David Gemmell is Britain's most popular writer of hard-edged heroic fantasy. White Wolf
opens a new subseries, "The Damned", set in the world of his Drenai saga and featuring the invincible axeman Druss the Legend--now well into middle age. But the central character is Skilgannon the Damned, deadly wielder of a very special pair of swords and a former general whose nickname comes from a war atrocity that he does not deny. His attempt to make a new life as a monk ends abruptly when civil unrest threatens the monastery and Skilgannon's old fighting skills come into play with appalling effectiveness. In flashbacks to decades earlier, a young Skilgannon painfully and plausibly learns the warrior's art, until his boyhood finishes in a blaze of horror. He finds true love, but his lady is also in love with power and gives the orders for a city-wide bloodbath that makes him forever The Damned. Now known as the Witch-Queen, she won't forgive him for leaving her...
Other stories intertwine with Skilgannon's. There's a young lad who wants to be a swordsman; a fey girl haunted by voices; twin brother fighters, one with a personality ravaged by brain cancer; and Druss the Legend, still indomitable but beginning to worry about his heart. Their paths entwine in a land full of disorder, hostile troops, desperate refugees, and escaped arena beasts (sorcerous hybrids of man and animal). Gemmell excels at combat scenes, with a pace, timing and gripping conviction rare in the genre. He makes it clear, with grim compassion, that opponents aren't just straw men to be knocked over. Skilgannon is forced to kill people he admires, or who admire him; even legitimate self-defence turns sour when we hear the version told by the dead man's fiancée. At the climax, Skilgannon, Druss and their surviving companions stage an audacious assault on a particularly obnoxious villain's well-defended fortress. Much bloodshed follows, with satisfactory settlement of many debts and a final gleam of hope for the future. More tales of Skilgannon will surely follow. --David Langford
" Probably the finest living writer of heroic fantasy." -- "Time Out" " Has everything a fan of heroic fantasy could desire." -- Stephen Donaldson " Gemmell's a brand: an assurance of passionate, cleanly written prose, imaginative plots and, above all, terrific storytelling." -- "Time Out" "From the Trade Paperback edition."