Book Review: The Pilgrims

The Pilgrims by Will Elliot, Pendulum #1

Eric Albright is leading a normal life until a small red door appears under a train bridge near his home. Then a ghostly being wakes him in the dead of night, with a message from another world: You are Shadow. In Levaal, the world between worlds, the dragon-gods grow restless in their sky prisons, and the Great Spirits struggle to contain them. Vous, the worlds Friend and Lord, simmers in madness as he schemes to join the ranks of gods. He and the Arch Mage have almost won their final victory over the Free Cities. A dark age dawns. But Eric and his friend Case are now Pilgrims, called to Levaal for a battle more ancient than the petty squabbles of men. And they will learn why some doors should not be opened ...

I have been reading a lot of Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction lately and I was really craving for an epic fantasy story, so when I went through my books that I still have up for review and I came across this book. It quickly reminded me of a one of my favourite series ever: The Dark Tower by Stephen King. Where you have a group embark on a quest in a world mixed with fantasy and contemporary and science fiction influences so without any further ado I jumped at it. The Pilgrims offered a very unique and interesting reading experience but just as like The Dark Tower books, you do have to be open to read some new and bold idea's, this isn't your average fantasy, it's a great cross over and offers an interesting start.

The story of The Pilgrims picks up with the focus on two protagonists, they are by far the most likely of heroes to be honest. Meet Eric Albright, a would be journalist, he has the ambitions but is just to lazy to bother really, also meet his homeless friend Stuart Casey or Case. Case is a homeless guy and addicted to alcohol. What Eric and Case like to do is play a game of chess once in a while and just this one time when they are having a match a small red door appears out of nowhere and some otherworldly creature emerge just to raid a small kiosk. Not having any idea just what the heck was going on, if it was a alcohol induced dream or some such they wait for the door to reappear again... When it does they have one moments to decide just what to do... When they appear on the other side, they are in a land known as Levaal and find themselves in the midst of an ongoing struggle. There is an evil overlord, Vous, who wants nothing more than to become immortal and rule all the land of Levaal. Now as Eric and Case make their way through Levaal they get picked up or rather recruited by a group of people who fight against the oppression of Vous, the Friend and Lord. This is where the questing part kicks in as Eric, Case and there company set off to stop Vous, but in their quest they have to overcome some hurdles. Plus they encounter as not-natives to Velaal some weird stuff, that has only appeared in fantasy books for them and now have become a reality. 

With my almost single genre reading over the last few weeks I really enjoyed the story that Will Elliott told in The Pilgrims, for me it's these kind of crossover stories that offer a refreshing view upon some of the more grounded genres. And yes it did remind me of my favorite, yes not one of my favorites, but my favorite series The Dark Tower and that should say a lot. Of course the scale is not directly one on one but there is a very nice attempt in showing a big world that is readily available for exploration. What I always find important when showing a fantasy world mixed with the real world is to have several changes occur gradually or that you have to grow in the world, because our technology is completely absent there and Eric and Case do have to grow into the land of Velaal, getting to understand just what they are presented with. An enjoyable story in all. 

As for the characters of the book, the focus is really on Eric and Case. I liked their different personalities besides the often used hero kind of guys or girls. Eric and Case are by far the types of persons you would normally associate with being saviors, though, considering the circumstances Eric does see himself as an hero and he comes up with plenty a reference towards perhaps his favourite superhero Batman and considering the circumstances he is in, this selfmade hero might be closest linked to himself. Case is perhaps a bit worse off in his character than Eric, talking about the background here. Case is a homeless alcoholic. However with coming into a new world, everything is reset and Case as well as Eric get a fresh start, that they, in my opinion, do try to get the most out of. 

However I do have one small matter to say about the characters is all, the premise of both Case and Eric were great to read about but I missed a strong narration to truly involve the reader and suck him into the story. The characters were fun to read about but I just missed that spark of connection. But you know if you look back at the story there were so many new ideas introduced that it just might have fallen unwillingly tot he background and what isn't there yet, might still come. 

One part that I really like when it comes down to fantasy books is magic be it Epic or Urban inspired. In The Pilgrims, Will Elliott more than ones mentions just how dangerous magic is and that when it is overused will cook the user from the inside out. This in the back of your mind and several deadly players of this magic on the opposite side of Eric and Case readily put the story in the right mood of good guy vs. bad nefarious evil overlord guy. On top of this you have also other "supernatural" creatures like the Invia, the War Mages, Gods and embodied Great Spirits that further build a grande epic fantasy premise surrounding the story of The Pilgrims.

With The Pilgrims, Will Elliott has written a refreshing and very exciting genre crossover between urban and epic fantasy, that very closely reminded me of my favorite series of all time. These books fall in the category of either you love them or you hate them, but The Pilgrims for me to be honest fall precisely in between. I do have some mixed feelings about the setup of the story. Don't get me wrong I totally loved the whole world of Levaal the strangeness yet also approachable setting, the realistic feeling of the world and of course some unlikely heroes turned heroes. But my main bugger is that I miss the strong narration that readily decides when and where the story progresses or where it is called to a halt to recapture some events. As I already mentioned this could be due to the fact that Will Elliott does introduce many new things in this first book, which could have drawn the focus away, so hopefully, what isn't might still come. If this issue is fixed Will Elliott is definitely on the right route to an great series.   

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