a review by Jade Hounsell
Pilgrims begins with Stuart Case, a homeless alcoholic, who has just discovered a small red door underneath a train bridge. Weird enough that it just appears one day but upon watching it for several nights, Case hears noises, sees lights and weirdest of all, sees a beautiful winged woman emerge and return through it.
Case decides he needs to tell someone, someone who will believe he is not crazy, or was just in the grip of alcoholic hallucination, and in steps Eric Albright. Eric is a young man who sometimes plays chess with Case and buys him alcohol as he walks past on his way home from looking for a job.
Somehow Case convinces Eric that they need to watch the door and they do so for several nights. On one of these nights several characters come out of the door, talk to Eric and Case, freak out a little over ‘this strange world’ and then return through the door. That is somehow enough to convince Eric that he and Case need to cross through the door and into the magic brimming world of Levall. (Ok I may have glossed over that a little, it really was quite an interesting read how the characters came to their conclusions and how the crossing came about.)
Levall really is like something straight from a fantasy novel for Eric and he comes to the conclusion that because he was “chosen” to come through the door, (and survived an encounter with a mythical beast), then he must be Levall’s savoir. Now I think Eric’s conclusion kind of comes because he is taken in by rebels from the very beginning, whereas Case kind of has to find his own way around after crossing over after Eric, so he has a less of a god complex, or maybe Eric just wants to find meaning and purpose to his previously ‘worthless’ life. The quest that Eric decides to undertake is to free the oppressed world from the evil, malign magic of the king, Vous.
A numerous and varied cast are introduced throughout, and readers will see creatures of various descriptions within the world of Levall. There are War Mages, flying Invia (the beautiful winged women that Case saw earlier in the book), Dragon Gods and Great Spirits as well as ordinary people and ones who seem ordinary but have powers (like to foresee the future or shape shift).
I found this book to be a little dark, the opening couple of pages kind of sets that straight away, however it is not completely so with there being plenty of humour, action and ‘magic’ to lighten things up. I also really like that in a world where magic replaces technology, the magic doesn’t dominate. I mean what is the good of a character who is the world’s best swordsman when there is a wizard who can knock out an entire army and make peace in 10 seconds flat but doesn’t until after there is a massive slaughter of good guys?
It may not seem like it from the tone of most of this review but I did really like this book, it has all the markers to the making of an excellent series; however (SPOILER ALERT) I have started to read the second book, Shadows, and find it lacking compared to this one. Not to say that I won’t struggle through because sometimes in series it’s the middle book that is the least entertaining. Stay tuned for further reviews!!