifices spared his neck and soul. Kell was enjoying a calm life in the countryside, working on a farm, after his first experience with a fatal quest ten years ago. However, the weather is changing, and it is becoming chilly, bringing back the farmer's biggest dread. Bad weather, a bad year, bad harvest, famine, starvation, and death. Kell receives a notice from the king, directing him to prepare for yet another journey to the Frozen North. Kell, however, is no longer the naive and enthusiastic 17-year-old boy; this Kell has had enough, and ill-luck and a curse hang over his head. Only a fool will risk his life again, and Kell is no fool. But even a hero can't always refuse the King, so Kell started off on his journey with the intention of moving north and eventually escaping someplace to start a new life, under a new name, and finally taste freedom from his bloody past. But things don't always go as planned, as you can't always run away from fear, especially when the horror is an emotion buried deep inside your soul, and now he's accompanied by a few others. A group of misfits embarked on a journey to the north, unaware of the dangers they would encounter along the route, which would also result in the loss of their beating hearts. All of the characters were intriguing and unique. Reading about each and every character was a lot of pleasure for me. The book is written in the second person, and the POVs switch from one character to the next, mostly between Kell and Gerren, but others (except Willow) had a share of their POVs as well. There was no mention of the narrator, which was a little confusing at first, but soon became oddly familiar as we read deeper into the book. Our rumored, yet experienced hero, Kell, the lone survivor and executioner of the monster residing on Ice, is the first figure we'd bring up while discussing characters. He thought that his survival was largely due to the sacrifices of others and his exceptional luck. He joined the heroes since his mother was sick and their harvest had been harmed by the weather. To live a conventional life and keep his only family secure and happy, he needed money and fame. He was 17 when he accompanied the heroes to the Frozen North; tenacious and determined, he refused to give up even when the heroes pushed him to the limit, making it difficult for a young man. He was afraid, but he kept it hidden from the other heroes and did whatever was required of him. Ten years later, guilt has taken hold of him, but unlike the last time, he is no longer afraid to confront the horrors he had to through years before. The next, we meet Gerren. A 16-year-old boy, naive and full of pride. He only wanted to become rich and famous since he didn't have anybody to call a friend. He gets determined in proving the bards about Kell wrong and disregarding him after learning about his intention to flee. Even when Kell offered him opportunities to escape, he persevered, and the only reason he wanted to continue on the quest was selfishness. He irritated me at first throughout the novel, but he and Kell quickly became my favorite characters. Even when death was dancing above his head, I admired how he stood with the others. He has a special place in my heart. Willow, the alfar, with a long lengthy name was mysterious and self kept. (introverted maybe?) She was a mysterious figure who continued peering and examining the surroundings, trying to stomach everything, yet she was constantly on high alert and spoke very little. There's a lot more to her than what's in this book. I'd like to know more about her. She arrived with a certain goal in mind. (You'll figure it out...) Vahli, the bard, wanted to experience the adventures for himself so he could compose a bad on his own about the legit journey and the struggles and he wanted to escape the casted shadow of Madina. Or was that all about him? I mean, I wouldn't put my life on the line simply to create a saga, right? Bronwyn, a well-built lady who resembled a warrior, was frustrated that no one could ever be a true challenge for her; no matter what, she always got the better deal. As a result, she struggled to mix with other people, but she always remained out. Again, that was all for her? Malomir, the king of Summer Isles and the islander with so many underrated stories, joined the group to get away from his loneliness, and yeah, well sure, he was good with using swords. Britak, the Reverend Mother, and my least favorite character in the entire novel is deserving of all the scorn. She's dumb, dumb, dumb and dumb and disgusting, filled with dumb dead cells. whatever she thinks, and talks and does and aims for is dumb and stupid and ridiculous. I recently had a lot of church belief-based trope on my plate that I had enough of. The Nun, oh no, sorry, the Reverend Mother, was getting n my nerves and I seriously wanted to knock her down and smack her head. Her beliefs in the church and Shepherd had me shaking my head out of sympathy for that sociopath. I wanted to hurl the book (here; phone) out the window every time I read about her punishing herself for her wrongdoings. (But I won't do that, obviously.) Her punishment was her lifting a stone off the ground but the others had to carry a mountain on their head because of her beliefs. Because of her, it took me a long time to finish this book; her points of view sickened me to the point where I had to put the book down for a few days every time. Up until part three, there was a bard before each chapter, which was both intriguing and stimulating. I enjoyed the way Aryan weaved the tale together; the language was plain and consistent, and all of my predictions for the ending and twists were completely wrong, which amused me. I won't say the world-building was intriguing because there weren't many narrations about it, but the journey was simple to picture, as at every step they were forced to confront a hurdle after another. Once they arrived at the Frozen North, everything seemed bizarre and odd, including the weird behavior of the animals and beasts. This was a fantasy and thriller with plenty of action and supernatural elements. The ending was fabulous but grieve stricken, I never expected this book to be this good when I started to read it. The Coward, I felt, can also stand as a standalone, because it accomplished what it set out to achieve flawlessly. But there are a few unsolved questions: a new life awaiting, a few mysteries to be revealed; which we will hopefully learn about in the next book, and I'd want to learn more about the Chaote. ;p From Vorans to Maglau, Bears to Garrows, Qalamieren and wraiths, vicious beasts and Ice lich, this tale was fantastic, and I can't wait to read the next book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    FanFiAddict

    Rating: 8.75/10 Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of The Coward for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions. The Coward is a gratifying romp from beginning to end. Equal parts character study, comedy, and adventure story, it has the makings of a perfect summer fantasy read. It is a little bit Kings of the Wyld, a smidge Fate of the Fallen, and a helluva ton of fun. It was a book I could not put down and now I eagerly await the sequel. This i Rating: 8.75/10 Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of The Coward for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions. The Coward is a gratifying romp from beginning to end. Equal parts character study, comedy, and adventure story, it has the makings of a perfect summer fantasy read. It is a little bit Kings of the Wyld, a smidge Fate of the Fallen, and a helluva ton of fun. It was a book I could not put down and now I eagerly await the sequel. This is my first novel by Aryan (and no, this is NOT A DEBUT). I have his past two (2) series, The Age of Darkness and Age of Dread, both of which came out from Orbit Books and have now climbed Mt. TBR to get their just due. If either are as engaging as Kell Kressia’s ARC, I feel like I will be in good hands. Let’s start with the story: Kressia isn’t a hero. Far from it. He was just lucky, which to be honest, is my favorite type of hero to read about. I don’t know about you, but reading about a hero that is near invincible or has this amazing unknown power can start to become stale. Something about a character who shouldn’t have been there in the first place ultimately becoming the “hero” and reaping praise just sound entertaining, especially when their secret is found out. As Kressia begins his “crusade”, he gathers a ragtag bunch of, we will call them “mercs”, to help aid him in his fight against whatever evil resides in the north. This grouping, though decidedly pro-killing whatever needs killing to bring back the sun shiny goodness of Spring, isn’t what you would call “savior-y”, but is at least made up of a couple of sword-swinging folks who can hack off some heads. There is plenty of banter betwixt them all, also some punches and accusations thrown, but when danger strikes, they are always there to lend a hand, a foot, or a stab. The world-building, while fairly decent in size, isn’t fleshed out on a large-scale, but it is enough to sink your teeth into. You feel the warmth of a tavern fire, the brisk chill of the icy wind, and the harsh tundra the gang has to cross to get to the castle. I did enjoy that Aryan didn’t allow the group to just traipse easily from one place to another. There was always an obstacle (or obstacles) at every turn, each requiring a different sort of skill, always keeping them on their toes. All in all, this was a very entertaining read (or shall I say listen). I absolutely loved the audiobook with narration by Matt Wycliff and I hope to hear more from him in the future. If you want a light fantasy read filled with humor, adventure, and a solid character study, The Coward is the one for you.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James

