ARC Review and Blog Tour: The Coward or a book about heroes. The real ones!

Hello people and happy Monday! I hope your week has started in the best possible way! Today I am here with a review for a book that I really enjoyed. And I am taking part in the blog tour, so if you are interested by it you can go and check all the other stops!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and to the Editor, Angry Robot.

Title: The Coward
Series: Quest for Heroes #1
Author: Stephen Aryan
Pages: 412
Publication Date: June 8th, 2021

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…

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 want 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 characters, 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 masterplan) 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 believes. She really live 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 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!!

And what about you? Have you read this book? Or have you read other books by the author?? Let me know!!

About the Author:

Stephen Aryan is the author of the Age of Darkness and Age of Dread trilogies. His first novel, Battlemage, was a finalist for the David Gemmell Morningstar Award for best debut fantasy novel. It also won the inaugural Hellfest Inferno Award in France. He has previously written a comic book column and reviews for In addition, he has self-published and kickstarted his own comics.


8 thoughts on “ARC Review and Blog Tour: The Coward or a book about heroes. The real ones!

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    Well, if despite those few “hiccups” you still gave the book a 4-star rating, this is a novel to keep on my radar, indeed! πŸ™‚ I like very much the theme of the anti-hero, which I’m certain will make this character very relatable to me.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: June Wrap Up!

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