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He is DRUSS the Legend. His skill in battle has earned him a fearsome reputation throughout the world and the stories of his life are told everywhere. But the grizzled veteran has spurned a life of fame and fortune and has retreated to the solitude of his mountain lair to await his old enemy, Death.

Meanwhile, barbarian hordes of the Nadir are on the march, conquering all before them. All that stands before them and victory is the legendary six-walled fortress of the Drenai empire, Dros Delnoch. If the fortress falls, so do the Drenai. Druss reluctantly agrees to come out of retirement. But can even Druss live up to his own legends?

Held by many to be Gemmell's most iconic work, the book is considered a classic in the heroic fantasy genre.

345 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published April 1, 1984

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About the author

David Gemmell

129 books2,995 followers
David Andrew Gemmell was a bestselling British author of heroic fantasy. A former journalist and newspaper editor, Gemmell had his first work of fiction published in 1984. He went on to write over thirty novels. Best known for his debut, Legend, Gemmell's works display violence, yet also explores themes in honour, loyalty and redemption. With over one million copies sold, his work continues to sell worldwide.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,566 reviews
Profile Image for Patrick.
Author 88 books231k followers
January 1, 2015
I never read any David Gemmell until I was already published. And even then, he first came to my attention after someone e-mailed me, saying something along the lines of, "I'm glad someone like you is here to carry on Gemmell's tradition now that he's dead..."

After I got a few more e-mails along a similar line, I went out and bought Legend, read it, and was terribly flattered by the comparison.

Since then, I've actually won the Gemmell award. Which is flattering in its own right. Plus awesome, because the award is an actual AXE.

Here's a link to the blog I wrote about it, with pictures.


Anyway, I just re-read this, and I enjoyed it every bit as much the second time around. It's much more action oriented than my books....

So... yeah. Highly recommended. Especially if you like stories about what it means to be a hero.
Profile Image for Mark Lawrence.
Author 72 books51k followers
February 25, 2023
Astonishingly this is the 22nd hit when you type "Legend" into the search engine. Wow... For me it's a big milestone along my fantasy journey!

Below is my rewritten review - the original one was from memory of reading it back in the 80's. I've just re-read it. The 5* from my original review can stand.

Relax, I am not going to attack this novel!

I am, however, going to talk about reading it twice with ~40 years between the reads, leading into the whole business of seeing things with new (or older) eyes, and wandering into the territory of tribalism, identity, and the emotional bonds we form with books.

I've broken these things up into sections as it turns out that I went on at length!

Legend, David Gemmel's debut novel, was published in 1984. My copy is from 1987, so it's actually 36 years since I first and last read it. I went on to read a whole bunch of his books and hugely enjoyed them. I count several of them among my best reading experiences.

But the past is, as L.P Hartley reminds us, a foreign country - they do things differently there. In the not so distant past blogs were a vibrant platform, the blogosphere was the place were books were made or broken. Now it's just you and me, my friend. The rest of the world are giving their attention out in 30 second chunks on twitter and tiktok. Even readers prefer not to read too much.

As a side note, Gemmell's success won him many fans, some of whom set up the Gemmell Awards in his name after his untimely death. For a decade they handed out the Legend Award, Morningstar Award, and Ravenheart Award. I have two Legend Awards dangerously perched on my shelves. If you ever see me limping, you'll know how I lost those toes.

(none of the writing awards I've won are not weapons...)

I was a very different person in a very different world when I read Legend at 21 from the man I am at 57. I also know a lot more about writing.

A few things to say about Gemmell.

- He is a skilled storyteller.

- He knows how to push emotional buttons. When I was starting to think about the mechanics of writing he was the first author I looked hard at and said 'how is he making me feel like this?'

- He had a clear ethos/worldview that runs through all his books. His readers often repeat it as delivered through the eponymous Legend (Druss the Legend, aka Druss of the Axe, aka Deathwalker):

Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil.

-The Iron Code of Druss the Legend


Legend, it should be noted, was written at speed when Gemmell thought he was dying after receiving an erroneous cancer diagnosis. He wrote many books and his writing improved. I think the same improvement happens to many authors, myself included, but the nature of publishing success often means that it's our first book that sells most widely and is best remembered.

I've seen it said that the siege around which the entire book centres, was a metaphor for the supposed cancer's attack on the author. Moreover cancer is mentioned in the book - Druss's old friend dies of it, and it's considered as a likely end should Druss survive the battle into old age.

In Legend we see the legend, Druss, emerge from a short retirement at the grand old age of 60. Which seemed really quite old to me at 21, and at 57, not so much...

On a technical note, the book is written in an omniscient head-hopping style that has very much fallen out of favour in recent decades. I was told not to do it many times on writing groups. For a battle scene it has some attractions - the author can bounce in and out of characters on both sides, watching from the eyes of the person loosing the arrow and then sinking into the head of the one hit by it, and then sliding into the mind of the friend standing next to them.

The reason writers (at least in fantasy) generally choose to stick with one PoV per chapter is that it cements the reader in that character and creates a sense of immediacy where the readers shares the character's experience more closely and feels their emotions. Head hopping and omniscience create a distance.

So, returning to Legend I read it very swiftly (for me) taking only 3 days compared to my normal month+ per book. Gemmell's writing is very easy to read (and that's a considerable skill - a bad writer is hard to read). He doesn't push the prose envelope, just gets the job done. I noticed a doctor sweeping away "the debris of pain" as a rare flourish.

But powerful prose isn't the only or even best way to evoke strong emotion, and Gemmell still managed to do that, despite my more cynical, jaded mindset and my technical nous regarding the writing. I could clearly see him pushing the buttons, yet still my buttons were pushed.

One change wrought by 36 years and changing times plus changes in what many of us expect from fantasy writing, was that I now see the book as all rather one-note. The message is of manly men standing up for what's right, even when 'right' is more about obstinacy/honour. The very small number of women are not well written and have fairly minor roles. The new earl's wife does fight (rarely despite being really good at it) and is mainly there to spur change and manliness in her husband.

I should note that, although I had entirely forgotten his existence, Rek has several top level similarities to my own Jalan Kendeth, being a skilled swordsman but rather cowardly, a "ladies' man", and of dubious morals. The big similarity is that when pushed to extremes he berserks. Jalan was very definitely inspired by Flashman from the book of the same name (1969), but certainly has overlap with Rek. Either that was wholly subconscious, or both characters owe a debt to Harry Flashman and as such share considerable genetic material.

The repeating theme of Legend, unsurprisingly given its origin story, is men facing up to an implacable enemy and revealing their true mettle, generally turning out to have deep reserves of stubborness, courage, honour or some combination of these similar substances.

I enjoyed it. I like reading about heroism, defiance, sword fighting, seiges, and the like. Perhaps not quite as much as when I was 21, certainly I'd like more nuance in it these days, but I sat back and enjoyed the ride. Dros Delnock with its six concentric walls stepping up as they guard a pass has much in common with Minas Tirth's seven concentric walls stepping up to the Citadel of Gondor.

The bitter sweet of dying in the defence (bitter because of the dying, sweet because of the friendships forged, depths revealed etc) are highlighted in Druss with this being the end of a long, legendary life, and we get to see the legend and the man, both butting up against each other, both overlapping, both seen through his own eyes and of those around him.

There's a non-cynical purity to it all that's easy to buy into and easy to feel. I bought in again (with more reservations) and felt it again - perhaps more so this time being old myself.


Of our main hero, Druss, Gemmell says:

Druss had never been good with women, not intuitive as some men are. Women were another race to him, alien and forbidding.

And yes, anyone could write a book with such a character. We have an incel sub-culture at the moment that seems to view women as alien and forbidding too. So the character is not unrealistic [I AM NOT SAYING DRUSS IS AN INCEL]. But it does seem that this attitude pervades the men in the book. Apart from the earl's wife the only other women I can recall who gets any 'screen time' is a staggeringly beautiful young lady who seduces then murders men, gets Druss naked for a regular massage, and has very pronounced daddy issues about him.

I'm not necessarily saying that every second soldier on the walls had to be a woman, though that is very definitely an option - perhaps a less commercial one in 1984 ... who knows. In my first book the cast was almost entirely male. (And in my 7th book the cast was almost entirely female. And in my 16th book it's a pretty even mix). But I am saying that fantasy 40 years ago was different - the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

In fact, it's right there in the code that is more than just Druss's code

Never violate a woman, nor harm a child.

Yes, that's great. I'm all for not doing these things. But it's a code for men. A code that treats women as a separate thing, putting them next to children.

I'm both worried and amused by the idea that I might suddenly be labled "woke". And yes, I understand that fantasy has traditionally borrowed from and echoed the history that gave us swords and spears and shields and castle seiges. So many of us borrowed the man-centric view too for our (certainly in the 80s) man-centric world.

Things change. Fantasy changes too. The worlds we choose to place our stories in change. It's been interesting to jump back to the stories I read as a young man and read them as a man nearly as old as white-bearded Druss the Legend as he makes his last stand.


Gemmell's writing evokes passion. It's a great body of work that I have spent many happy hours consuming over many years.

We are a species that have not-infrequently cut each other with stanley knives (board cutters to my fellow Americans) for wearing the wrong colour scarf, indicating our desire that a different team kick the ball with more success.

It's not surprising then that when someone doesn't like the books we love, there is a tendency in many to close ranks, to insult, even to seek revenge. Not surprising, but in no way good.

Gemmell's fandom, in my experience, is very welcoming and friendly. I've not seen anything extreme from them and count myself among their ranks. But still, when someone is less than 100% on something we adore, we all feel that sting.