    3.5 One of my favorite opening sentences to a book. Had a lot of plot points and themes I love. I thought the intrigue, landscape and action was all really great. Characters were fun and very charming and the ending has me ready for a book two. Two things that stood out to me was the middle portion feeling slightly repetitive, and the romance in the book didn't work for me. Other than those things it was a good first experience with Aryan's work and will likely read book two when it releases. 3.5 One of my favorite opening sentences to a book. Had a lot of plot points and themes I love. I thought the intrigue, landscape and action was all really great. Characters were fun and very charming and the ending has me ready for a book two. Two things that stood out to me was the middle portion feeling slightly repetitive, and the romance in the book didn't work for me. Other than those things it was a good first experience with Aryan's work and will likely read book two when it releases.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Copy received from Netgalley. All opinions are my own. I found the concept for The Coward to be very interesting. I love the play on the hero’s story, not just with Kell but with all of the characters he originally travelled with. The stories and songs portray them as heroes but it’s never as simple as that. Kell is lauded as a hero for saving the Five Kingdoms but, in reality, the quest was hard on him and has left him a broken shell of a man who doesn’t want to repeat his story of heroism. I rea Copy received from Netgalley. All opinions are my own. I found the concept for The Coward to be very interesting. I love the play on the hero’s story, not just with Kell but with all of the characters he originally travelled with. The stories and songs portray them as heroes but it’s never as simple as that. Kell is lauded as a hero for saving the Five Kingdoms but, in reality, the quest was hard on him and has left him a broken shell of a man who doesn’t want to repeat his story of heroism. I really liked Kell. The opening of the story kind of sums up his character perfectly, an unlucky man covered in muck (not muck but if I use the actual word, Amazon won’t publish my review). I found him to be an interesting and complicated character. He was an idealist and literally followed a band of heroes to achieve his dream of what being a hero was but the quest pretty much destroyed him. Now, he believes himself cursed and doomed to spend the rest of his life alone and then he is called upon to return to the place of his nightmares because the bad thing has returned. Nothing in the story goes quite how you would expect. You do expect a deconstruction of the hero trope but then even that is turned on its head somewhat. The secondary characters are cool, there’s Gerren, a teenager who is Kell as who he was before the quest, believing in heroes and grand quests and he makes a nice contrast to Kell. I also really liked Bronwyn, a warrior who has defeated everything she has faced and is looking for the ultimate challenge. And then there’s Reverend Mother Britak, who spends the novel scheming and I do love a bit of scheming. The Coward works well as a story in its own right but also as a set up for the rest of the series. It does feel somewhat like a prelude to what’s to come and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next after finishing the books. The story is compelling and well paced and the characters are interesting and I very much enjoyed Kell’s story.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    I'd like to thank Edelweiss and Angry Robot a chance at reading this book. Oh dear. 27% into a book and you know you have to stop. There is nothing truly grabbing me about the characters or the situation. No danger, no... focus. It's just someone saying he isn't a hero and on this epic long slog to get to this frost demon who has happened to have returned. I love a book with an interesting cast of characters, including those you meet along the way. However, I think this book isn't one for me. Tha I'd like to thank Edelweiss and Angry Robot a chance at reading this book. Oh dear. 27% into a book and you know you have to stop. There is nothing truly grabbing me about the characters or the situation. No danger, no... focus. It's just someone saying he isn't a hero and on this epic long slog to get to this frost demon who has happened to have returned. I love a book with an interesting cast of characters, including those you meet along the way. However, I think this book isn't one for me. That I am fine with. I'm glad I got a chance to attempt to read it instead of buying it and wasting my money on it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa (ve_xo)

    Rating 3.5 Thank you so much to the publisher for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This is the story about a hero called Kell who is struggling with coming to terms that he once saved the lives of many but this is because it was all by "mistake". He is an antihero that just wants to be left alone a lead a normal life. I found his character to be intriguing, I chuckled as I learned more about Kell. He was pretty amusing with his traits. He is that morally grey prota Rating 3.5 Thank you so much to the publisher for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! This is the story about a hero called Kell who is struggling with coming to terms that he once saved the lives of many but this is because it was all by "mistake". He is an antihero that just wants to be left alone a lead a normal life. I found his character to be intriguing, I chuckled as I learned more about Kell. He was pretty amusing with his traits. He is that morally grey protagonist that makes us wonder about his next step, but at the same time grows from his experiences and losses. The world building was pretty detailed, the plot had a good flow. I would have loved to learn a little bit more of origins. Overall, this was a solid epic fantasy book with great plot. The inclusion of mental illness is always a pleasant surprise since these are situations that need to be voiced more and it's great to see them being included more in titles. Looking forward to reading more by this author.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cameron Johnston

    It's been a long time since I read a proper fantasy quest story, and this one scratches that itch while taking the quest and characters in all sorts of interesting ways. The best compliment I can make is that it feels like a David Gemmell novel, with all the flawed characters, gritty action and otherworldly magic. The Coward is an excellent book packed full of interesting characters, exotic icy locations, horrible monsters and desperate action. It's been a long time since I read a proper fantasy quest story, and this one scratches that itch while taking the quest and characters in all sorts of interesting ways. The best compliment I can make is that it feels like a David Gemmell novel, with all the flawed characters, gritty action and otherworldly magic. The Coward is an excellent book packed full of interesting characters, exotic icy locations, horrible monsters and desperate action.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Koeur

    Rating: 4.6/5 Review: If ever there was a reluctant hero then Kell Kressia fits the mold forged by Kevin Costner. Yet Kell makes it believable by shirking duty in favor of a rest he has justifiably earned in past service. Rather than go North he decides that any other direction is better than facing the Ice Lich, yet with momentum in the people to save the countryside he has little choice but to serve. Where this novel excelled was the world building and, specifically, the characters. Each persona Rating: 4.6/5 Review: If ever there was a reluctant hero then Kell Kressia fits the mold forged by Kevin Costner. Yet Kell makes it believable by shirking duty in favor of a rest he has justifiably earned in past service. Rather than go North he decides that any other direction is better than facing the Ice Lich, yet with momentum in the people to save the countryside he has little choice but to serve. Where this novel excelled was the world building and, specifically, the characters. Each persona is built with care in order to develop into well rounded players. The movement is constant in the form of a quest which helps build character depth as well. Bronwyn was one of my favorites, being Zena-like in body and rougher in presentation. A good read that severely lacked in editing. The grammatical errors are numerous and sometimes left certain paragraphs without meaning as the stumble was too blatant to surmount. Usually Angry Robot has very good editing but this was bad to the bone. I am looking forward to the next in this series, “The Warrior“.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anj✨

