"The action is definitely fun to read and the last plot twist is one that I thoroughly enjoyed"
pilgrimage to skara
by jonathan s. pembroke
Finalist in the 2017 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off contest!
It has been nearly two decades since Pell Wendt abandoned the power and prestige of Collum. Ruled by the semi-divine Ajudicar, the city had been his home all his life, but no longer. Spurned by the woman he loved, the former pathfinder, adventurer and criminal walked away from his life of escorting promising youngsters to the shrines of power, and retreated to his farm in the Sogras, to live a life of bitter and brooding rejection.
Now, House Kettiburg has reached out with a an offer he can’t refuse: a pilgrimage to Skara, a mythical and dangerous shrine far out in the barbarous Outlands, for the supplicant Keilie – the daughter of the very woman who rejected him.
Trapped by the love his heart cannot deny, Wendt agrees to the pilgrimage and finds himself embroiled in intrigue and betrayal, with far-reaching implications for himself, Keilie, and the tattered remains of the human race.
Pilgrimage To Skara was another debut title that made the finals, it was also the finalist that I wanted to read because of its Booknest review. The review mentioned some specific things about it like having a western feel, crazy cool creatures and a fast pace to the plot.
The story begins with our curmudgeonly protagonist Pell Wendt, a retired pathfinder and current farmer with a laconic style of talk. He’s been approached to do one last pathfinding mission, as Wendt decides to decline. He’s stunned to know the petitioner is none than his former paramour and the pilgrim-to-be will be her daughter. Confused by emotions he thought were gone, he agrees to the task and soon finds himself back in the city of Collum with all of its politics. The lands beyond the city are bordered by walls which keep out the savage outlanders and also some of the other troublesome things that are now thought to be legend. The plot then picks up from that and we get a story that definitely had all the things that made it a finalist and made it an enjoyable read for me.
What I liked most about this story was the western feel that you get from the start of the story. Pell Wendt is the old gunslinger (in this case literally) and a tough killer who is a legend among pathfinders. The author’s also builds a world wherein we aren’t sure if it’s a secondary fantasy world or a post-apocalyptic one and the magical creatures are definitely very horrific. It seemed very much like a 80s action flick. It has the tough main protagonist who’s extremely good at what he does and then manages to do the needful. The characterization however is a bit on the two-dimensional side and we aren’t given any POV besides Pell. This leads to us never quite understanding Pell’s pilgrim’s mental state and her actions in the end seem contrived.The action is definitely fun to read and the last plot twist is one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The way the book ends, I wanted to read more and I hope the author decides to write a sequel. This book because of being a debut suffers from neophyte author pitfalls, with the characterization and its handling of the female characters. Is it a horrible book, definitely not! Could it have been better, most definitely! Jonathan Pembroke has certainly taken all the criticisms evenly in his stride and I admire him for that. Overall this book was a good three star debut and one perhaps that could have been better polished.