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Karsa Orlong

David Gemmell

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I did a search and couldn’t find a thread for David Gemmell, so thought I’d start one. I can't remember seeing anyone else on here mention him, which is a real shame, so I may well be talking to myself again! :lol:

I am a relative newcomer to his work, only taking an interest after a friend recommended him to me. I am reading one of his books at the moment (‘Winter Warriors’) and on the cover it calls him ‘The master of heroic fantasy’. Normally I take these things with a pinch of salt but, with each of his books that I read, I’m starting to agree more and more with that statement.

It seems to me that David wrote fantasy the way Lee Child writes thrillers: it’s entertaining, no nonsense, action-packed stuff but, whereas Child’s hero is omniscient and indestructible to the point of disbelief, Gemmell’s characters are flawed, vulnerable and world-weary. He described his stories as being about love, friendship, honour, courage and redemption, which is very true, going by what I’ve read so far. He doesn’t really deal with fantasy creatures - not to say there aren't any, they're just not the focus, it is all about people. The ones I’ve read have all been well-paced and just the right length. He rarely wastes a word, and doesn’t get bogged down in world-building. There's plenty of humour, but there's also plenty of heartbreak. Again, it’s all about the characters.

He wrote his first book in the early 80s when he was misdiagnosed with cancer. ‘Legend’ was published in 1984 and is a classic, telling the story of the siege of the fortress Dros Delnoch and the people sucked into the battle, including the, erm, legendary Druss, the 'legend' of the title.

David went on to write over 30 novels before his sad and untimely death in 2006, at the age of 57. Apparently he was found slumped at his keyboard, working on the final part of his 'Troy' trilogy, which is so sad and yet somehow seems appropriate for such a prolific and well-liked author.

Here is the complete list of David's books, taken from http://www.legendreaders.com/, as well as the year of their original release:

Legend (1984)
King Beyond the Gate (1985)
Waylander (1986)
Wolf in Shadow (1987)
Ghost King (1988)
Last Sword of Power (1988)
Knights of Dark Renown (1989)
The Last Guardian (1989)
Quest for Lost Heroes (1990)
Lion of Macedon (1990)
Dark Prince (1991)
Morningstar (1992)
In the Realm of the Wolf (1992)
The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend (1993)
White Knight Black Swan (1993) (pseudonym of Ross Harding)
Bloodstone (1994)
Ironhand's Daughter (1995)
The Hawk Eternal (1995)
The Legend of Deathwalker (1996)
Dark Moon (1996)
Winter Warriors (1997)
Echoes of the Great Song (1997)
Sword in the Storm (1998)
Midnight Falcon (1999)

Hero in the Shadows (2000)
Ravenheart (2001)
Stormrider (2002)

White Wolf (2003)
The Swords of Night and Day (2004)
Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow (2005)
Troy: Shield of Thunder (2006)
Troy: Fall of Kings (2007) (posthumously finished by his wife, Stella)

The ones in blue are the ones I've read (or am reading) so far. They've all been brilliant, to one degree or another. Each time I've finished one I've come out of it with a determination to collect and read everything he wrote - they are very addictive! No Kindle versions here, either - I'll be getting them all in paperback :D

If anyone wants a taster there are some excerpts here: http://www.sorcerers...rpts_drenai.php although I haven't read through them to see how well they've been transcibed.

So, are there any other fans here?

<<tumbleweed>> :D

Edited by Karsa Orlong

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I've never read any but OH used to read a lot of his stuff I think. He's probably got some on his bookshelf I could pilfer if you recommend them, although I'm generally not much of a fantasy reader. I am however loving Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy and I enjoyed Harry Potter. The excerpt you linked to does sound very full-on fantasy :lurker:

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Ooh, a reply - I wasn't expecting that :D;)


I am however loving Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy and I enjoyed Harry Potter. The excerpt you linked to does sound very full-on fantasy :lurker:

I'd say, to be honest, that The Farseer trilogy is more conventional in fantasy terms, I think. Not sure that's any help but I don't want to spoil anything if you haven't finished it yet. Obviously, Gemmell's books are aimed at a different audience to Harry Potter, so there aren't any comparisons I can draw there, although I'd say Gemmell does the good vs evil story very well. He doesn't do the farm boy/orphan grows up to be mighty wizard kind of story, they're much more about older characters with chequered histories coming back to haunt them, ex-soldiers trying to escape their past etc, and the people who care about them being drawn into the mix, and the novels are very streamlined and concise, where many fantasy authors do tend to be overly verbose (and I'm including my favourites in that comment! :lol: ). There's something very direct about his writing which takes a bit of adjusting to, especially after something like Robin Hobb. The other author I'd compare his style to would be Anne McAffrey. They're both quite old school in their "we're not getting paid by the word" approach, which I find quite refreshing when compared to all the other doorstopper fantasy tomes out there :D