I'm merely commenting on the differences in me that 36 years have wrought, while the text has remained unchanged.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.5k followers
March 8, 2022
A Legend Book = Legend (The Drenai Saga #1), David Gemmell

Legend, published in 1984, is the first and most famous novel of British fantasy writer David Gemmell. It established him as a major fantasy novelist and created the character of Druss, who would appear in several subsequent books. It was also the first novel in The Drenai saga.

The Drenai Empire is under threat. The tribal Nadir people have been united for the first time by the great warleader Ulric, who has forged a massive empire in the North. The Drenai leader Abalayn is trying to negotiate new treaties with Ulric, but war is brewing and an over 500,000 strong Nadir army marches on the fortress of Dros Delnoch, gateway to the Drenai heartlands.

Dros Delnoch is the greatest fortress in the world, a narrow pass guarded by six high walls and a great keep, but under Abalayn its complement of defenders has been reduced to less than 10,000 men under the leadership of an unfit General. The fate of the Drenai hinges on the defence of Dros Delnoch. If the fortress can hold the Nadir horde for three months, the Drenai general Magnus Woundweaver might be able to gather and train a Drenai army. However, given the odds, no-one truly believes that Delnoch can be held. ...

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه سپتامبر سال2009میلادی

عنوان: اسطوره؛ نویسنده: دیوید گمل؛ مترجم: سهیلا فرزین نژاد؛ تهران، تندیس، سال1388؛ در482ص؛ شابک9789648944518؛ موضوع داستانهای افسانه و اسطوره ای از نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده20م

دراس، فرمانده تبر: داستان زندگی او، همه جا دهان به دهان، بازگو میشود؛ به جای ثروت، و شهرتی که میتوانست درخواست کند، ملکی کوهستانی را، برگزیده بود، زمینی تنها، دورافتاده و بلند، که به ابرها سر میسایید�� آن بالا، جنگجوی پیر سپیدمو، همنشین پلنگ برفی بود؛ و چشم انتظار مرگ دشمن خود را داشت؛

نقل از متن کتاب: (سرآغاز: پیک «درنای»، با حالتی عصبی، بیرون درهای بزرگ تالار فرمانروایی، که توسط دو نگهبان «��ادیر» حفاظت میشد، منتظر بود؛ نگهبانها، به روبرو خیره شده بودند، چشمان کشیده و اریب آنها، به نشان عقاب برنزی نصب شده بر روی در چوبی تیره رنگ، دوخته شده بود؛ لبان خشک خود را، با زبان خشکش لیسید، و شنل بنفش رنگش را، بر روی شانه های استخوانیش، مرتب کرد؛ آنروز در اتاق شورا، در «درنان»، در فاصله ی نهصد کیلومتری سمت جنوب، هنگامیکه «آبالاین»، از او خواست، که این ماموریت مهم، و حساس را، به عهده بگیرد، با چه اطمینان و اتکا به نفسی، ماموریت را پذیرفته بود؛

ماموریت سفر به «گلگوتیر»، و گرفتن تائید و تصویب عهدنامه ای با «اولریک»، ارباب قبایل «نادیر»؛ در بگذشته های دور، «بارتلوس» در تهیه ی پیش نویس عهدنامه، کمک کرده بود، و دوبار هم، در هنگام مذاکره، در «واگریای غربی»، و در سمت جنوب، در «ماشراپور»، حضور داشت؛ تمام مردم ارزش و اهمیت تجارت، و لزوم احتراز از اقداماتی مخرب، و هزینه بر، همچون جنگ را، به خوبی میدانستند؛ به یقین «اولریک» هم، از این قاعده مستثنی نبود؛

درست است، که ملل دشت شمالی را، مورد یورش، و چپاول قرار داده بود، اما باید به یاد داشت، که شمالیها هم، در طول قرنها، با گرفتن خراج، و مورد حمله و غارت قراردادن این مردم، خون آنها را، مکیده بودند؛ ملل دشت شمالی، خود بذر نابودی خویش را، کاشته بودند؛ مردم «درنای» اینگونه نبودند؛ همیشه با احترام و شعور، با مردم «نادیر»، برخورد کرده بودند؛ شخص «آبالاین»، دوبار در شهر خیمه ای آنها، در شمال، به ملاقات «اولریک» رفته بود ـ و پذیرایی شاهانه ای شده بود؛ اما «بارتلوس»، از دیدن ویرانی، و غارت در «گلگوتیر»، سخت یکه خورده بود؛ دیدن اینکه دروازه های بزرگ، شکسته، و از جا درآمده بودند، تعجبی نداشت، اما پس از آن، شمار بسیاری از مدافعین، قطع عضو شده بودند؛ میدان داخل قلعه ی اصلی، به کپه ی کوچکی، از دست انسان، که در وسط آن، تلنبار شده بود، فخر میفروخت؛ «بارتلوس» به خود لرزید، و به زحمت فکرش را، از آن خاطره برگرداند؛ سه روز، او را منتظر نگاهداشته بودند، اما رفتارشان مودبانه ـ و حتی محبت آمیز بود؛

شنلش را، دوباره مرتب کرد، میدانست که اندام لاغر، و استخوانی او، ابهت چندانی به جامه ی مخصوص پیک بودن او، نمیدهد؛ دستمالی نخی را، از لای کمربندش، بیرون آورد، و عرق را، از روی سرِ طاسش، پاک کرد؛ همسرش، همیشه به او هشدار میداد، که هر وقت عصبی میشود، سرش به طرز خیره کننده ای، برق میزند؛ این چیزی بود، که ترجیح میداد، هرگز صحبتی درباره اش نشود؛ نگاهی زیر چشمی، به نگهبانی که سمت راست او بود، انداخت، و لرزه ای را فرو نشاند؛ مرد کوتاهتر از او بود، کلاهخودی سیخ سیخی به سر داشت، که حاشیه اش، از پوست بز بود؛ سپر سینه ای، از چوب لاک الکلی بسته بود، و نیزه ای دندانه دندانه، به دست داشت؛ صورتش پخ و بیرحم بود، چشمانش تیره، و مورب؛ اگر «بارتلوس» میخواست، شخص مناسبی برای بریدن دست کسی، پیدا کند؛ نگاهی به سمت چپ خود انداخت ـ و آرزو کرد، کاش چنین کاری نکرده بود، زیرا نگهبان داشت، او را نگاه میکرد؛ احساس خرگوشی را پیدا کرد، که زیر پای قوشی، در حال پرواز، قرار دارد؛ و شتابزده نگاهش را، از نگهبان به عقاب برنزی روی در، معطوف کرد؛

خداوند به او رحم کرد، انتظار به پایان رسید، و درها چرخیدند، و باز شدند؛ «بارتلوس» نفس عمیقی کشید، و به داخل اتاق رفت؛ اتاق دراز بود، بیست ستون مرمری، سقفی را نگاه داشته بودند، که قبل از خشک شدن گچ، آبرنگ خورده بود؛ بر روی هر یک از ستونها، مشعلی روشن قرار داشت، که سایه های رقصان بدریختی، روی دیوارهای پشت خود، میانداختند؛ پای هر ستون، یک نگهبان «نادیر»، نیزه به دست ایستاده بود؛ چشمها ثابت، به جلو خیره مانده بودند؛

بارتلوس، پنجاه قدم، روی کف مرمری شاه نشین، به سوی اریکه، پیش رفت؛ روی آن «اولریک» نشسته بود، جنگ سالار شمال؛ قد بلند نبود، اما قدرت از وجودش میبارید، هنگامیکه «بارتلوس»، به وسط سالن رسید، از پویایی تند و تیز مرد، جا خورد؛ استخوان گونه ای برجسته، و موهایی به رنگ نیمه شب داشت؛ که خاص «نادیر»ها بود، اما چشمان مورب او، بنفش رنگ بود، و نافذ؛ پوستی سبزه داشت، ریشی سه شاخه، ظاهری شیطانی به او میداد، که با گرمای لبخند مردک، لو میرفت؛ اما چیزی که بیشتر از همه، «بارتلوس» را، تحت تاثیر قرار داد، این بود که ارباب «نادیر»، یک ردای سفید «درنای» را، به تن داشت، نشان خانوادگی «آبالاین»؛ اسبی طلایی، که در مقابل تاجی نقره ای، روی دو سم بلند شده، بر روی آن، برودری دوزی شده بود

پیک، تعظیم مفصلی کرد؛ «آقای من، من حامل سلام، و درود ارباب «آبالاین»، رهبر برگزیده ی مردم درنای آزاد برای شما هستم.»؛ «اولریک» در جواب، سرش را تکان داد، و با حرکت دست اشاره کرد، که ادامه بدهد؛ «اربابِ من آبالاین، پیروزی چشمگیر شما را، بر شورشیان گلگوتیر صمیمانه تبریک میگوید، و امیدوار است، اکنون که هراس و سختی جنگ را، پشت سر گذاشته اید، بتوانید عهدنامه های جدید، و توافقنامه تجاری را، که در سفر بسیار دلپذیری که بهار گذشته، به اینجا داشتند، و با شما در میان گذاشتند، مورد توجه قرار بدهید؛ در اینجا نامه ای از ارباب آبالاین دارم، و همین طور متن عهدنامه ها و توافقنامه ها.»؛

بارتلوس قدمی پیش گذاشت، سه طومار را جلو برد؛ «اولریک» آنها را گرفت، و آهسته روی زمین، در کنار پایه ی اریکه گذاشت؛ گفت: «ممنونم، بارتلوس؛ بگو ببینم، آیا در میان ساکنین درنای، این وحشت وجود داره، که سپاه من به دروس دلنوچ لشکرکشی خواهد کرد؟»؛ «شوخی میکنید، آقای من؟»؛ اولریک با قیافه ای حق به جانب، و معصومانه گفت: «نه، اصلاً.»؛ صدایش بم و طنین دار بود؛ «تجار به من میگن که بحثهای زیادی در درنای هست.»؛