    "17-year-old Kell Kressia went on a quest with 11 famed warriors. To the North they went to kill the Ice Lich, but only he has returned. He secured peace for the Five Kingdoms thereby gaining status as a celebrated hero. 10 years later, Kell made a life for himself as a farmer. But a new threat arises, something is living in the Ice Lich's castle, and famine is slowly spreading throughout the Kingdoms. He is once again called to arms by the King to battle this terror, but is he willing to risk "17-year-old Kell Kressia went on a quest with 11 famed warriors. To the North they went to kill the Ice Lich, but only he has returned. He secured peace for the Five Kingdoms thereby gaining status as a celebrated hero. 10 years later, Kell made a life for himself as a farmer. But a new threat arises, something is living in the Ice Lich's castle, and famine is slowly spreading throughout the Kingdoms. He is once again called to arms by the King to battle this terror, but is he willing to risk his life again?" ------ The Coward is the first book I’ve read by Stephen Aryan and it did not disappoint! I would definitely read his previous works the soonest! It has the classic quest trope with the perfect blend of mystery, humor, and action. This book is both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. It has all the usual elements of fantasy except for one: an unfailing hero instead, we have Kell Kressia - dubbed as a hero, and his deed sung everywhere in the five kingdoms, but in reality - he’s a coward. The accidental hero trope makes The Coward more interesting as it adds more depth to the protagonist and the plot. it shows how the truth can easily be erased so long as the people will buy the lies being fed. Kell’s POV showed a different side of being a hero: their inner conflict, and the trauma and nightmares that follow after. He’s a likable and engaging protagonist. I like how practical and realistic he is. In his journey to save humanity again, Kell has formed a group of misfits: “warriors” seeking glory for themselves. A 17-year-old boy named Gerren; the mysterious bard, Vahli; the Alfar nicknamed as Willow (def not human!); Bronwyn, a famous female warrior; and Malomir, a hunter of beasts and men. Also, Britak, the high priestess of the shepherd is an interesting one. She’s vicious and determined although underdeveloped. She’s a fanatic who’s waging a holy war, and her machinations have set things in motion. A large chunk of the book was their journey thus building the world fantastically. It’s complex, detailed, and well-written. Religion, secrets, politics, and history are sprinkled throughout thereby making the plot more complex. Stephen Aryan’s writing style is engaging, capturing the readers immediately. The pacing was perfect for the book. It slowly sets the world, tone, and the story, then gradually building up. The action scenes were well-done, most of them occurring in the second half of the book. And wow, that last part, I was not expecting it! Overall, The Coward is an entertaining read. It’s a slow-burn fantasy filled with adventure, actions, and a well-developed protagonist. Looking forward to the second book. More Willow, please! Thank you so much, Angry Robot, and Netgalley for the DRC. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kayleigh

    In The Coward, we follow Kell Kressia — a hero who, ten years ago, defeated the Ice Lich and saved the Five Kingdoms — on a quest to do exactly the same with a ragtag team of characters. I really liked Kell as a character. He starts off as an anti-hero, a man who hates his fame and forever regrets his stubbornness in joining the other heroes on the first quest when he was a boy of 17. All he wants is a normal life and to settle down with a wife and have some children but life isn’t so simple. Afte In The Coward, we follow Kell Kressia — a hero who, ten years ago, defeated the Ice Lich and saved the Five Kingdoms — on a quest to do exactly the same with a ragtag team of characters. I really liked Kell as a character. He starts off as an anti-hero, a man who hates his fame and forever regrets his stubbornness in joining the other heroes on the first quest when he was a boy of 17. All he wants is a normal life and to settle down with a wife and have some children but life isn’t so simple. After returning from slaying the Ice Lich the sole survivor, Kell suffers from PTSD and is a broken man, using the monotony of life on the farm to help gain some semblance of normality but when the weather turns and harvests fail, people start to question whether or not the Ice Lich is actually dead or if something more sinister has sprung up in its place. Kell is summoned to travel back to the north to find out and here is where Kell’s story truly begins. He bands together a group of diverse characters and unlikely friends and this is something I love. The friendships and relationships that grow between these characters — who start as strangers — along with each of them having their own personal growth and development. I feel like this book keeps you on your toes. There’s always something unexpected happening — there’s action, there’s grief, there’s adventure and also politics and religion woven throughout. The Reverend Mother ... what an awful, awful woman! I’m looking forward to seeing how this story plays out in the future. Thank you to the publisher for kindly sending me a copy. Pros: + action + adventure + great characters + friendships + humour + world building + descriptions Cons: - Some parts needed a little more -

