on 9 March 2003
To describe the plot of this novel would be to give the impression that it is a parody: the reluctant hero; numberless hordes from the East; dislike turning to love; warriors with mysterious skills; heroism against extreme odds; multiple deus ex machina; spiritual warriors; the battle of Good against Evil - all these appear in thousands of pulp novels churned out every year.
What makes Gemmell's Legend distinctive is its realism - you really believe in these characters; the way in which the action has a single focus - the siege; and, above all, the sense of human determination and suffering against the odds, howver distant and improbable ultimate victory may be. After Legend, all other such plots appear, at best, derivative. Gemmell distils the essence of all the stock characters and situations, blending them into a seamless whole
In a strange way, it wouldn't matter if Evil did triumph over Good in this book - Gemmell's great achievement is to convince us that the struggle is right, necessary and rewarding, in and of itself. Fantasy doesn't come any better than this
on 24 August 2007
This book really inspired my love affair with fantasy novels. Its brilliantly written with charcters with real flaws that you can really relate to. If you havent read this already i recommend you buy it now.
on 12 January 2007
What I always enjoy about David Gemmell's books are that the characters are human. They aren't the all-powerful immortal death machines that are in other cliche-ridden novels. They are people, with flaws and insecurities. In addition, the action scenes are all well written and grip you like a vice.
The books starts off slowly, but gathers momentum with each page until the assault on the fortress which was spellbinding page-turning stuff. (I was up until 2:45am on a night before work reading it - just couldn't put it down!) True, the relationship between Rek and his lady seemed a little rushed, but then it was a "love-at-first-sight" thing. If you want heroic, epic fantasy reading, David Gemmel's your man.
I just wish a good film-maker would make a film centred around Gemmell's novels - they'd make epic movies.
on 11 May 2013
Similarly to Abercrombie, David Gemmell's heroic take and grittiness is uniquely identifiable and brilliantly executed. This impressive story is fueled on adrenaline and electric tension, taking its readers on a thrilling journey and unforgettable adventure. Heartbreaking, poignant and soul searching this is an evocative, beautifully written saga by a masterful writer and author who leads the way in fantasy.
LEGEND is the story of Druss. The grizzled veteran who despite his life of fame and fortune, has chosen to retreat into the mountains seeking solitude. His home is Dros Delnoch ~ the only route through the mountains for the great army. Once the stronghold of the Drenai, the fortress of the Dros Delnoch will now be their last battleground. Dross is their last hope...his story remains a LEGEND.
First published in 1984, David Gemmell's first novel remains to this day a firm favorite and indisputable classic, for he is in my mind the King of heroic fantasy. His Drenai saga and other novels will always remain past treasures, which continue to stand proud within a highly competitive and ever increasingly popular genre. Beautifully descriptive and intricately detailed, you can really envisage clearly each bead of sweat trickling down a sweaty brow, the smell of mud encrusted leather and hear the crackling of smoldering flames licking over pink flesh. Gemmell's style is what I concider to be `old-style' fantasy, similarly to JRR Tolkien, with lavish descriptions and exciting, nail-biting drama.
Fast-paced and acutely absorbing this is such a fantastic read, and one that I would highly recommend to all fantasy fans.
"...But the Nadir were grim men, and brave. For they neither cried out nor sought to surrender, but stood their ground and died fighting...one by one they fell, until the last of the warriors was swept from the battlements to lie broken on the rocks below."
One of David Gemmell's earlier novels but still ranking as one of his best in my opinion.
Legend is a tale of many things but is mainly about the human spirit. The action in this fantasy novel tells of a foundering race who are under attack by a ferocious and savage horde, intent on bringing the fortress of Dros Delnoch to it's knees.
Into this breach steps a medley of heroes, and I use the term loosely. Each character in this novel has their reasons for being at the doomed fortress and few of them are truly noble. From the bumbling commander who is reviled by his own troops, the young farm boy seeking glory, the cowardly warrior fighting against his will, the mysterious Thirty and the aged legend of Druss who is just looking to die in battle, the characters are varied.
What really makes this book though is the sheer spirit of the people in it and the fact that all of them have motives other than being a hero. the way Gemmell seems to subtly suggest that all heroes are merely victims of circumstance is also quite intriguing and is shown by the bumbling commander and the cowardly warrior, are they any less of a hero than the mighty Druss by the time the story ends? Maybe they, who are not as accomplished in warcraft are the true heroes rather than Druss, a career killing machine?
While some criticise Gemmell for not having the complexity of an author like Tolkien, I personally find him a much better read. When I read, I want to be entertained by what is unfolding, not concentrating on each minute detail and Legend is a real page turning entertainment.
on 10 June 2009
I came across this book almost by accident about 2 years ago. Although I've been reading fantasy fiction for over 20 years somehow I had managed never to come across any of Gemmells books, partly because the genre is overstuffed with whimsical 4 part sagas trying hard to be the next lord of the rings.
This book blew me away, Gemmell does away with long drawn out narrative and literally bowls the book along on action and interaction between the characters. It may be a cliche but this is a pageturner in every sense of the word.
If you like Pratchett, you will like this. It's darker, obviously more based in reality and the body count is much higher but both authors know how to tell a story very well.