بارتلوس گفت: «از اون حرفهایی که برای سرگرمی میزنن؛ من خودم در نوشتن این توافقنامه ها کمک کردم، و سهیم بودم، و اگر ابهامی در بعضی از مواد، و بندهای اونها وجود داشته باشه، برای من افتخاره که بتونم کمک بکنم.»؛

اولریک گفت: «نه؛ مطمئنم که اونها درست هستن، و همه چیز روبراهه؛ اما تشخیص میدین، که کاهن من «نوستا خان» باید نشانه ها رو بررسی کنه؛ یک رسم بدوی و عقب افتاده است، میدونم، اما اطمینان دارم که میفهمین؛ درسته؟»؛

بارتلوس گفت: «البته؛ این چیزها تشریفات آیینی هستن.»؛

اولریک، دستهایش را دوباره برهم زد، و از میان سایه های سمت چپ، پیرمردی خشک و چروکیده، با نیم تنه ای کثیف، از پوست بز وارد شد؛ زیر بازوی راست لاغرش، جوجه ای سفیدرنگ داشت، و در دست چپش یک کاسه ی چوبی دهن گشاد، و کم عمق؛ نزدیک که شد، «اولریک» برخاست و ایستاد، دستانش را پیش برد، و گردن و پاهای جوجه را گرفت؛ «اولریک» آهسته و آرام آن را بالای سرش برد ـ سپس در مقابل چشمان وحشت زده، و گشاد «بارتلوس»، پرنده را پایین آورد، و دندانهایش را، در گردن حیوان فرو برد، و سر جوجه را با دندان از بدنش جدا کرد)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 06/11/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 16/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Kyle.
121 reviews202 followers
November 18, 2012
The quality of a book is generally judged by the words in it, in addition to the story. It's not just what you say, how you say it also matters.

If not a complete counter example, Legend is a book where the rule loses its effect. Legend is certainly not the best written book ever, but it is most definitely one of the best books ever written.

David Gemmell never finished school, since he was expelled at the age of sixteen, and the unrefined writing is apparent throughout the book. He struggled to tell his story, but he had a hell of a story to tell. What the book lacks in sophistication of wordsmithing, it more than makes up for with the raw power of the story.

Allow a thought experiment for the moment: Strip away all the decoration in a typical book, all the character action/interaction that exists for flavor, all the worldbuilding, all the prose, exposition, and clever tropes. What are we left with? Usually very little. Usually a basic plot, that we're lucky to even partially connect with. It might even be an intelligent story, or an imaginative one. But it's ultimately weak, skeletal, and insignificant in almost every way. It might even be non-existent.

Luckily, our world has been gifted with a book like Legend where we can prove such a thought experiment wrong. Strip away the decoration and frosting from Legend; cut it down to its most basic elements, and we are still left with a book worthy of the test of time.

In the Iliad, Achilles was given a choice by the gods: To live a short, glorious, heroic life that will end violently but be remembered, or to live a long, healthy life and eventually suffer the fading effect of time upon his name. We all know what choice Achilles made, and Achilles is remembered as one of the greatest heroes ever to come from the ranks of humanity.

In his own way Druss, the main character in Legend, faced the same choice. Fade into old age and senility, or face down your death with defiance at the cost of a shorter lifespan.

Yet Achilles is not the only hero who is remembered through the ages. In fact, the greatest hero of the Iliad is Hector. Where Achilles is remembered for the glory of his life, Hector is heroic for the manner of his death. Knowing with absolute certainty that to face Achilles in a duel means death, he accepts the challenge anyway. Not to be suicidal, but to die in the manner he tried to live. What makes a man (or woman) great, or heroic? What does it mean to die a "good death?" For that matter, what does it mean to even live a life worth living?

Overcoming great obstacles and succeeding is not compelling enough. Fighting, failing, and dying knowing that your name will be remembered isn't even heroic enough. The true hero, is the one who fights against that which he knows he cannot possibly defeat. Not for the remembrance of his name, or the glory of his cause, but for himself. Humans often die for one another. A mother takes a gang member's bullet to save her child, a man on life-support wants the plug pulled so his heart can be transplanted to save another, or a soldier dives upon a grenade to save his squad mates. What makes one case more heroic than the next? What if nobody was around to recognize such sacrifice?

If the mother knows with certainty that jumping to take the bullet will still not save the child from death, yet does it anyway, is it still heroic, or foolish? If nobody is to witness that mother's sacrifice, should it affect her decision to commit it? If nobody pulls the man's life-support plug for him, but in a rare act of clarity he manages to pull it himself while he is alone in his hospital room, does it detract from the glory or worthiness of his death? If the foxhole of soldiers becomes surrounded by an insurmountable enemy, and if the soldier knows without a doubt that diving upon the grenade will not save his friends from the battle. Should he do it anyway? No one will know he did such a thing.
No medal will be given, nor monument raised to his name.

What makes a death a good death? And what makes a life worth living?

The characters of Legend are the characters within us all. Fear, doubt, and futility are all present, but so too are the traits which make us greater than the sum of our parts. Honor, courage, duty, and yes, even love are all necessary components for a heroic tale of such resonance.

David Gemmell wrote Legend, as he was waiting to find out whether or not he was going to die from cancer, and it is his attempt at dealing with mortality. What does it mean to die well, or live well? What does it mean to be a man? Is love even worth the effort if it is destined to last only a brief moment and end in pain?

Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, but perhaps the unexamined death is not worth dying either. All life leads to death, but perhaps all death should be embraced with the joys of life.

Very few books have had an impact comparable to Legend, and as I said, for all it's technical flaws it is one of the finest novels ever written. Gemmell's fears are my fears. His hopes, my hopes. Legend was his first and greatest book, and its very existence makes the world a fuller place, and humanity wealthier.

R.I.P, Mr. Gemmell, you've earned it.

Profile Image for Bookwraiths.
698 reviews1,041 followers
October 21, 2016
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths .

David Gemmell might not have invented action adventure fantasy, but he refined it, polished it up, and presented his updated version (Against the Horde/Legend) in 1984 to a reading audience who loved every minute of it. Luckily, I was one of those readers back in the 1980s; this book instantly becoming one of my favorite fantasy stories for years to come. But when I re-read it a few weeks ago, I have to admit being concerned it would not live up to my memories; my fear that all the years since its release having muted the pulse-pounding, adrenaline rush and relegated another classic fantasy into a fallen favorite. But, thankfully, my fears were unfounded: Legend still as good as ever.

Here the Nadir hordes (Think Mongols) have been united under the charismatic, intelligent, and ruthless Ulric, who determines it is time for his people to conquer their more settled neighbors, the Drenai. Standing in the way of this unstoppable barbarian force is the undermanned mountain fortress of Dros Delnoch, which should be impenetrable IF defended by an adequate force. And that is exactly what the Drenai are lacking, as the fortress is undermanned, unprepared, and without adequate commanders to inspire the troops to hold until a relief force can arrive.

Enter Druss the Legend; he who is also known as the Captain of the Ax, the Axman, Deathwalker, and the Silver Slayer. This fearsome warrior might be past his prime, but he is determined to answer his kingdom’s desperate call, to hold Dros Delnoch until the Nadir are turned back or every warrior lies dead beneath their swords. This hero determined to finally find a death worthy of his legend!

Joining Druss upon the battlements of Dros Delnoch are a diverse cast of characters. Rek the Baresarker and his beloved Virae come there to fight. Serbitar and the mythical order he is part of arrive to aid in the last stand of the Drenai people. Ordinary men stand side-by-side with rich commanders and wanted outlaws. All these diverse individuals inspired by Druss himself to stand up for what they believe in, sacrifice themselves in order to keep what they cherish safe from harm, and lay down their lives die before they betray that which they hold dear.

Whenever I describe this book to a friend who is thinking of reading it, I say Legend is the fantasy equivalent of the Alamo, where men sacrificed their lives for a cause. And in David Gemmell’s tale of sacrifice, each of the warriors portrayed — from Druss down to the lowest soldier upon the walls — knows their mission is a suicidal one. Their forces no match for the Nadir horde. Reinforcements not able to reach them in time. Death the only real outcome of their bravery. But even knowing this, these brave men and women refuse to lay down their arms and surrender to the inevitable. They come together, find peace within themselves, lock strong arms with one another, and stand as a human walls between the world they love and those who would seek to destroy it.

Damn, I get teary just typing all that. Honestly, I do. No matter his limitation as a writer (because I know some readers find his writing simplistic in many ways), Gemmell uses his stereotypical cast of characters to maximum effect, their words and deeds inspirational, moving, and sorrowful. Vile people finding redemption. Cowards exhibiting courage. Lawless individuals displaying extreme honor. Each heroic death cutting like a stab wound to the heart. The final stand of Druss as emotional charged and awe inspiring as any in literature.

Legend might not have been groundbreaking or innovative when it was published, much less now. It doesn’t try to subvert tropes. It doesn’t attempt to present an ultra-realistic story. It doesn’t overwhelm with its exquisite prose. What is does is tell an action-packed fantasy tale of a desperate last stand of a civilization by individuals caught up in events. The tale of these people’s plight awe-inspiring and emotionally charged. In other words, Legend is a masterpiece of heroic fantasy, one which rightly deserves its fame even today.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews824 followers
December 10, 2018
There is something unambiguously alluring about last stands; those situations in which a body of troops holds a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds and against all hope for victory. We all know the battle of Thermopile 480 BC when a Greek force of approximately 7,000 men for seven days (including three of battle) held off the Persian army, alleged by the ancient sources to have numbered over one million. Less known, but not less impressive, is the Battle of Hodów between the Kingdom of Poland and the Crimean Khanate forces, fought in June 1694 with four hundred hussars fighting (and winning!) against forty thousand Tatars (Now, the Poles are crazy altogether as they have their own list of last stands featuring things like the Battle of Wizna in 1939 when between 350 and 720 Poles defended a fortified line for three days against more than 40,000 Germans!). Battles like these easily become legends.

