The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend by David Gemmell

druss_chroniclesBefore Dros Delnoch, before Skeln Pass, before the Legend there was a seventeen year old woodsman and his young bride Rowena.  They lived a happy, simple life until slavers attacked their village and carried her away.

But Druss would stop at nothing to save her.  With the demon-cursed blade Snaga, he crossed oceans and continents, fighting corsairs, brigands, armies, empires, even chaos beasts to find her.  And with each battle, the legend grew.

But the greatest challenge Druss would face was not a warrior or a monster, but an old family curse from beyond the land of the living.

Oh man, it’s been far, far too long since I’ve read a David Gemmell book.  Far too long.  And this one was perfect.  It had everything you could possibly ask for in a book by David Gemmell: honor, glory, blood, war, mystics and evil sorcerers, monsters from beyond the grave, great empires and epic sieges, and even a good deal of romance.  And Druss himself is such an awesome character, an unassuming, simple hero who may be brash and may have a temper, but is never completely corrupted by evil.

That said, this is a brutal, brutal book.  The pithiest way I can describe it is Taken meets Lord of the Rings.  People get killed.  Women get raped.  In fact, I think most of the women in the book get raped.  Certainly, more than 50% of the characters die, most of them in a grisly, violent way.  And not everyone is redeemed.  In fact, some of the noblest characters fall.

But man, this is a good book.  Where other fantasy books start off with the lore of the world, painting an exquisitely detailed picture of the world and the magic and the history, Gemmell just throws you right in and grabs you with the story.  Things happen, and they happen quickly.  From the beginning, he snags his hooks in you.

But more than anything, the story means something.  Not in the sense that there’s some kind of underlying moral, or the characters are all black and white.  They aren’t.  People do good things for the wrong reasons, and bad things for the right reasons.  Some of the most despicable characters rise up to do heroic things, while some of the noblest and most honorable characters end up fighting for evil through no fault of their own.  But through it all, there’s so much truth, so much insight, that you can’t help but come away feeling like you’ve been through life and death, and seen the best that both have to offer.

I’m gushing, I know.  This book is INCREDIBLE.  Definitely on par with Gemmell’s best.  I wish he could have written a hundred novels just like it.  I would have read them all.

This is the second to last book in the Drenai series that I’ve read.  The only one that I haven’t gotten to yet is The Legend of Deathwalker, and I plan to get to that one right away.  After that, I’ll probably move on to the John Shannow novels, and then the Rigante series.  In three years, I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve read every book that David Gemmell has ever written.  He’s just that kind of an author to me.  And if he were still alive, you can bet I’d be ravenously devouring every new book that comes out…

Sadly, the number of David Gemmell books in the world is finite.  But still, there’s quite a few left before I read them all.  And one day, somewhere in the far-off future, I hope to write books as incredible as his.  To one day surpass him would be an impossible dream…but as the Ventrians say, may all your dreams come true save one, for what is life without a dream?

Awesome, awesome book.  If you’re a fantasy reader and brutal stuff like rape doesn’t trigger you, you definitely need to give the Drenai Series a try.  Start with Legend, but get to this one shortly thereafter.  It’s an amazing, incredible read.

Author: Joe Vasicek

Joe Vasicek is the author of more than twenty science fiction books, including the Star Wanderers and Sons of the Starfarers series. As a young man, he studied Arabic and traveled across the Middle East and the Caucasus. He claims Utah as his home.

2 thoughts on “The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend by David Gemmell”

  1. I’ve read pretty much everything Gemmell ever wrote. I consider him one of the best fantasy authors of all time for the exact reason you listed in your review of ‘The King Beyond the Gate’ (which I stumbled on while unsuccessfully researching the word count for that book). That is, while it is not flowery, it’s isn’t detailed, it isn’t many things, but it IS an amazing story every time. And things keep such a pace you’re always on the edge of your seat. I LOVE his books, and they’ve inspired me to continue reading the genre and writing my own stuff.

    I did want to say one thing. As a hard core Gemmell fan, I have to say Legend is not one of his best works. For one, it was his first, and it’s not nearly as tight as his more recent works like the Troy series. He really does develop into a clean writer by the end. Also, the story is stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Some kind of healing machine thing that brings the dude back to life. How stupid is that. It’s Deus Ex Machina, and Gemmell himself admitted it was kind of a likeness of his own miraculous healing of what was supposed to be terminal cancer. So going forward, please don’t recommend Legend as his best book. It’s definitely The King Beyond the gates, or winter warriors, or echoes of the great song, or Dark Moon (how can you not love Dace). Obviously, the siege warfare is amazing in Legend. Each of those walls is so gritty and intense. But overall, the story is stupid compared with his other works. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still a great book, just relatively speaking, he’s got a lot more going on that is much more noteworthy.

    1. Sweet! Another David Gemmell fan! I haven’t gotten to his Troy stuff yet–currently reading up on Jon Shannow and the Stones of Power–but yeah, now that I think about it, some of his later Drenai books were better than Legend. Although I disagree about the story being stupid. Legend was the book that turned me into a David Gemmell fanboy. It has a sense of urgency to it that gives it tremendous authenticity and power, and more immediacy than most other books I’ve ever read. You feel as if there’s something important, that what these characters are going through is tremendously important, and that not only makes them come alive as characters, it makes their experiences come alive so that you feel like you’ve been through the siege of Dros Delnoch yourself. Of all of Gemmell’s books, Legend was the only one that made me break down and cry. Yeah, there was some stuff toward the end of the story that felt a little amateurish, but I’d much rather keep it in there because I doubt that Gemmell (or anyone else for that matter) could polish it in such a way that would preserve that sense of authenticity and immediacy that made the book come alive.

      And I think it’s the same with any author’s books, too. When I look back at some of the things I wrote early on in my career, I sometimes feel tempted to go back and change them, but then I remember that those books are products of who I was at the time when I wrote them. The convergence of thoughts, emotions, and experiences that drove me to write those books are things that are exclusive to the younger version of me–I can’t go back and recreate those conditions. Even with all their flaws, those books represent a pinnacle of sorts for my younger self, and if I try to “fix” those stories I’m only going to dilute them, so that they no longer have the same power or authenticity as they used to. Besides, “fixing” a story doesn’t always make it better–just look at what George Lucas has done to the original Star Wars trilogy over the years.

      So yeah, even with its flaws and shortcomings, I still think that Legend is an excellent place for readers to start with Gemmell’s work. That book has real power to it, which all of his books can only echo–some louder than others, but none quite so powerfully as the first. At least, that’s what I’ve found so far.

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