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jodie "Bookish" Cook

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Book Review Title: The Coward (Quest for Heroes Book 1) by Stephen Aryan Genre: Epic Fantasy Rating: 5 Stars I didn’t know anything about The Coward but the synopsis was intriguing and it reminded me a little of Kings of the Wyld which I adored. We are following Kell Kressia who became famous after slaying the Ice Lich with a band of fighters and he has been spending the last decade in relative peace but it isn’t going to stay that way for very long. From the beginning we get the sense that Kell is Book Review Title: The Coward (Quest for Heroes Book 1) by Stephen Aryan Genre: Epic Fantasy Rating: 5 Stars I didn’t know anything about The Coward but the synopsis was intriguing and it reminded me a little of Kings of the Wyld which I adored. We are following Kell Kressia who became famous after slaying the Ice Lich with a band of fighters and he has been spending the last decade in relative peace but it isn’t going to stay that way for very long. From the beginning we get the sense that Kell isn’t a complete honest person about his past but despite this he has managed to become friend with a Choate named Mohan who is a barber, hairdresser and dentist rolled into once despite the Choate begin seen a dangerous race. We get a little of Kell’s past when some traders including Rowaz tan Nadia ask about his past. Kell’s story is mostly told by the barbs about how he removed the Ice Lich’s head with his sword, Slayer but as he reveals small truths we see this wasn’t the whole truth of the adventure. Shortly after this Kell receives a summons from King Bledsoe which he chooses to ignore until the Raven guards come looking for him and drag him into the Capital to answer the summons. Here he comes face to face with the King’s advisor, Lukas who informs him that an envoy from Frostrunner clans has informed Bledsoe of a new threat in the North and Kell knows he is being sent to deal with it. We then switch to the perspective of Reverend Mother Britak who runs the Holy City under King Roebus and teaches the ways of the Shepherd. Britak is trying to manipulate Roebus and she succeeds in a way by telling him that Bledsoe’s popularity will increase if Kell manages to deal with this supposed threat in the North and might challenge the other Kings in order to become High King. Britak has also installed a spy next to the King in the form of his wife and is using her to further manipulate the King even though she isn’t doing a good job of it right now. She has also convinced Roebus to send someone to deal with Kell once and for all which isn’t a good sign for him. As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel, Lukas tells Kell what is going to be asked of him and even offers him a good job and money if he returns and Kell does consider this but he doesn’t really want to go. Lukas obviously sees this and sends a prostitute to him in order to sweeten the deal, but he and the King discuss what they will do in the case they Kell fails and what they will do if he succeeds. King Bledsoe is also very cunning using his age and appearing frail in order to trick and persuade those around him which doesn’t bode well for Kell. As Kell begins his journey North he is planning to use the money from King Bledsoe to begin a new life somewhere else where they won’t look for him. He makes sure to interact with people along the way so that if Bledsoe sends anyway to confirm whether or not Kell is dead, they will learn he had passed through the northern towns. However, while resting in one town before heading on he meets a young boy named, Gerren who wants to come with Kell, the same way Kell joined the heroes all those years before. Kell tries his best to discourage the boy and even tricks him into being left behind but he eventually catches up to Kell and there is nothing he can do to stop the boy from following him which leaves him in an awkward position as he can’t leave like he was planning with Gerren following him but I also believe he wouldn’t leave the boy to die if it came down to it as Kell seems too kind for that. Meanwhile, Britak is reminding me a lot of Glokta from The First Law series with the Inquisition but religion rather than corruption is at the heart of this. Kell eventually manages to get rid of Gerren by tying him up while he leaves, however, Gerren does realise during this conversation that Kell is a coward and has no intentions of going to the North. We also get to see more of Britak sending people to kill Kell which he doesn’t have any knowledge of but she does mention she has sent several assassins over the years to kill him and none have succeeded which is making me question the version of the past Kell is presenting us with and I can’t wait to unravel this mystery. As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel, Kell is continuing on his journey but soon learns that Gerren sent word ahead to the northern town that he will be coming through making it much harder for him to leave as he planned. In one town he ends up meeting the bard, Vahli again and he also wants to come with Kell to the North so that he can tell the story if something happens up there. This is disturbing to Kell as more people means he can’t escape and he very quickly accepts the fact he is going back to the North. However, during a conversation with Gerren we learn he was cursed by the Ice Lich before he killed her and while he didn’t believe it at first nothing good has happened to Kell since and he knows this curse is the reason. The trio also end up meeting an Alfar, a non-human race that are rarely seen and she wants to come with them too so Kell accepts her into the band because he knows they are going to need more fighters if they are going to survive the journey especially if there is something waiting for them there. I liked the fact that because the Alfar’s name is difficult to pronounce so they take to calling her Willow. In the next town they stop in Kell expects to find some fighters as he has sent word ahead that he will accept them into his growing band, however, many are seeing it as a joke and Kell has to make them see reason. This act draws forth only one person, Bronwyn who from her appearance and what little she says about her accomplishments is a skilled hunter and warrior and will be a good addition to the band which now numbers 5 but Kell knows they need more otherwise they aren’t going to survive. There is an interesting interaction between Vahli and Gerren as Gerren is trying to convince Vahli that Kell is a coward and lair despite Kell telling him it won’t work btu Vahli proves himself to be very capable with a blade which Gerren wasn’t expecting. As we approach the halfway mark in the novel, the group are unaware that have been followed by one of the Anointed disguised as a Seith who is going to try and kill Kell. This doesn’t happen because the Anointed is stopped by I believe Vahli but I can’t be sure as the Anointed seems to recognise the person attempting to stop them. When they get back on the road they are stopped by a group of warriors preventing them from going further into the North so the group prepare for a fight. However, they are helped by over a dozen Choate, led by Darvan and they tell Kell they will see them safely across the border but they can’t follow beyond that. Kell is confused why the Choate helped him but we the readers know these Choate were being directed by War General Mohan, who I believe is the same Mohan that Kell knows from back home as he refers to Kell as family. As the enter the Keen lands they are beginning to realise that no one wants to join them except for a madman named Malomir who claims to be the King of the Summer Isles and Kell agrees to let him come if he trains Gerren who has begun to realise the situation he has got himself into. We briefly switch back to Britak and Roebus who have been sent the assassin’s hands as a warning and Roebus believes he is going to be killed but he prevent Britak making any moves against Bledsoe. Back with the group they have to camp out under the stars where Kell is beginning to get to know his band. Willow seems to want to come on the journey to understand humans and the different beasts of the world while Bronwyn is searching for a challenge even attempting to seduce Kell but it doesn’t work. That night Gerren is given first watch when a pack of voren attack, Gerren seems to be in a hopeless situation but the pack are keeping the rest of the band occupied and it seems like this might be the end for him and I hope it isn’t because I am getting attached to this little misfit. As we cross into the second half of the novel, the group finally arrive in Meer, the last haven they will have before heading out into the frozen North and beyond. There Kell encounters Bomani, who he met the last time he was in Meer and finds it nice to have a familiar face. A lot of the time the group spend in Meer is preparing for their trip further into the North but Gerren is in crisis as he knows coming with Kell was a mistake and wants to return home. Kell explains how he felt the same way when the heroes reached this point and he had to find his own reason for continuing no matter how selfish it was and urges Gerren to do the same to make sure the decision of leaving or staying is entirely his and he isn’t be controlled by anything not even his fear. Gerren spends most of the night thinking over what Kell said to him before making the decision to stay and I have a feeling he will come to regret it soon when he realises the condition they will be living in out on the ice. I did find it very funny that the relationship between Malomir and Bronwyn has changed from fighting to sleeping together as if they needed a physical release for the tension between them. However, it is more than that as both suffer the same sense of isolation and loneliness and it has lessened in both of them since the change was made and even Kell observes that. Before they truly head out on the ice Kell tells them about some of the beasts they may encounter since he is the only one that has been this far north and even the vague mentions of the qalamieren and maglau are terrifying. It was interesting to see the slight shift in the relationship between Kell and Willow and I wouldn’t be unhappy if this developed more of the course of the novel and series. As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel, the journey into the true frozen north doesn’t begin well for the group as they realise they are being tracked by some ice bears. However, these bears aren’t behaving in the way Kell would expect as they are solitary animals and would only attack humans if they were desperate. These bears appear to be well fed and working together which makes Kell believe that something or someone is controlling them as its reach is long as they have barely crossed the frozen circle. They managed to deal with the bears with relatively few injuries but the very next day they are set upon by a sabre of maglau acting in the very same way. This fight is longer and everyone suffers some injuries even Willow, however, it seems that Gerren and Bronwyn have taken the worst injuries as Gerren’s leg is badly injuries and Bronwyn collapses shortly after the fight. We then switch back to Britak as she is continuing to spread her message across the kingdoms and even continues her plan to kill Kell even if he returns from the north. It is clear to see here that religion and those in high positions of power are the evils ones as Britak is willing it murder, kidnap and torture people in order to get them to come around to her way of thinking while Kell has used nothing except the truth and kind words in order to convince others. Given the situation in the north I have no idea who if anyone is going to come back alive. I hope it is all of them but I have a feeling it would be the same situation with only one survivor and that might be Gerren as it would perfectly mirror Kell’s own past. The group can’t catch a break as shortly after dealing with the maglau they are set upon by a group of qalamieren but these spirits can’t be killed and they don’t have the time or energy to run from them and it seems like the end has come for the group. However, while almost all of the group are drawn into nightmares, Bronwyn is spared because she is injured and Malomir doesn’t seem as affected by them because of his feeling for Bronwyn. Using this advantage, he ties a shirt to his sword before drenching it in oil and setting it aflame which drives back the wraiths and frees the group. They are found shortly after by a Frostrunner clan who looks after them until they have recovered, their spiritual healer also helps bring Bronwyn back with Malomir’s help before they are on the move again. Shortly after they have to cross a frozen lake in order to reach the Lich’s castle but the second they get on the ice a pack of garrow, shark-like creatures being hunting them. While Kell’s sled makes it across, Vahli and Bronwyn’s sleds have not and the garrow are punching holes in the ice everywhere they can. During this battle, Gerren is thrown from the sled onto the ice as the other make it to safety. Even as he begins running, Kell knows he isn’t going to make it so between them they create harnesses as Kell runs back out onto the ice to save the boy who has now lost a finger and is bleeding badly sending the shark into a frenzy. Kell can see from their behaviour they are being controlled as they are injuring themselves to try and get to the group. Kell and Gerren are pulled to safety before the sharks retreat refusing to eat the dead and Kell knows whatever is controlling them desperately doesn’t want them to make it to the Lich’s castle. As we cross into the final section of the novel, the group have entered the final stretch of their journey and everyone is still alive but I don’t know if their luck is going to hold out as Britak has planned to have Kell and his companions killed if they return to Meer from the North. Britak’s plan are boarding on insane as she has basically created concentration camps to “re-educate” those that don’t believe in the Shepherd. As the group approach the Ice Lich’s castle, Willow claims the castle was made by someone called Govhenna making me think the new evil inside the castle is an Alfar like Willow and that is why she came on the journey to begin with. However, there is another nasty surprise waiting for them at the entrance as the dead heroes have been reanimated and Kell has to kill them all over again. The heroes can’t be killed normally it can only be done by smashing their skulls and it is here we learn that Bronwyn is the daughter of Bron. Even though they win, the victory is hollow as Kell had to watch some of his friends die again, Bronwyn had to kill her own father and Gerren is killed during the battle and it isn’t over yet as they have to find whoever is doing this and stop them which makes me think that not all of them are going to come out of this alive. The final confrontation and the revelations that came after it were amazing but the most brilliant thing about this novel was what happened after Kell returned to the Capital of Algany. I honestly wasn’t expecting the major curveball that Aryan threw at us right at the end but I can honestly say I need the next book right now to find out what happens when Kell eventually learns of the death of King Bledsoe and that he is being married to Princess Sigrid making him the King of Algany to rule together to prevent the uprising of the church. I liked this little twist because we also learn that Kell is royalty in his own right as he is 23rd in line for the Choate throne as the current King and the War General, Mohan are his uncles. I still has so many questions that I need answered but I am going to be reading the rest of Aryan’s work and I have a feeling he is going to become an insta-buy author for me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mike Shackle