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Thanks Karsa, I really appreciate your recommendations and reviews. You have directed me to some of my favourite reads and will definitely give this chap a go. A family member of mine loves fantasy and speaks very highly of Legend, I have so many books to read, so little time. :readingtwo:

Edited by BloodyNine

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Thanks BloodyNine, I'm glad you've enjoyed some of them. Given that you like Joe Abercrombie I think you might like David Gemmell a lot - Abercrombie definitely seems to be in his mould :smile:

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Please do! :smile:


I finished Winter Warriors last night, posted some comments here: http://www.bookclubf...post__p__295157


Also, I found a list of his books that is organised in a much better fashion than the one I posted above (although his 'Troy' trilogy was still in progress when it was compiled): http://www.thirteent...mell/books.html

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Thanks for that, that's very Interesting. If OH does have an old DG lying around then I might be tempted to pick it up. I am getting a bit more into fantasy thanks to him. I'll let you know how I get on :D

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I looked up some reviews for Gemmell and he does seem like the sort of author I would like. Along with most of what you suggest Karsa...

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It's great that you can dip in and out of his books and not have to get involved in multi-book series. Even though a lot of them are linked by the world they're set in, most of them can be read in isolation without spoiling the enjoyment, I think. :smile:

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Stella Gemmell's first novel, The City, is being published next month by Bantam.





One of the legendary names in genre fiction returns - an astonishing debut fantasy novel from Stella Gemmell, wife of the late, great and bestselling David Gemmell...
The City is ancient and vast, built up over the millennia, layer upon layer. Once a thriving metropolis, it has sprawled beyond its walls, inciting and waging constant wars with neighbouring tribes and kingdoms - creating a barren wasteland of what was once green and productive.
At the heart of the City lives the emperor. Few have ever seen him, but those who have recall a man in his prime, though he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he truly ever was. And a small number have come to the desperate conclusion that the only way to stop the City’s incessant war and the constant bloodshed is to end the emperor’s unnaturally long life.
From the maze-like sewers and catacombs below the City, where the poor struggle to stay alive in the dark, to the blood-soaked fields of battle where few heroes manage to survive the never-ending siege, these rebels pin their hopes on one man: Shuskara. Once the emperor’s foremost general, he was betrayed long ago and is believed to be dead. But, under different aliases, he has survived, forsaking his City and hiding from the man to whom he once vowed his allegiance. Now, the time has come for Shuskara to emerge from the shadows and lead a final bid to free the City from those who have brought it and its people to their knees for so long...
Inspired world-building, complex and wholly believable characters, thrilling battle scenes and glorious storytelling come together in this epic novel. Exciting, dark and affecting, The City is a stunning achievement that places its author at the very front rank of fantasy fiction.
“This is an astonishing book and all the more amazing given that it is Stella Gemmell’s debut. It combines extraordinary scope with first class characterization, devastating and visceral battles, a multi-layered plot and a tightly-focused narrative that keeps you reading, eager for the next page. The City is easily the best fantasy novel I’ve read in the last decade.” - James Barclay








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I own a few David Gemmell books (although they aren't no.1 in a series), I've heard good things about him so I look forward to read them sometime. I've added The City to my wishlist.

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I own a few David Gemmell books (although they aren't no.1 in a series)



Which ones do you have? :smile:

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I have Waylander II: In The Realm Of The Wolf, Winter Warriors and The Last Guardian. According to GoodReads they are number 5 and 8 in the Drenei Saga and no. 2 in the John Shannow Saga (I don't know if this is correct or not though).

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I have Waylander II: In The Realm Of The Wolf, Winter Warriors and The Last Guardian. According to GoodReads they are number 5 and 8 in the Drenei Saga and no. 2 in the John Shannow Saga (I don't know if this is correct or not though).



