Pilgrim by Harmon Cooper was a surprisingly good read.

I’ll be honest, a nitpicky formatting thing had me iffy with the spaces in between each paragraph. Made me feel more like I was investing in a series of blog posts as opposed to a novel. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found throughout this text.

What we have here is a former assassin, Danzen, who’s on a quest for redemption. He’s trying to get away from his past and do good deeds. The novel consists of eleven parts, each with four different chapters. Each part sees Danzen overcoming some sort of adventure/challenge, with the overarching plot of his “past” lurking throughout.

At first, I liked the structure of the parts and seeing individual adventures alongside the grander one. Toward the middle, I started to feel a little disconnected toward the overall plot. However, since this is a Japanese-themed book, I ended up watching Asian fantasy films while I read this. I’d like to continue on with Asian literature going forward, but Handsome Siblings on Netflix ended up catching all of my attention for now.

First of all, that show is… unexpectedly incredible.

Second of all, I understand that Handsome Siblings is Chinese and Pilgrim is Japanese and they’re two separate cultures.

Watching Handsome Siblings helped me visualize some of the themes better throughout the remaining text of Pilgrim, and for that, I’m appreciative.

Danzen is a really strong main character, as well.

His adventures revolve mainly around his different interactions with various yokai, who are basically various “monsters and spirits” in Japanese lore. He befriends some of them through his adventures, like Kudzu the fox and Jelmay, who I can’t really talk about, I don’t think, without giving away some spoilers. 

Jelmay is hands down my favorite character, though. So I will definitely talk more about him in the spoiler’s section.

Along the way, we encounter various attacks from the Diyu Brotherhood, whom “Pilgrim” is running from the whole time. “Pilgrim” being the nickname for him given by the townsfolk who know of his unsteady past.

We definitely see a lot of action in this book.

It is well-paced, the action not overly gruesome or bulky. The Japanese elements, especially, with the yokai and everything are very well-researched. The author himself is white, which, to be honest, was part of the reason I chose this book. 

Being a white author myself, I wanted to see how other authors represented other races. It was actually something I was nervous about going into this, but, personally, I think it was really well done. Considering the Indian and Hindu mythology I’m putting into my book that this helped influence, it was really nice to see that type of research played throughout the text.

I did struggle a lot with character names and places.

However, it’s easy to forgive because it all fits into “where” it’s supposed to be. Especially with the amount of real legends involved here (like every yokai he meets.) 

Out of the five books I chose for the project I’m writing on this platform, I was the most nervous about this one. The white author writing a Japanese-inspired element in particular. That became the best part for me, in the end, because I think he did a good job. And, like with reading my first LitRPG book, Pyrseouls Apocalypse by James T. Callum, I feel like this book opened me up into this genre and makes me want more of it. I definitely want to read books by Asian authors themselves, but I think I’m more interested in translated-to-English works so I can feel as close to it as possible.

Overall, I think Pilgrim turned out to be a surprisingly good read. I predicted a 3 star for it, but I gave it a 4. Really, a 4.5, but rounded down to a 4 because some grammatical things really bothered me throughout the text. More on that in my chapter-by-chapter analysis.


Lemme see!

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