    Loved this book. It's the mighty Stephen Aryan at the top of his game. It's got everything - magic, monsters, heroes and would-be heroes, and more than enough mayhem. Go buy it Loved this book. It's the mighty Stephen Aryan at the top of his game. It's got everything - magic, monsters, heroes and would-be heroes, and more than enough mayhem. Go buy it

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sibil

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and to the Editor, Angry Robot. This was a book that I have enjoyed, quite a lot. I had some problems with it, for me it is not perfect but it was a hell of a ride, and I enjoyed every moment of it. And this is quite good, right? Let’s start with Kell, our main character. I really felt him. This may sound a bit strange, because one of the problems I had with this book was that, even if we have some really interest I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and to the Editor, Angry Robot. This was a book that I have enjoyed, quite a lot. I had some problems with it, for me it is not perfect but it was a hell of a ride, and I enjoyed every moment of it. And this is quite good, right? Let’s start with Kell, our main character. I really felt him. This may sound a bit strange, because one of the problems I had with this book was that, even if we have some really interesting characters (and they have a lot of good things going on, but more about them all in a bit) I couldn’t really identify myself with them at 100%. I related with them just up to a point, and this was a bit disappointing, because I love characters driven books and I need to really feel them, and relate to them, so in this respect this book fall a bit short. But nonetheless I really empathized with Kell here, especially in the beginning of the story. He is a survivor. He was the lucky one. The boy who went with the heroes to kill the Lich, and he was the only one who made it back. But it was not easy. He suffers from PTSD and he is a broken man. But he is also a man that had given a lot to his kingdom. And he does not feel any lingering sense of obligation toward it. And how much I understood him! I know that his idea wasn’t going to pay up, you just know since you have a whole book ahead of you and it just couldn’t go in that direction (even if it would have been a really original book in that case), but I was cheering him all the way while he was trying to disappear and let the kingdom fend for itself. And how much I have hated Gerren! I think that he was my least favorite character, but not because he is plain or bidimensional. Not at all. He is a really well developed character. But he throw Kell back in a world that he desperately want to evade. Gerren is young, and so green in a lot of ways. And he has a strong sense of what is right and what is wrong. What is fair and what isn’t. But life is not always fair. And he has yet to discover it. And for this, I really hated him with a passion for a good chunk of the book. And in the end, I warmed a bit toward him, but he was not my favorite. I would have strangled him!!!!! But here we have another important thing about the book: Kell is human, just that. The first time he went with the heroes he was exactly like Gerren. He was dumb (young-dumb), he was an idealist, a dreamer and he wanted the world to be a fair place. His first travel to the North killed not only a lot of his companions but also his youth, his naivete. And it gave him nightmares and regrets. It took a young boy with all life ahead of him, and it spat out a broken man. And Kell does not want to go back to it. He wants to run the farthest possible from it. And if this made him a coward, let’s be so. But then Gerren happen. And with Gerren other companions join in the merry band. And so Kell is headed again to the North and to the Monster that is coming back. He is not happy about it, but he is resigned. Someone has to do it, and, all things considered, he is the one with the best chances at it. With some help, of course. Kell is a hero. But it is not your usual hero, he is disillusioned, he is broken, and sure as hell, he doesn’t want to do it. But do it he will. And with him, all his companions show heroism, and again is a sort of heroism that can seem a bit smaller, a bit less legendary but, because of this, more real and more precious. But let’s go back to the characters. With Gerren and Kell, we have Willow, she is not human and she is quite the mysterious kind of girl. Not only she is an unknown but her whole race is, and we get to discover a little bit while her companions discover something more about her and her race. But, to be honest, I would have liked to know more. They had a really long time to spend together, so I was hoping to discover a little more. But this is just a minor thing, she is a great character, and she would show us what all this is about. And the final discovery, the final twist, was something amazing. Really! The last hero is another mysterious one. Valhi, the bard. He is human, and he is not quite as mysterious as Willow, that’s true, but he has a lot of surprises and I really wanted to get to know him better. And, last but not least, we have Britak. She is not one of the heroes on the mission. She is the woman in the shadows who tries to stop our heroes to do their deed. And if, on one hand, I didn’t like her because she is trying her best to rich her goals, and even if this is a commending trait, I didn’t like her goals a bit, on the other, she is really something. She has a plan (or better, a master plan) and she won’t be stopped. She is a woman on a mission, that’s for sure. And even if I find myself at the opposite of her believes and goals, most of the time at least, she is a rare kind of person, because she is a true believer. And even if we are bordering on the fanatic side, she is quite true to herself and to her beliefs. She really lives with the dogma of her religion at heart, and for this, she was a really interesting character. So, even if I had some problems relating to the characters, I can say without a doubt that they were the best thing of the book, but they were not the only good thing in there. We have an interesting world-building. Nothing over the top, sure, but we have a world worth exploring, and thanks to our characters' trip to the North we get the opportunity to see quite a bit of it. But the second-best thing was the plot. The main part is pretty standard, entertaining, and interesting, I was not bored while reading, but nothing to write home about. But then we have some new discovery and the final twist of all. And… wow! The revelation was pretty big, and it made me really curious to see how the author would play it out, while the final twist made me laugh. And maybe it was bad of me, but it was just too good to be true, even if I think that Kell won’t agree with me. This was a great book, about the “right” kind of heroes, with an interesting plot and a good pace. I was intrigued by it, and I enjoyed it a lot. And now I just have to wait for the second one to come out!!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bender

