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The Pilgrims: A Novel (The Pendulum Trilogy) (edition 2015)

by Will Elliott

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Member:TheAlternativeOne
Title:The Pilgrims: A Novel (The Pendulum Trilogy)
Authors:Will Elliott
Info:Tor Books (2015), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 464 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:Fantasy

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The Pilgrims by Will Elliott

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See full review @ The Indigo Quill

I can be accused of judging a book based on the genre it’s from. Fantasy is one of those genres for me. Apart from a few exceptions and classics, fantasy is one of those genres that is littered with busty elves and all powerful Gandalf knock-off wizards and talking dragons acting out one trope after another with shameless regularity. The beauty of The Pilgrims by Will Elliott is that he uses a lot of the same set pieces that make up trashy dime-a-dozen fantasy, but his vision and imagination make it seem like this is the first book I have ever read with wizards and talking dragons.

The scope of the world he invents and the depth of the characters immediately draws you in to the story. As expansive and detailed as the characters and setting are, Elliott never fails to keep you tightly focused on the individual details of the world and the personalities of the characters without getting bogged down with colorful and drawn-out descriptions. Most fantasy novels use pretty much the same system of magic, and it almost always ends up getting overblown and ruining the plot in one way or another. One of the greatest pieces of praise I can give Elliott is that his system of magic and casting is all his own. Some of the finer elements as to its mechanics aren’t revealed until the second and third books (yes it’s a part of a trilogy), but from the beginning you can tell it is something different than what you are used to reading about.

The plot revolves around a young, normal man named Eric and his homeless, alcoholic friend Case. They find a door to another world and when they enter (with little more than a handgun that Case pilfered) they come to realize they may have been a bit too hasty jumping into a world very different from their own. They find themselves in a world of magic and unbelievable beauty juxtaposed by remarkable cruelty. Their arrival comes at a time of upheaval and civil war in the land of Levaal. In no time at all they are forced to fight for their lives in a war that is not their own. Eric and Case try to find their feet but find themselves at the center of everything. From homicidal mages to horrifying creatures, a mad king to hidden foes, they have their work cut out for them before things even get really dark. It pains me to give such an incomplete description, but any more could steal the journey away from any would-be readers.

I will just go ahead and say that this is one of the best books I have read all year (aside from the second book in the series that I’m currently reading). It isn't an intricately wrought Pulitzer contender, or a classic work of literature. The Pilgrims is, quite simply, an enjoyable, well thought-out, interesting story.

I am saddened to hear that Will Elliott has distanced himself from the series after the completion of the trilogy. He has said that it isn’t the type of fiction that he should be writing and I can totally see where he’s coming from. His other works are of a deeper and more personal timbre and I can understand him feeling that his evocative voice is wasted on this brand of fiction but what might be his gain is certainly a loss for the genre. I found myself being really drawn into caring for the characters and what happens to them. The world and the setting are equally intriguing and interesting. I never once felt that I was being sentenced to sitting through yet another ”Portal to a fantasy realm”, “fish out of water” carbon copy. The story felt fresh, gritty and real without losing the sense of fantasy and adventure that you expect from a fantasy novel.

The only criticism I can really give stems from the fact that this trilogy so far (again I am still on the second book, Shadow) seems like it is one long book cut into three parts almost arbitrarily.The ending of The Pilgrims doesn’t resolve as much as I would have hoped before picking up right where it left off in Shadow. Normally this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but the second two books are increasingly hard to find in the U.S., especially in E-book format (legally). I would hope that wouldn’t turn anyone away from giving it a try though, because The Pilgrims and The Pendulum Trilogy this far are extremely worthwhile reads for any sci-fi, fantasy, or general fiction fan. Younger readers should avoid, because of some very adult content and violence. This shouldn’t be a follow up to Lord of the Rings as a bedtime story. When the kids are asleep, put on your wizard cap and your reading lamp and read yourself a bedtime story you’ll enjoy. ( )
  TheIndigoQuill | Nov 7, 2015 |
**I received a free copy of The Pilgrims from Tor in exchange for an honest review.**

Ah, the fantasy quest novel. Been a while since we've bumped into each other, but, damn, we used to have some good times when I was a teenager. I swear you haven't changed a bit since the last time I ran into you. So, anything new with you? No, not really? Still just rambling off down the road to adventure, eh? Meet a mage or two, maybe some stone giants, a few angels? Choose some ordinary schmuck to save the world from an omnipotent evil overlord hellbent on world domination? So, nothing new in your bag of tricks? Well, it was good seeing you . . . maybe we can meet up again sometime and you can tell me the same predictable tale. No, no--don't call me, I'll call you. Take care now! Buh-bye.

