Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Legend, by David Gemmell

3 stars

A hard one to rate, this one. On the one hand I really enjoyed it, with its witty dialogue and its battle against all odds plot, while on the other hand the side of me that's been spoilt by George RR Martin, Joe Abercrombie and the like was disappointed by its brevity, simple characterisation and lack of emotional depth, and felt ever so slightly cheated by an ending apparently plucked out of thin air.

The Drenai are under attack. The Nadir are the usual faceless and numberless barbarian horde, led by the charismatic Ulrich, and they're congregating on the Drenai stronghold of Dros Delnoch, which is seriously undermanned and about to get the kicking of a lifetime. In dire need of a hero, up steps the legendary Druss - still an asskicker extraordinaire, even if he's not as young as he once was.

Joining him and the few thousand (mostly green) soldiers he's to lead into battle are Rek, enamoured of the daughter of the Earl at Dros Delnoch, the outlaw Bowman and his band of men (and woman), and The Thirty - some sort of warrior priests.

Fighting ensues.

If this had been one of the earlier fantasy books that I'd read, I'd probably have been far more into it than I was but too many niggles kept getting in the way for me to really fall in love. Relationships and emotions sprang up fully formed on first meetings rather than developing over the course of events and the glib dialogue, while adding to the book's readability, sometimes ensured a distance from the emotion punch that I know Gemmell can pack, having previously read his Troy series. And that ending really did suck, with a supernatural intervention and certain other twists that stretched my credulity (even within a mildly magical fantasy setting) and robbed what had gone before of much power.

This all probably makes it sound as if this is a bad book. It's not by any stretch - it's very readable and not very demanding (something I'm always grateful for if work has become hectic) and it's entirely possible that other readers may get far more out of the climax than I did.

Ideally, I'd say it's best suited to anyone who wants to give the genre a go but gets intimidated by the sheer width of its usual fare.