David Gemmel gives us the legend of Dross Delnoch, a strong keep with six walls defended by ten thousands men of whom most are untrained volunteers, about to withstand an attack of the greatest army ever assembled; a horde that within twenty years had built an empire stretching across a dozen lands and five score cities. And now as they march on Dross, the greatest fortress ever built is waiting for the largest army in the world.

What a clash of giants! The ingredients for a new legend.

Only things are not going great in the fortress. There are six walls and a town to defend, while the force is less than a third of the full complement, and the discipline is rotten because morale is low and fear is rife. The defenders need a miracle or the Dross will fall. And Dross Delnoch needs heroes. Badly.

”Think of the men here as a rusty weapon which needs a warrior’s firm hand. It needs to be sharpened, honed, prepared. It’s useless else.”

Contrary to your expectations, the book doesn’t start in the city preparing for a siege. The book opens with a coward running away from battle, one Regank the Wanderer, ”man of uncertain character and only sporadic courage”. In fact, the actual fighting starts only halfway through the book and even though the novel is not long, there is not one word wasted. A great reminder to many contemporary writers that epic does not automatically equate with +600 pages. That you can have 350 pages filled with action to the brim.

So how does Gemmel manage to achieve it? Firstly, he creates a compelling set of characters. And I would say the Legend is one of those novels that do not really have a main protagonist. Surely, invincible Druss, Captain of the Axe, wielding Snaga (meaning “the Sender”), the greatest warrior of the age, is one of the book’s main pillars but you’d be very mistaken to think that the book is about him. Others are equally important in the Legend: from Rek, a hero by necessity, to Bowman, a robber outlaw with principles, from Virae, earl’s daughter, to deadly Caessa whose love is as lethal as her arrows, from Orrin, the incompetent gan of the fortress and Hogun, the grim legion general, to rank and file soldiers whom we meet, learn their back stories and accompany in battle. There is, finally, the Temple of Thirty, warrior-priests for whom the incoming battle is the culmination of thirteen years of training. They are weapon masters who seek the perfect death to counterpoint the perfect life, whose bodies are the living weapons and minds fight as powerfully but whose spirits adhere to extreme pacifism. I am sure that all readers interested in Eastern spirituality fill find the albino Serbitar one of the most fascinating characters in fantasy.

”Druss is every man who has refused to quit, to surrender when life offered no hope, to stand aside when the alternative was to die. He is a man who has shown other men there is no such thing as guaranteed defeat.”

Secondly, what Gemmel shows is that there is more to battle than hacking and slashing at the incoming enemy. He builds the tension surrounding the incoming class and even before the fighting starts he shows the reader that victory is not merely the question of military might. That there is tactic and organisation to be considered; the supply lines, the orderlies, hospitals and stretcher bearers. And above all, he emphasises the role of spirit. He shows the whole dynamic of the battle so beautifully captured and symbolised in how each of the walls is named: Firstly, “Eldibar” which means “exultation”, followed by “Musif” the wall of despair and Kania, the wall of renewed hope. The fourth wall is named Sumitos, the wall of desperation, while Valteri, wall five, is the wall of “serenity” and, finally, Geddon is the wall of death. You will follow the defenders through these walls and through their own battles that each has to wage. Because there is not one battle, but many. Gemmel paints dozens of tiny pictures of deeds of individual heroism passed unseen but also shows how low a human spirit can sink during wartime with treachery, cowardice, and denial.

Finally, while you will find the motif of good forces with all the odds pitched against them fighting the incoming evil in other heroic fantasy books (including those penned by Gemmel himself), I think that the Legend is more mature because it is more nuanced. The main theme is not the clash of light against the dark, good against the evil (Ulric of the Nadir is not a primitive brute but an enemy worthy of respect). The Legend invites us to ponder about the human nature, the mysteries of human soul that propel us to fight for lost causes and refuse to yield even if giving up seems to be the most reasonable course of action. Even if the only thing we can offer is our meaningless and unnecessary death.

Regarding my rating: I approach this book in a very similar manner to the Dragonlance Chronicles. There is a lot of nostalgia factor involved. The Legend gets the benefit of being a classic and so I ignore the things that under normal circumstances would bring the final verdict down by two stars .

Also in The Drenai Saga:

2. The King Beyond the Gate ★★☆☆☆
3. Waylander ★★★☆☆
4. Quest for Lost Heroes ★★★★☆
5. In the Realm of the Wolf ★★★☆☆
6. The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend ★★★★☆
7. The Legend of Deathwalker ★★★★☆
8. Winter Warriors ★★★☆☆
9. Hero in the Shadows ★★★★★
10. White Wolf RTC
11. The Swords of Night and Day RTC
Profile Image for Nicole.
731 reviews1,829 followers
September 30, 2021
As an avid fantasy reader, I try to "broaden" my horizons and read old-school fantasy (which is pre-90s for me). Sure, I rarely end up loving it but it gives me an insight into this genre and allows me to see their influences on my favorite fantasy authors and books. This book is largely accredited as a major influence on the grimdark genre and many authors claim to be influenced by Gemmel. It's also on the 1001 list books to read before you die (after reading this book, I seriously think they need to redo that list). What I'm trying to say is that reading this book was a perfectly rational and reasonable choice. I was looking forward to it when it was picked as the monthly read in my book club and I couldn't believe how boring it is until I started it myself.

Let's start with the characters:
- there's one of the worst cases of insta-love I have yet to come across in writing
- Druss was the most interesting character by far, most of the rest just blended in and I barely kept track of who's whom because of my lack of investment in the story.
- Standards for fantasy are way higher so I don't ask for memorable secondary characters but at least distinguishable?

The plot:
My God. The boredom. The struggle I went through to finish this book. If it wasn't a monthly read, I would've DNF' it, no doubt. I was trying my best to be positive about this book and keep in mind that this was written in the 80s when the fantasy genre was still new in a way. Yet, I couldn’t enjoy it. There wasn't much happening and unsurprisingly, it was a linear plot with an expected ending. I didn't mind that but I hoped for something more engaging/entertaining. Yet the pace was slow and I kept checking how many pages I have left. Repeatedly. Aside from a few interesting events, I couldn't bring myself to care about what's happening.

The writing:
It certainly didn't help especially since chapters only got longer. It didn't make the book gripping, the opposite if anything, tedious to read. But again, I won't judge on that point since this book is pretty old by this genre's standards and I don't like old writing so it's not the book's fault (the boredom totally is though).

Nonetheless, I was willing to give it 3 stars if it wasn’t for the ending that ruined the redeemable thing that happened in the book. There’s a trope I can’t stand in books that happens at the end (and frankly, I should've seen it coming because this book is old school and this was expected back then) and I was just done at the point (luckily the book was done too, a few pages later).

Overall, I don’t regret reading it but I really thought this was going to be an easy/fast read at the very least yet I had to push myself to read it. My friends had at least a smoother time reading it even if most of us didn't like it. Legend was certainly not memorable too. But hey, at least I read a big title back in the day :)

And oh, the only reason I didn't rate it one star is because I know it was good back then but sadly it didn't age well, in my opinion.

Profile Image for William Gwynne.
354 reviews1,458 followers
January 17, 2023
Reread of one of my formative fantasy reads, and the first book I read by David Gemmell. I have not read over eleven works of his, and he is among my favourite authors. But this is the first book of his I have reread. Legend has been one of my favourite books for a long, long time. So, I was very excited to be going back and rereading this, but there was also an element of nerves as I hoped this would reach the lofty heights that I remember. So, was it?

In short, yes!
Profile Image for Choko.
1,196 reviews2,583 followers
January 21, 2018
*** 4.44 ***

A buddy read with the Fantasy Buddy Reads Group, because we love the Epics!!!

And even though it barely reached 350 pages, this gem is a true Epic! It was written in the 80's and has some of the marks of its time, which coming from me is a complement, of course, being a product of the generation which came to age at that time. I find it interesting, that the books I love most, are always somehow connected with war. The authors do a great job painting the fear, loss, and horror with their words, and despite creating heroes who are shaped by the war experiences, the books are never pro-war... That is not to say they are anti-war either. However, they usually promote honor, as well as question the reasons for why humanity finds so many reasons to engage in this awful, violent, and mostly permanent solution to problems which could be dealt with in many other, more peaceful ways...

"...“Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil. Never back away from an enemy. Either fight or surrender. It is not enough to say I will not be evil. Evil must be fought wherever it is found.”The Iron Code”..."

Beautiful words, but how many could say they were able to follow them? None of us are perfect and the best we can do is to try our best. One of those who has always tried his best and had some success with it is the now aging Druss, Captain of the Axe, the one called The Legend. He is a warrior of renown, the legends told of him and the songs sang have lit the spark for glory in many of children and young people's lives. Many have followed in his footsteps because of listening to his adventures and taken up the sword or axe in pale imitation of him. Most of them have found death and no songs have been written in their honor, but people tend to think of the heroes and their deeds as separate from the pain and ugliness by which they are defined.

"...“Only a fool loves war,” said Calvar, “or a man who has never seen it. The trouble is that the survivors forget about the horrors and remember only the battle lust. They pass on that memory, and other men hunger for it.”..."