    https://fanfiaddict.com/2021/05/22/re... Overall: A loveable fast paced read that takes you on a brilliant journey from the go! Light, fun and absolutely entertaining! Prose/Plot/Pace: The book ticks all of my holy trinity of a good prose: keep it simple, keep it fast and keep it fun! In many cases, it actually felt like a real life storytelling, which resonated greatly with me. We get pulled into the story from the get go as the MC, Kell gets recalled back to repeat a quest he thought was done a https://fanfiaddict.com/2021/05/22/re... Overall: A loveable fast paced read that takes you on a brilliant journey from the go! Light, fun and absolutely entertaining! Prose/Plot/Pace: The book ticks all of my holy trinity of a good prose: keep it simple, keep it fast and keep it fun! In many cases, it actually felt like a real life storytelling, which resonated greatly with me. We get pulled into the story from the get go as the MC, Kell gets recalled back to repeat a quest he thought was done a decade ago and one that he's still mentally recovering from. The world then gradually expands as we get to know more of the Five Kingdoms and outlying nations, the players, their intentions, the ever changing politics. At no point did the descriptions feel like info-dumps! Being dragooned into a repeat quest, Kell's dilemma is well characterized and the plot mechanics are done intelligently that he ends up collecting a group of rag tag adventurers that are as broken as him and each with their own reasons to be going on this potentially suicidal journey. Then as their journey progresses, we get the learn more of the characters as they take flesh of their own. All this is done very organically and the way the prose over the characters and journey is flawless! The prose skips well between the journey itself and the macro world politics and machinations seamlessly. The way the group comes together, the building up of the camaraderie, trust and care for each other just pulled me that I felt I was right there adventuring with them! Lots of adventuring follows, intriguing monsters and epic fights later the arc reaches as crescendo as we hit the finale...which I found bittersweet and very satisfying. It neatly ties to the current arc while leaving enough unresolved threads to make me eagerly await the next book. Though the book subtly tugs heartstrings the prose keeps it light and doesn't venture into grimdark territory, which I greatly appreciated. Unnecessary descriptions of cruelty and gore tend to bore me and thankfully this book delivered! Overall, this is a easily bingeable book (which I finished in less than a day ... and some of the night) but one which I thoroughly enjoyed cover to cover. Characters: The book is mostly told from the PoV of Kell initially and then as the world, scope and characters widen we get to hear from Gerren and interspersed with the rest of the cast. The interactions between Kell and Gerren are the cream on the cake. The way their views right now sync inversely to what Kell felt a decade before is just beautifully told. Big or small, each character make an impression and feel unique and fulfilling to their respective roles. The characterization of Kell interested me the most. He wanted to be left alone and when that doesn't happen, he tries to dishonorably escape the forced responsibility and when even that becomes impossible, he reluctantly decides to see this through only for his feeling to change to resolve or die trying. The varying shades as he moves from one stage to another is realistically portrayed. If I had to criticize anything in the book, it would have been the choice of the macro world antagonist. I hope the next books would have enough of twist to take this into unexpected directions. Knowing what I've read till now, I'm looking forward to the next book and finding it out myself!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cassidee Lanstra

    Actual rating: 7/10 Thank you to Angry Robot for a chance to review The Coward by Stephen Aryan in exchange for an honest review. I was super intrigued by the description, I love a good coward as much as I love a good hero. That cover is just gorgeous, too. Well, the first thing that could be said is that this book is definitely polished and it’s going to be right up the alley of many fantasy readers. There’s humor, battles, an epic journey, and an unlikely group of travelers that become like fami Actual rating: 7/10 Thank you to Angry Robot for a chance to review The Coward by Stephen Aryan in exchange for an honest review. I was super intrigued by the description, I love a good coward as much as I love a good hero. That cover is just gorgeous, too. Well, the first thing that could be said is that this book is definitely polished and it’s going to be right up the alley of many fantasy readers. There’s humor, battles, an epic journey, and an unlikely group of travelers that become like family to one another on that journey. If you are a fan of Kings of the Wyld, I could definitely see this being something you’d enjoy. I, on the other hand, DNF’ed KotW (hangs head in shame). The issue for both of these books was that I started out with the audios and really didn’t vibe with the respective narrators. Luckily, with The Coward I decided to switch to physically reading at about 50%. I enjoyed the second half of the novel much more than the first. I don’t think that’s all due to the audio, though, and I know this narrator will actually be perfect for others. The first half went a lot slower for me. I was a bit bored, if I am honest. I actually thought I was going to end up rating this book a bit lower. I didn’t care about any of our characters for a good while. The second half was filled with action and revelations, and the ending promises for a fun adventure in the future. I found myself endeared to our characters by the end of it and it completely saved my rating. A huge bonus: the excerpt for the second book intrigued me greatly, so I will probably end up continuing with the series. I do like that this could be read as a standalone if one desires! One thing I really enjoyed in this novel was the uncertainty of the fate of our main characters. Aryan does not tread lightly and this is something I love when reading fantasy. I enjoy being afraid for our characters, even if that means that someone I really liked dies. I also love that so much of our story revolves around a lie and that Kell sheds a truthful, ugly light on the journey of the heroes that we hear about in fabled tales. Take my review with a grain of salt and check The Coward out for yourself, so far it has been getting rave reviews!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Permanently_Booked

