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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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I first read all the Drenai books when I was a teenager. They were easy to read, exciting with brilliantly fleshed out characters that fired my imagination. I am now reading through them again in my thirties and that feeling is still there and while there are better stories, better realised worlds etc, few books can invoke the passion and amazingly crafted heroes that Gemmell did for me.

Winter Warriors is the eighth book in the Drenai Saga (not sure why it's listed as 10th here. Chronological perhaps?) Though a stand alone novel like most of this saga, reading the previous books is recommended otherwise references to characters, histories and other explanations about the world will be missed.

This book focuses largely on some old soldiers being forced to retire from the Drenai army. Nogusta, a swordsmaster with a magic talisman, Kebra, a master archer, and Bison a huge wrestler. They are heading home when news of treachery and demons reaches them, leading them to defend a young terrified pregnant queen from a chasing army, as well as demon swordsman with inhuman reflexes and strength.

The book is full of brilliant action scenes and fun set pieces throughout but like all Gemmell's work it's his characters that drew me in, not just the main protagonists but even the side characters have their strengths and weaknesses making them feel real, fleshed out.

To sum up if you've liked any of David Gemmell's previous books, you should definitely enjoy The Winter Warriors just as much.

Recommended.

+ Great plot.
+ Full of action.
+ Likeable well fleshed out characters.
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on 5 September 2008
Ok, I've most of Gemmell's works, and while a lot of his novels are adequate ways to pass the time, not many of them would have a place on my list of all-time fantasy classics. But if I have to pick just one, this is it.

One of the things I do enjoy about Gemmell is the way he constantly invents new faces, new worlds, instead of always rehashing the same things. And in this, he brings to life such a beautiful world and such convincing cast that you cannot help but be enthralled from beginning to end. Every character feels real, you can see them, you can feel them. This last instalment in the Drenai saga brings a great conclusion to the cycle, yet it can also be read completely independently. The events related here take place long after the rest of the saga, so much that the past is hardly relevant.

This is an epic novel, the story is very ambitious, and a times fairly moving. This is a powerful tale, and I'll not divulge any part of the plot, I just wanted to say that even if you've read other Gemmell novels and weren't all that impressed, you should not miss out on this one.
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on 17 September 2013
Its a stand alone story by David Gemmel, full of action with great heroes and greater villians. However Gemmel does follow key themes 'good' vs 'evil', 'duty'. 'age' and 'the importance of good people standing up to evil'.
The story has strong characters with certain failings but it allows the flaws of the characters to be strengths instead of weaknesses. Its a great read and if you are just sitting down to enjoy a good book you will not be disappointed.
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on 7 April 2012
I'm fast becoming a big Gemmell fan. I've yet to read a bad book by him. I think my favourite so far was Waylander, but this one may just top it, or at least push it very close. It's a brilliant, fast-moving, exciting adventure story, populated by some of the best characters I've come across in his books so far. The three main protagonists - Nogusta, Kebra and Bison - are beautifully realised; three ageing soldiers in a land suddenly plagued by a supernatural force intent on killing an unborn child because he is destined to become king. Each of the three is haunted by their past, and each has dreams for a future that does not involve war (well, maybe not Bison - he likes to fight). Their banter is full of humour, but Gemmell also shows their regrets and humility, and ponders on what makes a hero and why they would risk their lives for a cause that is not their own. There are some moments of genuine emotion, some lump-in-throat scenes, that Gemmell writes with wonderful simplicity.

There's a great supporting cast, too, especially the priestess Ulmenetha, and the swordmaster Antikas Karios. The supernatural element is also quite scary, which I wasn't expecting at all, and leads to some very tense moments. The action sequences are generally short but masterfully handled, so that you can imagine them clearly. The world building is minimal, but Gemmell's descriptions on the landscapes are wonderful and concise.

That's the word that best describes his style, I think: concise. He doesn't waste words, and the result is that this story races along at a cracking pace, and at just over 400 pages it certainly doesn't overstay its welcome. It is one of his later 'Drenai' novels and yet, as with all those I've read so far, it can be read on its own without any prior knowledge and still be enjoyed. There are a few references to the siege of Dros Delnoch (Legend) and the Source (God, essentially), but I can't imagine anyone's enjoyment being spoiled if they hadn't read any of the previous novels.

