I received a copy of The Pilgrims by Will Elliott from Tor McMillan free to review – thank you, guys! It tells the story of journalist Eric Albright and Stuart Casey, a homeless drunk, who stumble across a hidden door which leads them to the fantastical world of Levaal. Naturally, there is an evil overlord they have to defeat. As can be inferred from the ages of the protagonists, this is more adult contemporary fantasy than young adult. The language and attitudes of the two main characters is more mature than that of your average Twilight or Mortal Instruments. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.
First off, I need to be totally honest and say I was unable to finish this book. I started it at least a couple of times, and even bought it on Kindle as I find hardback books bulky and awkward to read now after several years of Kindling. Yet, I was unable to get beyond the first third of the story. Now, I don’t believe this is a reflection on the story or the author; just that I, personally, was unable to relate to the characters enough to become involved in their adventure. it may even be that I was simply not in the mood for the tale that was being woven. There was a lot I enjoyed about the book, but not quite enough to keep me reading, unfortunately. It could be I’ll return to it later.
What i liked
The worldbuilding. Elliott has crafted a vivid and fascinating world in Levaal. From what I read I felt there were some interesting seeds sown for future developments. I believe this is the first book in a planned trilogy.
Language as skill. I was intrigued by the fact that Eric’s and Case’s key strength (in this first third at least) was that, as Otherworlders, they have the ability to understand each language spoken in Levaal as if it were their native language. This applies even to magically encrypted speech. The local resistance is quick to see what an advantage that could give them and I enjoyed what I read of their adventures in spying.
Genre-savvy protagonist. It always makes me smile when the protagonist is aware of fantasy tropes and expects his/her adventure to follow similar lines. I loved that Eric was all “oh yeah, I know how this works: someone from my world falls into a fantastical realm, so that person must be the prophesied Saviour. Point me in the direction of the evil overlord.” I didn’t read far enough to learn whether or not Elliott will turn this on its head, but it could be fun to find out.
What I didn’t like
The main characters. For me, personally, I could not engage with either Eric or Case. I found nothing about them that struck a chord with me. However, that’s not to say they’re not interesting characters. They just didn’t pull me into their story.
Despite the fact that I was unable to finish the book, I feel that was very much a personal thing. I certainly wouldn’t discourage anyone else from reading it; just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean you mightn’t think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.
I gave The Pilgrims three stars out of five.