Druss is called upon to inspire the soldiers and fight another last impossible to win battle, charged with holding the Dros Delnoch pass, until the Nadir Horde are repelled or every last soldier is dead. Our reluctant hero takes on the task, seeking a date with his own Death. We also have the funny, charming and very cowardly Rek, who would love to spend his life far away from any military conflict, eating drinking and keeping female company. He has a staggering fear of combat and sees this as his biggest failure. However, circumstances and a woman, contrive to take him to the middle of the biggest battle of recent times, and he has to make some hard choices.

"...“By nature of definition only the coward is capable of the highest heroism”..."

"...“A cynic by experience, a romantic by inclination and now a hero by necessity.”..."

The story is about the human condition when faced with the hardest times they could possibly face. It is about what makes humans human and the fears we all live with, despite of the way others perceive us. I was very moved by some parts, others made me think of why some of us, when gone trough something rough, chose to take the path of light or darkness, are able to pick themselves up, or wallow in depression for the rest of their lives... It also made me think of how us, the regular folks, have to live with the consequences of the whims and changing moods of our leaders, who are not afraid to put our lives in danger, while quick to condemn any possible slight against their ego... But, it has be thus since the beginning of times, I guess nothing really changes, even in our Fantasy...

"...“And what is a man? He is someone who rises when life has knocked him down. He is someone who raises his fist to heaven when a storm has ruined his crop--and then plants again. And again. A man remains unbroken by the savage twists of fate.

That man may never win. But when he sees himself reflected, he can be proud of what he sees. For low he may be in the present scheme of things: peasant, serf, or dispossessed. But he is unconquerable”..."

I will highly recommend this book and wish you enjoy the ride!!!

I wish you all Happy Reading and many more Wonderful Books to come!!!
Profile Image for Tim.
476 reviews609 followers
April 15, 2021
I read this book years ago and I consider it a testament to how good of a book it is that I remember it all quite clearly. In many ways it is not a great fantasy novel, and in fact I remember that around the half way point I nearly quit it because I found it a bit too formulaic.

I'm so glad I didn't. The last third of this book is some of the best fantasy has to offer. The last third of this book is honestly so good it raises what should have been a 2 star novel to a 4 star one. Had the entire book been that good, it would have easily been a 5 star book. It's that impressive.

The story behind the book is almost as stunning as the work itself. Gemmell was diagnosed with cancer. He began writing a story about siege against overwhelming odds. He wrote it at a frantic pace apparently completing most of it in two weeks but leaving it unfinished. He planned on finishing it when he knew what would happen to himself, if he lived, so would his heroes, if he found out there was no hope, again, the same fate would befall his heroes.

Then something happened. Apparently he was contacted by a doctor and told it was a misdiagnosis and he was in fact fine. Well, that one wouldn't really work with the story… I mean, do the two sides realize it was just a misunderstanding, laugh about the whole siege thing, borrow a cup of sugar and go back home? Doesn't really fit. He put the story down and didn't come back to it for five years when he decided to give it a proper ending.

It's a fun origin story, but I think it also captures what makes this novel so unique. The characters are in a hopeless, terrifying situation, trying to keep up their spirits, trying to grab any chances they see and when moments of hope hit, they shine. Gemmell wrote a fantasy novel, but he was writing his real life there quite accurately, and even if it's not the best prose, he made an amazing tale. 4/5 stars.
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews208 followers
June 6, 2017
An awesome BR with Lovely Pinky and my fellow Catman, two faithful Cat-holics.

“Get rid of your doubts. Yesterday is dead. Past mistakes are like smoke in the breeze. What counts is tomorrow..”

I love epic fantasy <3 Fantasy books rarely let me down and “The Legend” sure didn’t. Opening such a book I look for a promise from the author, I want to dive into the rich, picturesque world, intriguing narrative, and of course gripping characters with true to life personalities (and of course with names I have difficulties to pronounce :D) That’s what I seek for in my fantasy reads 😊

Did I get this in this book? Not quite, but I can say for sure that it’s an outstanding read.

Characters. As is typical in many fantasy series, there is a big cast of characters. I liked them all, starting with Druss, a true hero, a legend, brave, strong, old and tired, but determined to die with his axe Snaga in his hand. , a high-born, ferocious kick-ass heroine I love meeting. And many more. They pretty much make the story. Each character has it’s role and their heroic efforts make “The Legend” an epic read.

“Man alone, it seems, lives all his life in the knowledge of death. And yet there is more to life than merely waiting for death. For life to have meaning, there must be a purpose. A man must pass something on -otherwise he is useless.”


Oh and the great secret and peculiar monks with an . They definitely added spices to the story not only using their great fighting skills, but also using their outstanding powers in metaphysical level.

All of them come together for what it seems a long lost battle.

Despite the strength, bravery and heroism, most of the characters don’t have much points in complexity or depth. Some make surprising developments, but sometimes their backstories or personalities are woven with simplicity.

Narrative. Where “The Legend” is successful, is its pacing. No long speeches or tiring descriptions, just quick pace, adventures, fighting and death! Wow, Mr. Gemmell makes Erikson proud and harvests his characters with eagerness! The story is not overly complicated, as some of the plots and sub-plots can be in long series like Malazan, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Siege of Dros Delnoch

To sum up, I enjoyed "The Legend", and it’s really a great fantasy read. I liked the development of some characters, enjoyed the fighting and the ending was just amazing! I will read other books in the series for sure.
Profile Image for Conor.
148 reviews314 followers
September 2, 2016
This was a masterclass in pulpy, old-school fantasy with all that entails both good and bad. The characters were fairly 1 dimensional, the world-building wasn't particularly unique or inventive and the plot was fairly straight-forward. For most books these would be criticisms and yet for this one it's almost praise: Gemmell seems entirely happy with this formula and he executes it very well. The skillful execution of these reliable tropes combined with the addition of some other nice features made for a really enjoyable read.

The first 2/3 of the book were pretty well paced, characters and story elements were introduced and developed and the scene was set for the epic siege to come. The Last 1/3 or so, the duration of the siege, was where the story became really compelling. The pace picked up notably, the battle scenes provided a level of intensity that hadn't been seen before and the philosophical elements were interesting and implemented in such a way that they didn't distract from the plot (a la the bloated and repetitive philosophical monologues in the Malazan books) with most of the philosophizing coming in the brief lulls between bloody, violent clashes as the combatants try to make sense of the slaughter.

Druss makes for an enjoyable main character. A revered old warrior who has come out of retirement for one last fight. His struggles to live up his legend even as his body failed him made for poignant reading (all the more so as Gemmell apparently had the initial idea for this while dwelling on his own mortality as he awaited the results of a cancer exam) that reminded me somewhat of Clint Eastwood's great role in Unforgiven. Rek was also a likeable protagonist: his struggles to control his berserker rages and his often comedic dialogue were all interesting features of his story. There were a cast of pretty straightforward secondary characters who all nevertheless served their roles in the story well. The standout for me was the cowardly lord of the fort. When Druss arrived a expected him to be hilarious and dramatically removed from office (with a possible pantsing/wedgie to go with it) but instead Druss gave him a second chance and his struggle to regain respect: both that of himself and of his men, was pretty inspiring.

Overall this wasn't a groundbreaking or innovative read that made me look at the world differently, but as action-packed epic high fantasy it was a masterclass in the genre.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,962 followers
December 30, 2021
I can't believe I've spent THIS much of my life not reading David Gemmell.

Or perhaps, I can, since I didn't start reading epic fantasy until WoT and even then didn't really get into any OTHER practitioners of this dirty arcane art until a decade later, and by then, Gemmell's work was already two decades old.

So why is this particular work important?

Because it reads just like ALL the modern epic fantasy titles that rely on low or no magic to propel their tales. Okay. Let's reverse that line and make it proper: Gemmell is the father of all our insanely popular epic fantasies. :)

But for me, coming from the other side of this equation, his original work is *not* as brilliant as a number of other works I've already read because THEY already stood on the shoulders of a giant.

Blood, guts, action. The father of grimdark needs to have all the proper props. It's still a great in-your-face adventure and holds up because it IS the standard.
Profile Image for Dan Schwent.
2,919 reviews10.6k followers
April 13, 2011
The Nadir army heads for Dros Delnoch, a keep guarding a mountain pass. Druss the Legend comes out of retirement for one last battle. But even with Rek the baresark and the earl of Delnoch's daughter help Druss and eleven thousand men stand up against an advancing army many times their size?

I'll be honest with you. My brother pushed this on me almost a year ago and I wasn't in a hurry to read it. I've read a few David Gemmell books before and it takes a special book to get me to read Tolkien-esque fantasy. I've never found Gemmell's writing to be particularly good.

While I don't find Gemmell's writing to be good, he sure knows WHAT to write. The story of Druss whipping the men into shape and the comradery that developes among the men is very moving. In fact, I choked back a couple man tears near the end. Druss's commentary on what it means to be a man is inspiring.

Druss is like a combination of Conan the Barbarian and Clint Eastwood's character from Gran Turino. You know and he knows that his last hurrah has come. Druss knows his value as a Legend to the other soldiers at Dros Delnoch far outweighs his substantial prowess as a warrior.

The other characters are well done as well. Ulric, leader of the Nadir, is a multi-dimensional character. It would have been easy to have him be a malevolent tyrant but he's acutally fairly likeable. Rek, Orrin, and the others also grow into their roles as the story progresses.