If I have a criticism of Gemmell it is that some of his stories seem to follow a similar pattern. As such, I wouldn't recommend reading a lot of his books in quick succession. But I feel much the same as I do about Lee Child - if I can't decide what to read and I want a guaranteed, no-nonsense, thrilling adventure, Gemmell is the man. I absolutely loved this book.
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on 24 April 2013
Excellent read as usual from David Gemmell. Really brings his characters to life so that you care what happens to them and the action, as usual was rivoting. He creates a fantasy world that seems real.
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on 23 February 2016
If you like fantasy fiction and blood and guts then there is no writer that does it better. David Gemmell will undoubtedly be on the big screen some time in the future. The characters are brilliant and his writing brings everything to life in an energetic and story driven manner. I have now read every one of his books. An incredible talent that is sadly no longer with us.
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on 21 December 2013
I loved this book and have read it a couple of times. It's a easy read but still quite gripping, well I thought so anyway. Usual Gemmell characters with flawed traits and stories of redemption of dark souls.
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on 24 July 2007
I read this book around 2 years ago but felt i should share how good it is to everyone else. THIS BOOK IS SIMPLY AMAZING! I had only read one of Gemmell's novels previous to this one (Hero in the Shadows- also brilliant) and was pretty sure it couldnt be topped. How i was wrong. The main characters bring every kind of emotion and perspective to the story that you could think of, not to mention the story is gripping and intense from start to finish. Being a rather slow reader and relatively new to the genre at the time i was pretty unsure as to whether i would ever read it but once i started i was hooked! I would strongly recommend this to any newcomers to the Sci-Fi/ Fantasy genre.
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on 9 December 2010
Just occasionally some of the Drenai novels have aspects that I'm less keen on -- for example, sections in "the void" and swift resolutions brought about by sudden magic. And yet, sometimes Gemmell gets everything just right, and that's the case with Winter Warriors.

The lead characters are very human, and they have weaknesses (not least age), but they fascinating and thoughtful heroes who show how we can all choose to be better and do better. Then the whole atmosphere of the book is detailed and rich, with a sense of culture, history, and mythology.

Mainly this is a very touching heroic fantasy. You really feel the characters' regrets, loves, and loves lost. A book that moves your heart as much or more than your head, with less emphasis on blood and hacking than many other Drenai books.

Just perfect.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 12 August 2014
This is another of David Gemmell's Drenai novels, first published in 1997. It is also an old favourite of mine despite being perhaps not one of his very best. As in many of his books, heroic fantasy in a fictitious world is mixed up with sorcery and alien demonic creatures with superhuman powers bent on returning to it once three kings will have been sacrificed.

Mixed up with this are a number of settings inspired from Ancient history. The victorious but ever-conquering Drenai King Skanda who dismisses his old veterans after his final victory over the Malikedan Empire is derived from Alexander the Great and his conquest of the Persian Empire. My favourite character, Banelion, the White Wolf, is tasked with leading the veterans back home. He is old but the most skilful and trusted Drenai general. He is also hard as nails and something of a cross between the historical Parmenion and Craterus (who actually was tasked by Alexander to bring an army of discharged veterans back to Macedonia), two of Alexander's most prominent generals. Like the former Macedonian general, he served both the father (Philip II King of Macedon) and his son (Alexander). Unlike him, he survived his king.

The veterans themselves, however, are deliberately presented by Gemmell to mirror the Spartan hoplites, rather than the Macedonian phalangites, with their full-faced bronze helmets and red clocks in particular. As if often the case in his novels, the main hero - an elite swordsman and tracker - has several associates - in this book a marksman archer and "Bison", a not very bright but fiercely loyal giant of a man. All three main heroes are veterans are well past their prime, hence the book's title, but they will, as is often the case in Gemmell's books, save it all against tremendous odds and end victorious at a very high cost to themselves.

This is another book which I recently came across when trying to make extra space for new acquisitions on some of my bookshelves. As per usual, I ended up reading it again from cover to cover, and loved every minute of the heroic deeds of the ageing warriors. Five stars
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