Yeah, I'm a little jaded when it comes to the fantasy quest. Granted, I cut my teeth on this genre, so folks who are new to fantasy may enjoy this tale far more than I did. The only way I enjoy this type of novel these days is if it's a new, inventive twist on the standard journey through a world that is not our own. Unfortunately, The Pilgrims by Will Elliott never rises above the formulaic presentation of an unlikely hero going on an unlikely adventure.

Eric Albright and his homeless friend, Case, find themselves in a strange world after opening a door that appears on a London bridge. In this new world, Eric and Case have the instant ability to both understand and speak the languages of all its denizens. Joining a merry band of rebels against Vous, the man who would be a god, Eric and Case meander without much purpose, encounter all of the aforementioned creatures and then some, and do little to endear themselves to the reader. Eric becomes convinced that he's meant to be a savior--though does little to prove it other than occasionally picturing himself as Batman. While the fantasy world created by Elliott has some intriguing elements, they fail to stand out when surrounded by so many cliches. The characters themselves are also flat, especially Eric, who seems so at ease with this strange place and his role in it that the narrative loses the tension created by a character confused by and at odds with his new surroundings.

Another strike The Pilgrims has against it is the "door between worlds" trope. I've mentioned in other reviews that I usually find this to be a charmless, hackneyed plot device. I despise The Wizard of Oz, Chronicles of Narnia, and Alice in Wonderland. The only time it has worked for me is in Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere and in the movie Labyrinth (and that probably has more to do with David Bowie in tight pants than anything else . . .). So when our hero, Eric Albright, opens a door between our world and that of Levaal without immediately find a well-endowed Bowie on the other side, well, you can imagine my disappointment.

And, finally, the third strike: The Pilgrims is a standard quest novel that for, inexplicable reasons, has been split into a trilogy. Here's what I hate about series quests: the first book will be all "a questing we will go, a questing we will go, no resolution, yo, a questing we will go"; the second book will continue in the same vein until the last 50 pages when, wtf, you mean shit's going to start happening now?; and the last book, if one makes it that far, might actually be fairly decent. But the reader has to drag ass through the first two books before there's any payoff in sight. I don't like to be toyed with thus.

So, if you're new to fantasy, you might want to give The Pilgrims a whirl, but fantasy veterans need not apply.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder and at Shelf Inflicted ( )
1 vote snat | Jun 11, 2014 |
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Book description
Eric Albright, a 26-year-old unemployed journalist, and Stuart Casey, a homeless old drunk, discover a door in a graffiti-covered wall that leads them into the strange world of Levall. Here it is said a mountain-sized dragon with the powers of a god lies sleeping beneath a great white castle.

In the castle the sinister Lord Vous rules with an iron fist, and the Project, designed to effect his transformation into an immortal spirit, nears completion. But Vous's growing madness is close to consuming him, together with his fear of an imaginary being named 'Shadow'. And soon Eric may lend substance to that fear.

An impossibly vast Wall divides Levall, and no-one has ever seen what lies beyond. But otherworlders Eric and Casey, known as Pilgrims, possess powers that no-one in either world yet understands, and soon the Wall may be broken. What will enter from the other side?

The Pilgrims is no ordinary alternate-world fantasy: Will Elliott's brilliantly subversive and creative imagination twists the conventions of the genre for an unforgettable, visionary experience.
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"Eric Albright is a twenty-six-year-old journalist living in London. That is to say he would be a journalist if he got off his backside. But this luckless slacker isn't all bad--he has a soft spot for his sometimes friend Stuart Casey, the homeless old drunk who mostly lives under the railway bridge near his flat. Eric is willing to let his life just drift by...until the day a small red door appears on the graffiti-covered wall of the bridge, and a gang of strange-looking people--Eric's pretty sure one of them is a giant--dash out of the door and rob the nearby newsagent. From that day on Eric and Case haunt the arch, waiting for the door to reappear. When it does, both Eric and Case choose to go through, and enter the land of Levaal" -- from Tor Books web site.… (more)

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