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The Coward by Stephen Aryan — Book Review & Summary


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…

The Coward by Stephen Aryan
The Coward by Stephen Aryan

AUTHOR: Stephen Aryan

PUBLISHED ON: 8 June 2021

GENRE: Fantasy

RATING: 3.75 Stars


    E-copy provided for the collaboration between Angry Robot Books and SFF Oasis

CONVINCING YOU TO READ THIS IN 6 WORDS: Reluctant Hero, Nightmares, Quest, Feeling of belongingness, Religious beliefs and political mainour 


The Coward by Stephen Aryan takes us on a quest. Kell was living, if not peacefully but at least safely for past 10 years, tending his farm. But when weather begins to change, people around are worried. They are worried because the changes in weather is nothing else but reflection of what happened before. And so to be safe than sorry, the King calls Kell, someone who saved them before by killing the Ice Lich to look again. To look if everything is normal or there is something brewing around?

When Kell is bought back to the kingdom, all he could think about is how much different everything seems now than 10 years ago. And while, 17 year Kell would have loved nothing more than be in the capital, be called by the king but this 27 year old Kell would be content to be forgotten. But when tragedy strikes, the heroes have to rise, even if they don’t want to.

Reverend Britak has just one goal. Unite the whole kingdom under the rules of the Shepard. And so she strives to teach every possible person the importance of one religion. And when the people are not open to the idea, she has to improvise her ways. The noble cause to unite people under the teachings of The Shepard isn’t easy and so her ways are not straight forward too. Sometimes, she has to send assassins to kill someone and sometimes, she has to get someone kidnapped. Sometimes a small manipulation here and there and sometimes secretly build schools to teach people the importance of the religion.

Kell is all set to travel his way towards the North to find what is wrong. With the help of some money from the King, his journey towards the North are at least comfortable. But as Kell begins his journey, his thoughts are plagued by the thoughts of how much different this is from 10 years ago. How before, he wasn’t welcomed and now he had to go even if he didn’t want to.  But Kell wasn’t a small, naïve 17 year whose thoughts were set on glory and dream to become a hero. He already knew heroes were people who were haunted by their past and so he knew which path he was set on.

But things start becoming more difficult for Kell as people start accompanying for this quest. And despite his reluctance, he has to abandon his brief plan to freedom and complete his quest to the north with an unusual group of people. With every step, Kell could feel the difference. Before, he was following heroes, this time, he has to lead. With one after other challenges on his way, the journey tests them again and again. And when he reaches the top, everything that he knew comes to a stand still. Were the last 10 years nothing but truths hidden?


The Coward, book 1 in the Quest of Heroes by Stephen Aryan left me thinking, wondering and lost in thoughts. All in a good way. I love the idea of heroes who are deep in suffering, who cannot move past the things that they have faced in the past. Heroes who have learnt it hard way that being a hero, despite how fancy it seems isn’t worth loss of family and sleep. And The Coward showed it. And more than that, The Coward also showed us, despite what we want, sometimes it is time to face the consequences of everything and try to live. Even if it is something foolish.

Let’s start with the writing. The Coward was my first book with Stephen Aryan and yet everything was smooth. I had zero problems with the writing for this book. Language used, the type- everything was good. I even enjoyed the characters. Willow was undoubtedly the one with mysterious aura was my favorite. Kell was someone on whose personal journey I was invested in. I wanted to know more about him. About his life. About his nightmares. I even enjoyed the plot of the story. Especially the way politics, religion- everything was coming together.

But I think I wanted more stakes. The real danger didn’t start till they were I think way past 50% or more? I think more than 65% or something. And even after that the fights when placed one on the other, again and again, consecutively, I think if they were a bit paced at a distance, personally I would have enjoyed it more? It felt like for a while everything was a walk in garden and than suddenly they are in constant pile of dangers? The whole travelling journey had a potential for some fight, for some stakes. Also, I really didn’t think of Kell as a coward. He was definitely a reluctant hero on my part. So, these are two main problems that I felt.

Apart from that, let me highlight once again, how much I enjoyed, seeing a hero who is constantly questioning why. Who has nightmares. Who understands that being a hero is more than what is being said and despite everything who understands that he cannot run. Despite his fears, he knows that he has to face his fears and become that person once again.

I would recommend The Coward to anyone who can enjoy a graphical book, according to me. Where the stakes aren’t too much for a while and then boom.!

Did you enjoy The Coward? Or are you planning to read it?

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I loved Garren’s addition. Especially from Kell’s point if view. He could see a shadow of his past self and with every step he took, he wondered how things would be different if he didn’t take that journey. If he didn’t want to become a hero. And when he died. It was just perfect. I don’t know why but I really wanted Garren to die. In some bizarre way, that was supposed to happen.

One 17 year old can be lucky. Not two.

You can read the review for A Drowned Kingdom by P.L.Stuart here.

You can read the review for The Blood of Outcasts here.

You can read the review for A King’s Radiance here.

You can read an article for Creation & Destruction here.




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