Paolo Coelho uses wonderful imagery in this book loosely based on the Camino de Santiago - a thousand year old Christian pilgrimage route across northern Spain. It presents a New Age cross between the mysticism of Carlos Castaneda and the modern pilgrimage. As a guide to the Camino it falls well short - indeed the protagonist concludes his pilgrimage 150kms short and then takes the bus to Santiago. But as a journey of spiritual growth it works well. It is said that each person walks their own Camino, and this one is less about a Christian pilgrimage, and more a kind of Druidic quest. A fun read nonetheless.
When I walked the Camino Frances in September 2013, I heard that Paul Coelho's book was responsible for driving renewed interest in this ancient pilgrimage -- particularly amongst our friends from Korea. So, I finally read his book almost 18 months later -- and what a disappointment! Not only was the writing very basic (OK, perhaps it lost something in the translation into English), but the storyline was a mish-mash of Catholic hocus-pocus and Masonic rituals that bordered on the laughable. For example: the reason for the author walking the Camino was to secure his 'sword' that would somehow give him additional magic powers. Really? Give me a break! The Camino is certainly a spiritual experience, but this account was just nonsense. I want my money back!