I have a lot more to say but I don't want to give anything away. To sum up, this is the ultimate fantasy book for men and the women who appriciate them. Go out and get it!
Profile Image for Anthony Ryan.
Author 84 books8,353 followers
November 9, 2014
The book that really put David Gemmell on the map as an exceptional exponent of heroic fantasy. Gemmell's ability to take archetypes and depict them as real people was always one of his greatest strengths, and he succeeds admirably here. Legendary axe-wielding warrior Druss marshals a mis-matched group of Drenai to defend the mighty fortress of Dros Delnoch from the Nadir horde. All the classic Gemmell ingredients are present; gritty action, breathless pace and a depth of characterisation that had rarely been seen in this genre before. Whilst 'Wolf in Shadow' remains my favourite Gemmell book, for those new to his work, this may well be the best place to start.
Profile Image for Apatt.
507 reviews779 followers
March 7, 2017
“ ‘Druss the Legend. Mightiest man of his era. A killing machine, a warrior. And why? Because I never had the courage to be a farmer’, Druss told himself.

‘When I die’, he thought, ‘everyone will mourn for Druss the Legend.
But who will mourn for me?’ ”

Now compare the above quotes with this famous line from the movie Notting Hill:

“The fame thing isn’t really real, you know. I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

Two very different kinds of story somehow conveying a similar idea. One of the central themes of Legend is “the legend vs the man”, the difference between how people perceive you on the basis of your reputation and the actual you.

The central plotline of Legend concerns the invasion of The Drenai Empire by a powerful tribal nation called Nadir. In order to take over the empire, the Nadir need to break through the fortress of Dros Delnoch. The earl who runs the fortress summonses 60-year-old Druss (with his swollen knees and an arthritic back) from retirement to aid in the fortress town’s defence and to help train the military to fight against the overwhelming odds of the enormous and unstoppable Nadir force. Meanwhile, several heroic Drenai characters are also heading toward the fortress to lend their aid, all of them are aware of the impossibility of winning the war.
Dros Delnoch

Druss is the most vivid and larger than life character in a book full of vivid and vibrant characters. There is so much energy in his characterization that he practically leaps off the pages. He reminds me of Cohen the Barbarian from the Discworld book The Color of Magic. An elderly but still deadly killing machine who is very lonely and sad underneath it all.

Druss the Legend by LawtonLonsdale

In highlighting Druss I am merely scratching the surface of a very lively cast of characters, including the reluctant new earl who views himself as cowardly but automatically becomes a “berserker” when the fighting starts, a Robin Hood-like archer, a female assassin with a dark secret etc. Even the main antagonist Ulric, the Nadir’s great war leader is a complex and honorable man. The narrative is told from both sides of the war, while we are clearly meant to be invested in the Drenai people who are under attack, the rationale of Ulric who wants to annex other nations to his own, for the sake of long-term peace and prosperity, is understandable. Gemmell was the master of plotting, pacing and —most of all—characterization. His world building is not as complex or detailed as today’s leading purveyors of epic fantasy like Brandon Sanderson or Patrick Rothfuss, the upside is that Gemmell’s books are generally much shorter. The magic side of the story is sparingly used, similar to what you would expect in an Arthurian fantasy. Gemmell was much more concerned with exploring the themes of chivalry, honor, redemption, and particularly the deeper meaning of heroism.

I feel like there is Gemmell renaissance going on just in my head. He was my single favorite fantasy author during the 80s, I don't know whether that is still the case today, or even who holds the mantle now; there are just too many great fantasy authors still working and they are quite diverse in style; it is not really worth ranking them. Sadly, David Gemmell passed away in 2006, though he left behind a considerable legacy of very well written fantasy books. The first time I read Legend was more than twenty years ago, I have forgotten most of the details so this is almost like a first read for me, though there are one or two highly remarkable scenes which I have never forgotten (only the context of how they come about). If you enjoy fantasy in a medieval setting but have not read any Gemmell yet you have a lot to look forward to.

• I distinctly remember reading these Drenai books in random order during the 80s, this was before the advent of e-books, and it was hard to find all the titles in bookstores to read sequentially; so I read whatever I could find. Each novel is self-contained so there is no cliff hanger to worry about.

• That said, with e-books available now I look forward to reading them all in order. Though I would like to read his Troy series which I never read before.

• Gemmell is something of a writer’s writer where the epic fantasy genre is concerned, there is even a David Gemmell Award named after him (comparable to the Arthur C. Clarke or the Philip K. Dick awards). Patrick Rothfuss is a proud recipient of this award, as he mentioned in his own review of this very book.

“What does the philosopher say of cowards and heroes?”
“The prophet says, ‘By nature of definition only the coward is capable of the highest heroism.’ ”

“And what is a man? He is someone who rises when life has knocked him down. He is someone who raises his fist to heaven when a storm has ruined his crop—and then plants again. And again. A man remains unbroken by the savage twists of fate.”

“That our defense will fail is no reason to avoid the battle. For it is the motive that is pure, not the outcome.”

“Yes. He is a strange one. A cynic by experience, a romantic by inclination, and now a hero by necessity.”

“Beyond the legendary armor and the eyes of icy fire, he was just another old man. Tough and strong as a bull, maybe, but old. Worn out by time, the enemy that never tired. ”
Profile Image for Mike (the Paladin).
3,145 reviews1,811 followers
January 27, 2012
The five star rating is of course a matter of taste.

David Gemmell is (was) one of the most gifted writers of this type of fantasy ever. It's hard to compare him to anyone else as he's sort of in a class by himself. Some compare him to Glenn Cook (whom I also like) but there are only "some" similarities. I suppose if I must come up with a "tag" I'd call Gemmell's work "heroic fantasy", sometimes "dark". While it would be incorrect to say his heroes "always" die, it is true to say that if the story calls for it, they do.

Here we meet Druss (who we can find in a younger state in other writings) one of his archetypal heroes. I like Gemmell tremendously and also respect what I know of him. I found a few interviews and such with him and discovered an amazingly interesting man.

I am going to risk a spoiler here...

Gemmell died at 58 years of age in 2006 of coronary artery disease. Many (myself among them) will miss him.
Profile Image for Markus.
471 reviews1,522 followers
January 4, 2017
"I shall die soon ... Here at this Dros. And what will I have achieved in my life? I have no sons nor daughters. No living kin... Few friends. They will say, 'Here lies Druss. He killed many and birthed none'."
"They will say more than that," said Virae suddenly. "They'll say, 'Here lies Druss the Legend, who was never mean, petty nor needlessly cruel. Here was a man who never gave in, never compromised his ideals, never betrayed a friend, never despoiled a woman and never used his strength against the weak.' They'll say 'He had no sons, but many a woman asleep with her babes slept more soundly for knowing Druss stood with the Drenai.' They'll say many things, whitebeard. Through many generations they will say them, and men with no strength will find strength when they hear them."
"That would be pleasant," said the old man, smiling.

A decent book with some really good sides. I don't think it will be my last Gemmell.

However, it adds to the meagre beginning of my new reading year.

Full review to come.
Profile Image for Penny.
172 reviews345 followers
April 19, 2014
In a word, awesome! Druss is now one of my favourite characters. This was my first Gemmell and I really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.

The multiple point of view was well done and kept things interesting. I liked all of the main characters and enjoyed watching them grow as the book progressed. Gemmell doesn't pull his punches and it was brutal at times which is something I always appreciate. I was hooked from the beginning and my interest didn't falter.

A most enjoyable read!
Profile Image for Terence.
1,113 reviews345 followers
May 18, 2015
An unfathomably numerous Nadir army heads to the mighty stronghold of Dros Delnoch to either accept surrender or slaughter their defenders. The old legendary warrior Druss known by many names such as Captain of the Ax, the Axman, Deathwalker, and the Silver Slayer comes to Delnoch in search of a worthy fighting death. When he arrives he realizes he can't just fight because the warriors of Dros Delnoch need him to lead.

Much of the tale of Legend seems to revolve around dying well. There are a lot of deaths and the ones that occur in battle are honored above all others. Since the story revolves around outnumbered protagonists taking part in a siege it makes sense. With that being said the story is quite bittersweet with a mostly realistic view of the depravity and destruction of war.

A part of the story I didn't like was the quick blazing love between Rek and Virae. I get that their is only so many pages to tell a story, but everyone knows if you are going to have a meet cute and want to speed up two characters falling in love then you need a montage. I guess it doesn't work the same in books as it does in 80s movies. Needless to say at this point I didn't buy Rek and Virae falling instantly in love for no real reason. That being said their relationship and devotion to one another was really well done after they fell in love.

I also didn't like the continual shifting from one point of view character to the next without a transition or even a line break to signal a different point of view. I found it a bit frustrating, but not to the extent it kept me from reading the book.

I really enjoyed the arthritic legend Druss. He really lived up to the legend despite being weary because of age. He is a warrior through and through and I enjoyed reading about him. For a man who insisted he was just a warrior and no leader he lead the men of Dros Delnoch admirably.

It's time for a Now You Know Moment. Did you know that the recurring term in Legend, baresark, is the Scandinavian term for berserker? Well now you know.

Overall I am generally dismayed to rate classic books because quite often the authors of today have borrowed from the classics and the plot points which were once uniquely spectacular now seem commonplace. I fear this was partially the case for me with Legend. Much of the story felt familiar and what made it special is unfortunately lost on me reading it 31 years later.

2.5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Ivan.
417 reviews277 followers
July 26, 2018
A friend here on GR asked me about short opinion of this book and if I can write something. So Agos, I hope you find this at least bit helpful.

It was in my early days on Goodreads I read this but my memory is still surprisingly fresh partially because in those days my number of reads per year was barely dozen or so rather than 3-digit numbers I am now managing each year.

Despite being written in 80's this is not Tolkien-esque fantasy but more inspired by, as name says it, legends and myths. This is story of heroes larger than life, great love, impossible odds on battlefield where champion meets champion. All wrapped up in warm pathos that much later Rothfuss mastered so well.