    Thank you Angry Robot Books for the gifted digital copy in exchange for an honest review. Even though I ended up with a digital review copy I found myself itching to listen to what promised to be a fun epic journey. A few Kobo points later and I was spending my day juggling between reading and listening to Aryan's novel. It has been a moment since I've had the joy of immersing myself in this genre of fantasy. I love the ragtag band of characters that come together to form a family by journeys end Thank you Angry Robot Books for the gifted digital copy in exchange for an honest review. Even though I ended up with a digital review copy I found myself itching to listen to what promised to be a fun epic journey. A few Kobo points later and I was spending my day juggling between reading and listening to Aryan's novel. It has been a moment since I've had the joy of immersing myself in this genre of fantasy. I love the ragtag band of characters that come together to form a family by journeys end. For me, the enjoyment comes from the quest to get to where they need to be; the vast lands and peoples (and creatures) they cross for the final destination. All of the lead up was well executed. I found myself cheering for more than one character and appreciated the crafted development of each individual persona. The beginning is a slow slide into the world-building and plot creation. Slowly laying down brick by brick to pave way into the action packed scenes at the end. The descriptors are vivid and creative from the different landscapes to the wild and deadly beings they come across. Matt Wycliffe made an excellent narrator. Not only did I find myself being wooed by his voice and wrapped up tightly in the storyline. I did want a little more from the ending and some middle parts were a tad on the slower side for my personal liking. However, my overall enjoyment was not hindered by these moments. I am not one for high fantasy all of the time but I do love taking a moment to dip my toe back into the genre and savor the expanse of the quest and the heroes it creates. If you're like me or are just looking for a new quest trope to cozy up with, I'd recommend this new release from Angry Robot Books.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kat(herine)

    Lord of the Rings meets a dark and twisty Fantastic Beast’s. This multiple POV novel will capture your attention as soon as you dive in. Kell Kressia is faced, yet again, with the task of the saving the world. But, heroes aren’t always whole. Follow the story of Kell and his unassuming band of misfits while they save their world. Kell is summoned by King Bledsoe to save the Five Kingdoms from a mystical presence. Little do they know, in another part of the kingdom…the Reverend Mother, Britak, and Lord of the Rings meets a dark and twisty Fantastic Beast’s. This multiple POV novel will capture your attention as soon as you dive in. Kell Kressia is faced, yet again, with the task of the saving the world. But, heroes aren’t always whole. Follow the story of Kell and his unassuming band of misfits while they save their world. Kell is summoned by King Bledsoe to save the Five Kingdoms from a mystical presence. Little do they know, in another part of the kingdom…the Reverend Mother, Britak, and King Roebus are plotting against them. The Kingdoms are at odds and the Reverend Mother will do anything to ensure the Shepherd and his 12 Pillars remain in the forefront. She has no time for magic and mysticism. Six heroes (or maybe fools) embark on this journey. But how many will return? I really liked this book and Stephen’s writing style. I’m looking forward to continuing the saga.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    I really enjoyed reading The Coward! From the absolute get-go I was hooked with the easy humour within the first few pages. The quest was fast paced and interesting while being easy to keep up with the characters and their challenges. The highlight for me was actually Gerrens journey from naive boy to having to grow up much too fast and the effect this had on him. I love that there seems to be opportunity for a sequel too! Thank you Netgalley, Angry Robot and Stephen Aryan for the ARC in exchange I really enjoyed reading The Coward! From the absolute get-go I was hooked with the easy humour within the first few pages. The quest was fast paced and interesting while being easy to keep up with the characters and their challenges. The highlight for me was actually Gerrens journey from naive boy to having to grow up much too fast and the effect this had on him. I love that there seems to be opportunity for a sequel too! Thank you Netgalley, Angry Robot and Stephen Aryan for the ARC in exchange for an honest review - it was a pleasure to read!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Justine Barr

    A tidy and very accessible hero (or…coward?) adventure, Stephen Aryan’s novel was a very enjoyable read. The pacing is pleasantly slow, but it is full of monster fights, political intrigues, and character machinations. I loved the reveals at the end of the main journey and mourn the characters lost along the way. If you’re looking to break into the “epic fantasy” world, The Coward is a great place to start.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Will

    4 / 5 ✪ https://arefugefromlife.wordpress.com... I first read Battlemage half a decade past—my introduction to Stephen Aryan—and immediately fell in love with the world he’d created. Now, six books and 5 years later, The Coward takes us outside of that original world that Aryan had created and on to a new one. And a new adventure. A decade ago Kell Kressia set out with the greatest heroes of his generation to stop the Ice Lich and save the world. They succeeded, but the cost was great. He returned 4 / 5 ✪ https://arefugefromlife.wordpress.com... I first read Battlemage half a decade past—my introduction to Stephen Aryan—and immediately fell in love with the world he’d created. Now, six books and 5 years later, The Coward takes us outside of that original world that Aryan had created and on to a new one. And a new adventure. A decade ago Kell Kressia set out with the greatest heroes of his generation to stop the Ice Lich and save the world. They succeeded, but the cost was great. He returned alone, scarred and broken, haunted by the things that he had seen and had done. Now, ten years later Kell lives as a simple farmer, hidden in the corner of Algany with only his horse Droga for company. But recently even he has heard tell of stirrings in the frozen north, and a rumor that something has taken up residence in the Ice Lich's old castle. It’s not long before the King sends envoys to summon Kell to the capital. They want him to return to the north and defeat this evil once again. The first journey nearly broke him. Only after ten years and hundreds of miles separating him from it has Kell managed to recover—though the horrors he faced continue to haunt his dreams. Another journey would destroy him. Even still, a shadow stirs in the north. And it’s up to Kell Kressia to stop it. The Coward includes a pair of quest lines, drawn out across multiple POVs. One involves the legend that is Kell Kressia as he makes his way north once again. The other, Mother Britak in the city of Lorzi. Now the one with Kell is quite obvious. The title character upon his titular quest. It is this quest line that the story lives and dies on. Mother Britak however… I mean, I know what her POV is for. It’s in there to set up Book #2. But has fuck all to do with #1. I mean that literally—apart from a few details of note, mostly in Part 1 (there are 3 Parts to the book; Part 1 takes about 120 pages)—Britak’s storyline has nothing to do with Kell’s own quest, and doesn’t even have the decency to resolve itself by book’s end. And it’s got one of those “One True Faith” tropes, where the church ends up being completely wrong and borderline evil, which I find overused nowadays. As I said, I’m sure it’s setting up the second half of this duology, but in terms of the here and now: it really doesn’t have much to do with the story. In the last twenty years there had been a steady decline in the number of faithful. People were busier than ever with family and other commitments. That was the reason he’d heard most often but those were just excuses. The truth was, believing in something abstract was difficult. Luckily, the Coward isn’t about Mother Britak. It’s about Kell Kressia, and Kell’s story kills. It’s quite enjoyable. I really liked it. The world, the characters, their motivations and intentions—it’d be a borderline 5 / 5 from me without all that Britak nonsense. Honestly I have no notes regarding Kell’s storyline. None. Outstanding fantasy. A bit dark, a bit epic—and a whole lot of adventure! TL;DR The Coward is an outstanding adventure fantasy following hero of the land, Kell Kressia, on his return voyage to the north. He will save the world, or die trying. Or, alternatively, he’ll just piss off and let the kingdom solve it themselves. I really have no issues with the storyline revolving around Kell. A little darkness, a wee bit of danger, a pinch of epicness—and one borderline worthless POV following Mother Britak. Her story rarely intersects with Kell’s, and can only be setting the table for the followup plot in Book #2. As good as I found Kell’s story, her’s was simply pointless. I mean, it’s written well and she’s interesting enough—but it barely connects and it’s Kell’s that steals the show. Luckily, it’s Kell’s that takes up the overwhelming majority of the novel. Still, there’s more than enough here for me to heartily recommend the Coward. A great adventure with excellent characters, heroes, action, and adventure. The one misstep that is Britak is not enough to ruin the good time.