Well when they say 'Drenai Saga' it's a little misleading, because it just means that it's set in the same world.  Winter Warriors is a completely stand-alone story, so no problems there.  Waylander II, yeah, obviously it'd be advantageous if you've read Waylander, but I'd imagine you can get away with it.  I've only read the first Jon Shannow book, Wolf in Shadow, so I don't really know about The Last Guardian.  I think most of his books can be read and enjoyed on their own, though.  Characters may carry over from book to book, but the stories are usually self-contained in each novel, although there are some exceptions (like the Troy trilogy).  I've been reading the Drenai books completely out of order and it hasn't affected my enjoyment at all :smile:

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There's an anthology on the way in honour of David Gemmell :smile:




The line-up of authors is still being finalised, but among those confirmed so far:  Joe Abercrombie, James Barclay (a story about the origins of his Raven series), Tanith Lee, Adrian Tchaikovsky (a story set in his Shadows of the Apt universe), Juliet E McKenna, Stan Nicholls, Jonathan Green, Storm Constantine, and Gaie Sebold :smile:

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'There was this boy. He lived in fear. Not the tiny fears of manhood, but the awesomely powerful, living, breathing fear that only children can experience. He was different, this boy, from the other boys who lived in this bomb damaged London Street some few years after World War Two. He had no father.


Some of the other children had no father, but their lack was honorable. Dad died in the war, you know. He was a hero. This boy's lack was the subject of sly whispers from the adults, and open jeering from his peers. This boy's mother was - the boy heard so many times - a w hore.


Happily the boy was only six, and had no real understanding of what the word meant. Anyway the word was less hurtful than the blows that would follow it. Most of the blows came from other children, but sometimes adults too would weigh in.


It was all baffling to the child. What he knew was that, before venturing out into the narrow streets and alleys, he had to peer from the windows of the small apartment to see if there were other children about. Only he didn't think of them as children. They were enemies, and he was frightened. Fear was the ever present companion. Fear was grafted to him. The journey to school was fraught with peril. The dark of the night brought fearful dreams.


His mother read him stories about heroes, and tried to encourage him to stand up for himself. But stories were just words, and words could not stop the punches, the pinches and the slaps.


The boy never dreamed of heroes. Not until he met one.


It was a bright, cold morning and he was sitting on a wall. One of the boys who made his life miserable ran up, shouting and gesticulating. The boy - more in panic than courage - finally struck out, punching his enemy in the face. The other child ran off screaming. His father came running from the house. 'You little 'person of dubious parentage'!' he shouted.


The boy took off as fast as he could, but no six year old can outrun a grown man. Within moments he grabbed the boy by the collar, swinging him from his feet.


Just then a huge shadow fell over the pair. The man - who had looked so threatening moments before - now looked small and insignificant against the looming newcomer. This colossus reached out and took hold of the man by the shirt, pushing him up against a wall.


In a low voice, chilling for its lack of passion, he asked. 'Do you know who I am?'


The man was trembling. Even the boy could feel the dreadful fear emanating from him.


'C.c.course I know who you are, Bill. Course I do.'


'Did you know I was walking out with this boy's mother?'


'Jesus Christ... I swear I didn't, Bill. On my mother's life.'


'Now you do.'


The big man let the little man go. He slid part way down the wall, recovered and stumbled away. Then the giant leaned over the boy and held out a hand that seemed larger than a bunch of bananas. 'Better be getting home, son,' he said.


The world changed that day. Men like Bill do change the world. They are the havens, the safe harbours of childhood. They are the watch hounds who keep the wolves at bay. They have an instinctive understanding of the child that is denied to the wise.


Two years later, as my stepfather, he cured me of dreams of vampires coming to drink my blood. My mother had tried explaining to me they were just dreams. They weren't real. It didn't work. She took me to a child psychologist, who showed me pictures, told me stories, explained about the birth of myth and the way that fear created pictures in our night time thoughts. It was very interesting, but it did nothing for my nightmares.


One night I woke up screaming - to find Bill sitting by my bedside.


'There's a vampire, dad. Its trying to get me.'


'I know, son,' he said, softly. 'I saw it.'


'You saw it?'


'Yeah. I broke its bloody neck. I won't have no vampires in my house'


I never dreamt of vampires again.


Years later, when I wrote my first novel, I used Bill as the model for a character. His name was Druss the Legend. Bill re-appeared in many novels thereafter, in many guises.


Always flawed, but always heroic.


Three years ago, at the age of 82, Bill was mugged on the streets of London. Three muggers broke his jaw, his nose and two of his ribs. He still managed to 'chin' one of them and knock him to the ground. That was Bill.


Last April he died.


And I wrote Ravenheart, and gave Bill centre stage.


Jaim Grymauch, who strides the highlands like a giant, is my homage to Bill, and to all those world changing fathers who pass away without fanfare; who leave the world just a little brighter than it was.


Men who know how to deal with vampires.'





David Gemmell, writing in 2000, on his stepfather Bill Woodford.



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