Plot: 4/5 Characters: 4/5 Writing: 2/5 Entertainment: 4/5 World Building: 5/5
Pilgrimage is a mature, thoughtful and surprisingly funny magical journey through the Australian Outback that brings something new to the Contemporary Fantasy genre.
Roland has been living in a rundown motel for the past six months, spending his time drinking away painful memories and getting into bar fights. Griffith is on his way to Salem to find a powerful sorcerer and happens to get held up in the very bar Roland is drinking in. With Roland’s help, Griffith thinks he can safely make it to Salem and help Roland in the process, but tolerating each other becomes the least of their worries once they start making magical enemies.
Pilgrimage is a rare book. I’ve only ever read one other similar to it (see my review of Rairty from the Hollow). It’s not very often you see contemporary fantasy clearly written for adults tackle themes such as guilt, innocence and the loss there of, and conviction. If they do, such themes are set on the back burner to give grit and action the spot light. Not that there’s anything wrong with that formula, it’s was just interesting see someone present such themes front-and-center in a fantasy novel. Such heavy emphasis on the themes of a story is usually reserved for realistic fiction.
In addition, the characters are brilliantly complex and complement each other perfectly. One’s strengths pick up where the other’s weaknesses leave off and they both have very fleshed out, three-dimensional strengths and weaknesses. It would have easy to make Griffith always right and make his non-violent philosophy triumph in the end, but it doesn’t. Neither does Roland’s approach of punching his way out of every situation. The two have to learn to balance their approaches and see that there is a time and place for both, making their personal conflicts very believable, despite the fantastic circumstances, and mature.
Despite its somber tone, “Pilgrimage” still had me laughing quite a bit. Some of the dialogue between Roland and Griffith can be funny, but most of the humor came from Lord Pentdragon, the first antagonist we see. It’s hilarious to watch how seriously this man takes himself and how seriously other people take him when, in reality, he’s a bit of a joke. His scenes were some of my favorite simply because of how over-the-top and ridiculous he was.
The only fault I could see with “Pilgrimage” was the writing. It wasn’t bad, per se, it was just weak. Since “Pilgrimage” had such a great story, great characters, and well-developed themes, I felt like it deserved better writing. There were also a handful of typos. While they didn’t make passages impossible to read, they were certainly distracting.
Over all, if you’re looking for a good fantasy adventure, but you’ve grown weary of teenagers and Chosen Ones, “Pilgrimage” is a good read, regardless of its writing. I just hope Purcell finds the time to go back and clean up those typos.