Esme’s Indie Highlights/SPFBO: Pilgrimage to Skara

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This was part of Booknests’s grouping and has been selected as a finalist!


Plot:

Wendt is the main character, he used to be what’s known as a Pathfinder, someone who’s paid to help pilgrims make it to their shrines in the hopes they will be granted gifts. He’s been retired for some time and living on a pig farm minding his own business.

He was approached by someone and made an offer to come out of retirement, he was absolutely unwilling and unbudging until he was told that the woman needing an escort was the daughter of his lost love. Vyrma was an old lover of his and the backstory between those two gets slowly revealed as the book went along. He decides he’ll help this girl try and get her gift.

However, her pilgrimage isn’t to a typical place, it’s to a restricted zone that no one’s been to in hundreds of years. It’s been banned and set as off limits because of a fabled plague called The Boiling Death, the disease makes your hair and teeth fall out and also warps and miscolors the skin.

Wendt agrees to go on the journey but it’s going to be extremely difficult, many of his past pilgrims died along the way, and this is the most dangerous mission he’s ever been on. They have to cross chasms, lands were cannibal barbarians ride the plains on horses, forests plagued by incredibly fucked up demons and animals, landscapes made of volcanic glass etc etc.

Final Score: 7.5/10


Characters:

Wendt is a grumpy son of a bitch, he’s quick to threaten people, very short tempered, and very sure of himself. He feels threatened by nothing because he’s old and has seen it all. He spent years wandering around the most dangerous of landscapes so he has no fear of nobles or their bullshit. He had a messed up childhood where his mother would send him out to steal things as she worked as a prostitute. She caught a disease and died when he was young, so he was brought up on the streets in gangs. He learned that he loved violence and had a knack for killing people, he eventually turned his violent tendencies towards protection rather than assault.

Keilie is so full of herself and super annoying at first, she’s horrible to read about because she’s so stereotypically pretentious. She’s the daughter he has to escort across all this terrain and she couldn’t be more laughably inept and unqualified to try. She gets mildly better as the story goes on and she lets go of some of that face she holds up in noble court, but I never grew to like her much.

Final Score: 7.5/10 


World Building:

Most of the world building here was done as they traveled through the landscape, there were a lot of monsters that were well imagined and fun to read about. I liked the monkey like things that hunted in groups with needle teeth and poison claws.

The Adjucar rules everything and he has a rather firm grip, but there’s always an ebb and flow with the power of Houses in this world. There are 9 or so main houses that belong to Collum and they all struggle for power stabbing each other in the back anytime they can

This is actually a lower magic world, there wasn’t a lot of magic going on, and I wasn’t sure what the pilgrimage was for until about halfway through, I didn’t know anything about the magic system until then, but it’s a mysterious like magic system that can grant trivial or very profound gifts on those that make it to the shrine.

The Barbarians are a race of humans that never developed much past the hunter-gatherer stage, some of them speak the common language, but not many. They are ruthless and brutal – they rape people to death, eat their enemies bodies, and slaughter every man woman and child from Collum they can get their hands on.

It’s punishable by death for a commoner to have a firearm of any kind, rifles and pistols are only to be carried by the nobility. The reasoning is that a single disgruntled commoner can take out a noble person from a long distance and get away with it.

There’s a rigid class structure in place with most nobles looking at commoners with disgust and disdain, treating those from lower birth as sub human.

Final Score: 7.5/10


Pacing/Prose/Tone:

The pacing was pretty steady throughout the book, it’s sort of a travel log, so if you like characters on quests and travelling around the country side running into trouble, this could be for you

The tone was kind of grimmer, the main character is not a happy fellow and the things that happen to people outside the protection of the city walls can be grotesque. I wouldn’t call it overly dark though, a lot of stuff is just talked about and doesn’t actually happen on page.

I did find more than a handful of spelling and grammar errors, though.

Pacing Final Score: 8/10 

Writing Final Score: 6/10


Originality:

There were a lot of original monsters and demons along the way, things I’d never seen before.

The odd couple on a quest has been done before, but it is one of my favorite things to read about, typically.

The small band of people on the road facing hardships trying to make it to a destination has also been done, but the landscapes encountered and the things within them were new, so it kept it interesting enough for me.

Final Score: 7/10


Final Score: 43.5/60 ~ 7.2/10 ~ 3 stars very nearly 4 stars on goodreads


Audience:

  • For people who like quests
  • For people who like travel logs
  • For people who like odd ball pairings
  • For people who like lower amounts of magic
  • For people who like straightforward stories
  • For people who like a lot of monsters
  • For people who like a lot of House battles

8 comments

    1. yeah i didnt have as many problems as you did, but i also can read about people wandering around fighting monsters fairly easily. ASRL and White Tower will probably rate higher when i go back and put my scoring system in – ive retroactively scored about a dozen of my reviews

      1. I wonder – do you have a benchmark for ratings? A book / books – that scored 10/10 in all or one of categories for you and you compare book to it?

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