Review: A Pilgrimage of Swords by Anthony Ryan

Rating: ★★★★☆


It is two hundred years since the deity known as the Absolved went mad and destroyed the Kingdom of Alnachim, transforming it into the Execration, a blasted wasteland filled with nameless terrors. For decades, desperate souls have made pilgrimage to the centre of this cursed land to seek the Mad God’s favour, their fate always unknown. 

Now a veteran warrior known only as Pilgrim, armed with a fabled blade inhabited by the soul of a taunting demon, must join with six others to make the last journey to the heart of the Execration. Allied with a youthful priest, a beast-charmer, a duplicitous scholar, an effete actor and two exiled lovers, Pilgrim must survive madness, malevolent spirits, unnatural monsters and the ever-present risk of treachery, all so that the Mad God might hear his prayer and, perhaps, grant redemption. But can sins such as his ever be forgiven?


Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of A Pilgrimage of Swords in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this ARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novella.

This was actually my first experience with Anthony Ryan’s writing, even though I have all of the books in his previous two (2) series [Raven’s Shadow & Draconis Memoria]. Though I have been blogging for a few years, I am still way behind on several authors and series, but I am slowly making my way through them as I clear out ARCs. Maybe I’ll catch up eventually (NOT). This stems from reading and reviewing so many genres *shrugs*.

A Pilgrimage of Swords may be a short, quick read, but for what it lacks in pages and words, it makes up for in fantastic storytelling. This novella gave me sort of a (and please, bear with me on this) Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone ending feel with the trials and tribulations of our characters along their pilgrimage, but mixed with the world-building and characters of Peter Newman’s The Vagrant.

Like I said, bear with me. It is an odd comparison, but it makes 100% sense to me; except this story is much more latter than the former. It is as close to grimdark as you can get without devoting yourself to gods of brutality and gore.

While this novella shows off Ryan’s ability to write such a great story in so few pages, it leaves me with the difficult job of writing an extended review. I could see myself rating APoS 5-stars if it were expanded upon, fleshing out the characters a little more and gifting us the pleasure of emotionally connecting with them. But all in all, there is plenty of hack’n’slash and fantasy goodness to go around that I think anyone that is a fan of Ryan, let alone the fantasy genre as a whole, will immensely enjoy.

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