From it's strong points comes it's weak one. Since It's inspired by legends and myths dialogues are also in that vein which makes them odd by today's standards, there is great insta-love and characters that don't even try to be realistic or plausible. There are many things like that that can be viewed as bug or feature depending on your inclinations.
This isn't book of rich, subtle flavors but distilled heroic fantasy.

I for one had lot of fun. Solid 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,039 reviews13 followers
July 9, 2019
There is more to life than merely waiting for death. For life to have meaning there must be a purpose.

But what is the purpose is to die by merely prolonging the inevitable? What if you know you cannot hold? Will you still fight on?

The Drenai Empire is under threat. The tribal Nadir people have been united for the first time by the great warleader Ulric, who has forged a massive empire in the North. The Drenai leader Abalayn is trying to negotiate new treaties with Ulric, but war is brewing and an over 500,000 strong Nadir army marches on the fortress of Dros Delnoch, gateway to the Drenai heartlands. Dros Delnoch is the greatest fortress in the world, a narrow pass guarded by six high walls and a great keep, but under Abalayn its complement of defenders has been reduced to less than 10,000 men under the leadership of an unfit General.

The fate of the Drenai hinges on the defence of Dros Delnoch. If the fortress can hold the Nadir horde for three months, the Drenai general Magnus Woundweaver might be able to gather and train a Drenai army. However, given the odds, no-one truly believes that Delnoch can be held.

And yet there is a hope. A hope that rests on the skills of one grizzled warrior: a 60 year old man with a swollen knee and arthritic back

Druss the Legend

who marches to the great fortress to defend his people one last time. He is the heart and soul of this story.

Druss the Legend by LawtonLonsdale on DeviantArt

Druss is every man who has refused to quit; to surrender when life offered no hope; to stand aside when the alternative was to die. He is a man who has shown other men there is no such thing as guaranteed defeat. He lifts the spirit merely by being Druss, and being seen to be Druss.

And yet he manages to remain just a man. A man who was never mean, petty or needlessly cruel... a man who never gave in, never compromised his ideals, never betrayed a friend, never despoiled a woman and never used his strength against the weak.

Get rid of your doubts. Yesterday is dead. Past mistakes are like smoke in the breeze. What counts is tomorrow and every tomorrow...

Lovely words, and no one can deny their truth, but how many of us actually follow them? How many of us wallow in self pity regretting the past and forgetting how to live?

This little 350 pages action jam-packed book gives us all a little well meant kick-in-the-butt and makes us think about it. It shows us that we have to value life because:

You may think life is sweet now, but when death is a heartbeat away then life becomes unbearably desirable. And when you survive, everything you do will be enhanced and filled with greater joy; the sunlight, the breeze, a good wine, a woman's lips, a child's laughter.

To all those who'd like a fast gripping read I highly recommend this one.
It's a hell of a story and heroic fantasy at its best!

Find this review and more on my book review and cover art blog The Magic Book Corner
Profile Image for Clemens Schoonderwoert.
1,087 reviews79 followers
March 10, 2021
This marvellous debut heroic fantasy, the book is from 1984 but it still reads as fresh now as then, is the 1st volume of the "Drenai Saga" series, from the author, the late David Gemmell.

Storytelling is of a superb quality, the story is wonderfully structured and executed as a whole, and all the characters come tremendously to life within this very exciting heroic adventure.

The characters featuring in this gripping heroic fantasy can be related to Romans, Celts, Mongols, Vikings, and some others, even some with the power of Holy Angels, and they are beautifully intertwined into each other when dealing with life and death, and their individual behaviour in time of war and destruction.

The book is mainly set in and around the fortress of Dros Delnoch, with the main protagonist, Druss the Legend, functioning as the spearhead of an army of resistance of 10.000 men, against the overwhelming hordes of Ulric and his native tribes.

Also very important characters are Reg(nak) and his wife, Virae, the Gan of Dros Delnoch, Orrin, Hugon, Leader of the Legion, and The Thirty, with the likes of Serbitar, Vintar, Menahem, Arbedark and Antaheim as their main representation, while also Gilad and Bregan will make a formidable pair in the defence of the fortress.

After quite an entertaining and dangerous journey Reg, Virae and The Thirty will arrive at Dros Delnoch, just when the ultimate battle for survival is about to start, with Druss as their legendary leader in their midst, giving them all his determined leadership, inspiration and courage.

What will follow is a terrific heroic fantasy tale where all different kinds of people will clash with each other for supremacy and the holding/taking of the famous fortress, till death will take them, but also where brotherhoods are forged, and all these events are brought to us in a magnificent tale about heroes who will fight for honour, freedom, love and comradeship, and a fantastic heroic tale that will linger within the hearts of young and old.

Highly recommended, for this is heroic fantasy telling at its very best, just as fresh now as then in 1984, and that's why I simply want to call this: "Legendary Heroic Fantasy"!
Profile Image for Deborah Obida.
673 reviews602 followers
June 10, 2020
'Liberty is only valued when it is threatened, therefore it is the threat that highlights the value.

This book exceeded my expectations, I've had this on my tbr for years and never got around to reading it till now. Legend is a classic fantasy with a dash of modernism. There are lots of battle scenes, friendship, diversity and romance. The romance is what surprised me most, I did not see that coming, it was a soul mate kind of love. The depictions of the battle scenes were awesome.

Is my scar fading?'
Bowman peered closely at the jagged red line from brow to chin. 'You were lucky not to lose an eye,' he commented.
'Useless Nadir steel,' said Rek. 'I made a perfect block and his blasted sword snapped and lashed across my face. Good gods man, have you any idea how long I've protected my face?'
'It's too late to worry about that now,' said Bowman, grinning.
'Some people are born ugly,' said Rek. 'It's not their fault, and I for one have never held it against a man that he is ugly. But others - and I count myself among them - are born with handsome features. That is a gift which should not be lightly taken away.'
'I take it you made the perpetrator pay for his deed?'
'Naturally! And you know, I think he was smiling even as I slew him. But then he was an ugly man. I mean really ugly. It's not right.'

The world building is slightly above average, I had no issues understanding them. The writing is awesome, it's so comprehensible and fast paced. The book is written in third person multiple POV of protagonists.

The characters though lovable didn't have enough personality, most of them were one dimensional excepting Druss, he is such an awesome character. Rek is also a good character, I wish there was more pages spent developing his character, things were kind of rushed. Same goes for Virae, Orrin and the lot of others.

Druss is every man who has refused to quit; to surrender when life offered no hope; to stand aside when the alternative was to die. He is a man who has shown other men there is no such thing as guaranteed defeat. He lifts the spirit merely by being Druss, and being seen to be Druss.'

Druss is a war hero, everyone knows his story of how he held against questionable odds till reinforcement came. He is called out of retirement to remake the miracle, he is more of a legend than a man.

'Have you probed the man's mind?'
'Yes. He is a strange one. A cynic by experience, a romantic by inclination and now a hero by necessity.'

The above quote is the perfect description of Rek, he doesn't like to fight though he is good at it, he is also a bersark. I didn't like that he was used, even though it paid up in the end.

Virae is the opposite of Rek, she goes headlong into battle, she has been waiting for war all her life, when it did come she hated it. War is a terrible thing. I wish her character was more developed.

'All things that live must die,' said Vintar. 'Man alone, it seems, lives all his life in the knowledge of death. And yet there is more to life than merely waiting for death. For life to have meaning, there must be a purpose. A man must pass something on -otherwise he is useless.

The plot is actually straight forward. The people of Drenai are invaded by the Nadir king who has an army of half a million. The Drenai haven't seen war in years and have become complacent, their veterans are just 3000, they have have just 7000 recruits which consisted of farmers. The 10000 men are to hold half a million for three months before reinforcement comes. They know they have no chance but if they fail their family and their country will join the Nadir empire.
Profile Image for Dawn.
326 reviews102 followers
January 27, 2012
Where do I even begin? I just don't get it. I don't get the praise for this book, I don't get the four and five star ratings... I just don't get it.

It's just so stuffed with awful, it's overflowing. It's lucky to be getting two stars from me.. If not for a few (very few) redeeming sections that I actually enjoyed, it wouldn't even pull that. But I mean honestly. Really? Really really?

I don't even know where to start. I mean Rek.. He was just so inconsistent. He's described one way when we meet him, but his actions never fit that description, and just get further and further from it as the story progresses. Not in a character development type way.. Just in a what the fuck kind of way. Druss.. Whatever, he was ok I guess, but nothing special. All of the characters in general were just ok. I did like Orrin, but that's about it.

The dialogue.. Oh my good God the dialogue. It's so horrible and awkward and unrealistic, it physically hurt me to read it. The relationships and bonds formed between characters felt totally contrived. It was just bad. So so bad.

The romance.. So fucking weird. Anyone who has read this knows the relationship I'm talking about. It was just... Creepy to me. Like tie-a-chick-up-in-a-closet-and-cut-off-all-of-her-fingers-and-feed-them-to-her-one-by-one creepy. And don't even get me started on how the women in this book are treated! In one scene, a husband straight up punches his wife in the face during a disagreement. She asks him later if he's going to apologize, and he's basically like "bitch, please..." and kisses her to make it all better. And that's ok with her. Later a woman is sternly told to "OBEY YOUR HUSBAND, WOMAN!" and she meekly does. It's just.. It's like Gemmell never met an actual woman. And before you say anything.. I get it. It's fantasy. It's an alternate world, maybe that's just the culture, right? But it didn't feel like that. It just felt.. Wrong.