The other similarity with Pratchett is that I have gone on from this book to read pretty much all of his back catalogue, which is pretty extensive but all high in quality. Legend was his first book and possibly his most successful but I would recommend any of them.
on 9 July 2001
What can you say about a book like Legend? Thoroughly enjoyable, a magnificent main character with plenty of twists and sub plots to keep readers of any age enthralled. It is not an epic tale by any stretch of the imagination, but there is enough character development for a story of this kind. It didn't bore me to tears like Robert Jordan's long winded, neverending nonsense. It may not have Raymond E. Feists amazing plot lines and characters, but what it did have was energy and atmosphere, in abudence. Druss makes a fine hero, and like all good fantasy books lives his life through an honour that, to somebody that isn't familiar with any of Gemmell's other books, may seem misplaced. This is a book that is extremely difficult to put down, a brilliant read and for anyone into the fantasy genre, it's one that will definitely be put on the shelf for re-reading time after time.
Having read the Rigante series, but never a Drenai novel, I thought I'd head back to Gemmell's early work which put him on the page. There is an easy comparison to be made for Legend. Imagine a whole book devoted to the Helms Deep siege of Lord of the Rings and you're very close. The first half is character building, slowly and surely weaving emotional threads around the protagonists. There are some stereotypes in there, but this is enjoyable old-fashioned fantasy and no harm is done. When the siege begins, almost in to the last third, you have been lured in to a page turner. The chaos and death that seeps from the page is cleverly written, it paints a big picture of war, and is also full of the small detail of the central chararcters. Although a self-contained novel the characterisation will ensure you want to return to the Drenai saga. A very well written book of man and war; of love and death. This is war up close and dirty - dive in and read the one that started it all.
David Gemmell is one of the authors most responsible for shaping my taste in books as an adult.
I first picked up Legend with the intention of reading about warriors and action just like most teenaged boys, but what Gemmell taught me was that whilst action can make for an interesting read, great characters and an engaging story lifts the experience to a completely new level.
Thirteen years later and even though my tastes now run almost entirely towards intriguing and complex stories, and action is definitely a secondary interest when picking up a book, Legend still grabs my attention and gets me excited as it always has.
This story is Gemmell's debut novel and just as with all his other works, it is incredibly well told, action packed and engaging right from the start. This is the story of the once great Drenai people who face a new power coming in the form of the Nadir tribes combined under one great ruler. The Drenai must make a desperate stand at their famous stronghold, Dros Delnoch, and though death seems inevitable, still heroes come and amongst them is one of the greatest in Drenai history, Druss the Axeman.
As with all of his works that I have read (the only one absent from the list being White Knight, Black Swan), Gemmell brilliantly creates realistic and engaging characters. Where he rises above everyone else in this sub-genre though is his exploration of what it means to be a hero. All of the characters in this book are both flawed and great at the same time and it is fascinating to read about their unique paths to becoming heroes.
Legend is the first brilliant book of so many written in David Gemmell's career and as I start on reading his works once again, I am reminded of how much a tragedy his early death was.
I recommend Legend to all. Even if you are not a fan of lots of fighting and wars in the stories you read, I would still recommend giving this a try.
For years since I was a teenager David Gemmell has been one of my top authors, in fact at the time of writing this I have read his first novel Legend five times. There are better written books than Legend, with better romances, deeper plots, and better structure but they still can't compare with this or most of Gemmell's work because he knew how to write character. Not just epic personalities but human flaws, unique traits, they stand out, all of them, Legend is a book about heroes and I love it for that.
The plot of the book revolves around the basic idea of the largest army in the world, the combined warrior tribes of the Nadir, laying siege to the greatest fortress of the world, the Drenai fortress of Dros Delnoch. The Drenai empire has become bloated and weak however with the fortress only holding 10, 000 fighting men, many of which are rookie farmers, they need to buy the empire 3 months to gather and train a force large enough to face the horde. Morale is low, men are deserting in the face of the oncoming horde, some however are heading towards the oncoming battle, the legendary soldier Druss, a fiersome warrior in his sixties, Regnak, a coward in love who goes berserk through fear in battle, Virae, a woman brought up with soldiers and battle but is uncomfortable socially, Bowman a romantic bandit with a hidden past and the thirty, a group of warrior priests with mystical powers. The book to me isn't really about the siege but these characters, how they look at themselves and what they face.
Though some of the book is awkward as his first novel (the sudden romance was especially jarring) Legend is an utterly compelling read every time I pick it up, I usually finish it in two days. The action, battles, training and characters never grow old despite knowing what's coming and as Gemmell improves as a writer this only improves in later books in both this series and others he writes.
I can't recommend this book and author enough to fans of fantasy, it's an easy reading, action filled, character driven hit. Sadly David Gemmell passed away in 2006, he inspired me growing up and fueled my imagination for courage and heroes. May his legend never be forgotten.
(Kindle edition has two or three odd typos here and there though it's perfectly readable and doesn't harm the epic experience)
+ Excellent characters.
+ Siege build up is fantastic.
+ Battles are rarely better staged.
- Kindle edition has some typos here and there.