  28. 4 out of 5

    AltLovesBooks

    I mostly enjoyed this book! I had a few hangups that stopped me from giving it a full five stars, but overall I enjoyed my time with my first book by Stephen Aryan. I was concerned when I started this ARC that it would be full of ball jokes and edgy humor, but once things started moving, I was really interested to see what was going to happen. Kell, Ice Lich-slayer of 10 years ago, suffers from, basically, PTSD from his trip to the frozen north, and a hefty dose of imposter syndrome. His inclusio I mostly enjoyed this book! I had a few hangups that stopped me from giving it a full five stars, but overall I enjoyed my time with my first book by Stephen Aryan. I was concerned when I started this ARC that it would be full of ball jokes and edgy humor, but once things started moving, I was really interested to see what was going to happen. Kell, Ice Lich-slayer of 10 years ago, suffers from, basically, PTSD from his trip to the frozen north, and a hefty dose of imposter syndrome. His inclusion on the original venture was unplanned, and despite his realization that heroes aren't necessarily the best of people still sees himself as being unequal to the company he kept. They went north, everyone died on the trip except him, he came back the sole survivor and victor after slaying the Ice Lich. Now, 10 years later, some signs are emerging that the Ice Lich may have returned, and the kings turn to Kell to save them all again -- only he doesn't particularly want to go there again, thanks. I thought Kell was an interesting anti-hero in the beginning. He makes it clear he doesn't want to go, is basically bribed into going, and drags his feet the entire first part of the book before him and his recruited group of fellow adventurers actually go north. I think I would have enjoyed it more if the author had stuck with this anti-hero characterization, but once north, it seems like Kell changed into a father figure, an advisor, and a jaded hero who just wants to help everybody out. I can understand wanting to put old ghosts to rest, so to speak, but it really felt a bit like he changed from how Kell was set up in the beginning. Another hangup I had involved the second viewpoint that we get to see periodically throughout the book. Britak, who I didn't mention in my writeup above, is the head religious figure for a large chunk of the kingdoms. Her POV doesn't really overlap with Kell's at all, which makes the book not really work as a standalone book in my opinion. You have two separate stories being told, one a compelling adventure to (re-)slay the Ice Lich, and the other a religious zealot's memoir as she checks in on her religious empire periodically. I can see where the author is setting up for something in later books, but I honestly felt a little bored reading through Britak's parts. The bones of a really great story are here, though! I really liked Kell's story of his band of new heroes retracing his steps north, and the various problems they face along the way. I thought the writing style was a little more straightforward than I generally like, but the descriptions were great and I felt like the main characters at least were written well enough that they didn't feel like copies of each other. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin

    Thanks to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the eARC of The Coward in exchange for an honest review! The Coward follows Kell as an adult, the hero and last survivor who stood against the Ice Lich years before. A man who doesn’t consider himself a hero and just wants to move past what he’s survived, he is then called back into service of the king when the weather changes to see if the Ice Lich has returned. The Coward was such a fun book! It’s not often you get a main character who is a coward, a man Thanks to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the eARC of The Coward in exchange for an honest review! The Coward follows Kell as an adult, the hero and last survivor who stood against the Ice Lich years before. A man who doesn’t consider himself a hero and just wants to move past what he’s survived, he is then called back into service of the king when the weather changes to see if the Ice Lich has returned. The Coward was such a fun book! It’s not often you get a main character who is a coward, a man who doesn’t want to be a hero and instead just wants to farm and find a wife and live peacefully. Someone who wants to forget what he’s already lived through. This was such a unique take on a fantasy novel, having this grand adventure starting out with someone who does not want to go. We have a few perspectives throughout the book, which made Kell’s story all the more interesting as you see what’s going on in the world and who is conspiring against him. There is a lot happening throughout the start of the book especially, as Kell starts his adventures and assembles a group of other heroes, as well as seeing a political and religious side to the world and the effects it’s having on his adventure. It did make the start of the book a bit slow as there is so much to be introduced to, but once it picks up, it really gets going. The ending of the book was fantastic. The build up, the heroes, everything about it just felt perfect. Parts of it came as a bit of a surprise, which was refreshing as well. So much of the this book managed to feel unique while following a timeless fantasy trope of adventuring heroes. There are some content warnings for the book though, for those readers that need them. Religious fanaticism with implied child abuse and ‘re-education schools’. There is also some violent scenes, and some non consensual advances from some characters. A lot of the scenes are implied though, so if you’re okay with just knowing about it without having to read brutal scenes, you might be able to tolerate those scenes. I would strongly recommend this one if you’re looking for a new take on fantasy tropes, as this one is such a fun read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lory Blanco (areaderheart)

    "Nobody wanted the truth about what had happened. They all said it but the truth was ugly. It was a knotted web of grey decisions, not black and white. People wanted neat and simple but life was a convoluted path of decisions that no one could predict." It took me awhile to get into this book and when I did, it was mainly for the side characters. I really wanted more on them and wish they had been a little more fleshed out, especially the bard. Honestly, this was one of those books were I could ca "Nobody wanted the truth about what had happened. They all said it but the truth was ugly. It was a knotted web of grey decisions, not black and white. People wanted neat and simple but life was a convoluted path of decisions that no one could predict." It took me awhile to get into this book and when I did, it was mainly for the side characters. I really wanted more on them and wish they had been a little more fleshed out, especially the bard. Honestly, this was one of those books were I could care less what happened to the MC as long as the side characters were okay (Except Britak, she can go choke for all I care. Absolutely despised her POV 😑) . However, I did feel sorry for the MC and really appreciated how he stuck to his path once he had finally made up his mind on what he needed to do. As for the world building, it was great. I never felt overwhelmed with information. I feel like as I read it the world, it's people and creatures came naturally through the narration and its characters. The plot really hooked me during the third part of this book and made it worth the read. The stakes were high and my anxiety was insane hoping the characters I liked the most made it out alive. It was one tense event after another and it really helped me fly through that last 30-40% of the book. The reveals at the end were interesting and I found them ironic when you took the zealot pov in consideration lol. For some reason I thought this book was a standalone but it looks like it's part of a series and there are some things that left me hanging so I think I'll definitely pick up the next one when it comes out. Ps. If you actually read this, sorry for the disorganized mess that is this review. I just threw most of my immediate thoughts on here and will maybe fix it later on into something more coherent 🤣

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