I had been warned though, about the dialogue issues and the women issues. But I was assured that Gemmell was the master of Sword and Sorcery type fantasy, and that his battles more than made up for it. So I waited.. Battle time came.. It was fine I guess, but nothing spectacular. I guess maybe when it's written beside that horrible dialogue, you're just glad they're done talking, so it becomes better in comparison? I don't know. I honestly don't. For me, just fine wasn't nearly enough to make up for all of the crap.

I could go on.. But it's pointless. Obviously I just don't get it. I really wanted to like this, I wanted to love it in fact. But I couldn't. Even trying my hardest, I couldn't. I probably will read another book in this series, just to see if maybe it will hook me. I do really want to like it.. And I understand that this was Gemmell's first book.. Maybe it gets better. Maybe I'll read another, get hooked, and then my opinion on this will improve. It wouldn't be the first time! But for now.. Two stars. Barely.
Profile Image for sologdin.
1,706 reviews617 followers
June 9, 2013
Nutshell: military dilemma comes to improbable resolution through the intervention of a surly codger who kicks half million kids off lawn.

We know we might be in trouble on the first page with the “slanted eyes” of the foe (1). Trouble is confirmed by “the face was flat and cruel, the eyes dark and slanted” (2). Leader of the enemy is identified as “the Khan” (222).

This enemy is reportedly “half a million tribesmen” (20), and has “more than twice that in camp followers, cooks, engineers, and whores” (80). Rather than exaggerated, this number may be “underplayed if anything […] outlying tribes were still coming in” (153). The economic system that produced this army is laid out: “the northern steppes make poor farmland. Mainly they breed goats and ponies” (160). The army is nevertheless “the greatest ever assembled, a horde that within twenty years had built an empire stretching across a dozen lands and five score cities […] the largest empire in known history” (194). In the penultimate round of bellicose braggadocio, emperor claims “I have four armies like this” (317).

We know from Hans Delbruck, in the History of the Art of War Volume I Warfare in Antiquity, that such army strengths transform the exceedingly improbable into manifest impossibility. Herodotus for instance gives the Persian invasion a strength of 4,200,000, including logistical components; Delbruck notes that a Prussian “corps of 30,000 men covers, in the German march order, some 14 miles, without its supply trains. The march column of the Persians would therefore have been 2,000 miles long, and when the head of the column was arriving before Thermopylae, the end of the column might have just been marching out of Susa” (loc. cit. at 35).

In the second volume, The Barbarian Invasions, the professor had cause to consider, more appropriate hereto, the strengths of the Germanic invaders who broke Rome: “Even in the period of the migrations, the Germans were not very numerous, and this is only natural, since their economic conditions had remained the same. From start to finish, the Germans were principally warriors and not farmers. If they had significantly developed economically in the period, they would necessarily also have created cities. But they were still without cities […] they were primarily raisers of livestock and hunters […] Since the production of food can have increased but little, the population, too, cannot have expanded significantly […] the density of population cannot have risen importantly; it still cannot have gone far above 12 souls per square mile” (loc. cit. at 292).

His inference is that “we may never exceed 15,000 warriors for any of the migrating tribal armies. A figure of 15,000 warriors, together with women and children, presupposes a total of at least 60,000, and with their slaves around 70,000 souls. Such a mass is already too large to move as a unit” (id. at 293).

He concludes: “We have estimated the population of the Roman Empire toward the middle of the third century as 90 million people. […] Is it imaginable that such a large population would be overcome by attacks of barbarian hordes that were no stronger than 5,000 to 15,000 men? I believe that there can be no conclusion of greater importance in world history than that this was really the case. The legendary exaggeration in the army strengths have hidden the realization from us until now” (id.).

Locus of confrontation in Gemmell is “the greatest fortress ever built” (195). Impossibility of army strengths notwithstanding, the stage is set therefore for the dialectical confrontation of immovable object and unstoppable force.

The substance of the confrontation, even though it is stylistically meritorious western freedom vs. evil eastern horde, a common cold war conceit (Elric fights several undifferentiated eastern hordes, but the classical formulation is Tolkien), is southern civilization vs. northern barbarism. We might simplistically designate the former geopolitical orientation as the Germanic ideology of epic fantasy, whereas the latter is the Romanic ideology. Now that the cold war is over, fantasy is liberated from the Germanic geopolitics of Tolkien and can return to the presentation of a falling or fallen empire, as was important to the Arthurian tradition, the Nibelungenlied, Galfridus Monumentensis--the despair of St. Augustine ultimately. We survey the current field: Abercrombie, Morgan, Bakker, Jordan: the enemy is not the eastern horde, but rather the northern barbarian. Martin has both, maybe neutralizes both, perhaps is sui generis. Gemmell, in this text, is aesthetically Germanic but ideologically Romanic. He combines nostalgia for a dying empire with casual racism. The dying empire must defend against a northern barbarism, which without agriculture has two million soldiers under arms. It is more than impossibility. This text then might be considered a key transitional point in late cold war fantasy.

The confrontation cooks slowly for the first two-thirds of the volume, boiling over in the final third for lots of jaw-kicking and spine-ripping. Text is marketed as a classic of military fantasy, but given the impossibilities, above, I can’t give that thesis any credibility whatsoever. Another defect in the “military fantasy” argument: eponymous surly codger’s fame is founded primarily on a Thermopylae event: “There were a few hundred Drenai warriors holding Skeln Pass while the main Drenai army massed elsewhere. […] They were outnumbered fifty to one, and they held on until reinforcements arrived. […] Gorben had an inner army of ten thousand men called the Immortals. They had never been beaten, but Druss beat them” (48).

Turning once more to Herr Delbruck, we see that these type of pass defenses are extremely improbable (Morgan has one in the background of The Steel Remains, as I recall it): “carefully conceived strategy does not use mountains in the same way as Leonidas did for the defense of a country. Over a mountain range […] there is always more than one route […] It is hard to occupy all of them, and one can never succeed in defending them all. The enemy will always find a place […] Once the line is penetrated at one place, then the garrisons of all the other passes are endangered” (Warfare in Antiquity at 92).

So, yeah, not persuasive. If the text is important (and I think it is), then it is important for its transformational position, the knife’s edge on the Romanic/Germanic orientation: the immovable object of Tolkien’s cold war orientation broken by the unstoppable force of Romanic nostalgia.

Marred overall by improbable narrative development, generic setting development, lack of perspective discipline, and a generalized cheesiness.

Recommended for those who believe that you son of a slut is a useful pejorative, persons who stand at a frozen moment of history, and readers who feel the strange sense of departure that heralds the baresark rage.
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,007 reviews1,326 followers
October 23, 2021
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The Fantasy Guild book of the month!

“We are not made for life at all, old horse. It is made for us. We live it. We leave it.”

I read this as book of the month with The Fantasy Guild! Honestly, I heard a lot about Gemmell but I don’t think it is the kind of books that I would usually pick up on my own. I thought it would be a different kind of experience and I ended up enjoying it more that expected!

This book was published in 1984 so I kept that in mind while reading it. I thought it would be much harder to read and enjoy because books written decades ago usually are -for me at least- and I did not want another experience like Tigana! But when I started reading it, it wasn’t challenging to read, it was pretty much straightforward and the prose was good! There are some stereotyping and sexism issues that authors are more aware of nowadays but I think for a book written 40 years ago, I can be more lenient and they did not affect my enjoyment of the book!

There are 2 main story lines that converge together, that of Rek and that of Druss. There are interesting characters for sure in the novel and my favorite has to be Serbitar! Now Rek’s story line had a major problem which is the insta-romance, it is one of the fastest most intense romances I ever read which made it very hard to believe! Druss is kind of unique given that his success and legacies live in the past but we still see some of them in this book. I loved the interactions between the characters and that Ulric (The invader) also respects Druss!

“No one ever gets out of this life alive.”

The plot is interesting, when I read the synopsis I was excited because I expected something different. But basically our heroes are defending their place and they have 6 walls to protect them before the enemies army which is many times greater than their numbers.

I did not have problems with the pacing and finished the book in 2 days! I just was a bit not happy with the finale because it was very rushed and many things felt underwhelming just because we are told them instead of being showed them. I would have gone for 4 stars but the ending kind of irked me so I think 3.5 stars will do for now! The story can work as a standalone but it is part of a series and I am not sure if I will be continuing it yet!

“He who fears to lose will never win.”

Summary: I enjoyed this book more than I expected to, I think the bar was low to start with which made me enjoy it more but it does not mean it is a bad book. The writing is good, the characters are mostly okay but the romance was weird! The plot was interesting but it never felt finished for me!
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954 reviews533 followers
December 8, 2018
After a disastrous start, when I almost abandoned it, I ended up liking it a lot.

Even if I’m not a fan of military fantasy, the battle here was a great experience. However, the love story intertwined with the war is the worst I have read so far, but I guess Gemmel’s intention was to show that love prevails no matter what.

Druss, Serbitar, Hogun, Gilad, Orrin, Bowman, even Ulric – I loved them all. Rek and Virae not. But I can’t help wondering if there’s more to the two of them, because all other characters are so well developed. The preparation for battle and the war itself are masterfully written. The imagery is so vivid that I cringed and felt pain reading the battle scenes. And if you think GRRM is a butcher, then you haven’t met Gemmel…

The battle itself steals the show and I couldn’t put the book down after its second half. But I would have loved some worldbuilding too, for there is none. Plus, there are two dei ex machina moments which made me roll my eyes.

Nonetheless, the battle scenes, the interaction between the characters during these scenes, the humorous dialogues on occasion made this story to be a very enjoyable one, albeit I don’t think I will read another in this series, because everything burned out here. This should have been the third in a trilogy, not the first.
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