Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: Legend by David Gemmell

Title: Legend
Author: David Gemmell
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Publishing Date: 21 Aug 1986
Paperback: 432 pages
Standalone/Series: First novel of the Drenai Saga


Abalayn, the leader of the Drenai Empire is a weak leader. However, on the north, Ulric, one of the best leaders the world has seen, is building a massive army and he has his eyes set on the Drenai Empire. The only place that can hold Ulric’s tribal Nadir people is the fortress of Dros Delnoch. But can Dros Delnoch be manned on time? And who would stand on its walls and fight to death to give Drenai Empire a chance?

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

The axe-wielding warrior, broken spears, bloody swords, spiky helmets and shiny armors promise heroic battles throughout this book. The cover reminded me of the old Conan comics of my childhood. It may well be one of the reasons why I decided to read this book in the first place...


Legend is probably David Gemmell’s most popular novel and I would qualify it as a heroic fantasy where the story revolves around a few well constructed characters. The plot is built in a European-like medieval setting where a Mongol-like invasion is imminent and an inconceivably large tribal army marching to the gates of the empire. The Gengis Khan-like tribal leader, Ulric, has achieved what had looked impossible before: Rallying the tribes under his banner.

Legend is a fast-paced and gripping book, full of epic battles, highly motivational speeches, hidden-heroes ready to be discovered in the heat of the war, men and women who can enjoy life while looking in the eyes of the angel of death. I truly enjoyed even the earlier character-building chapters. With the start of the book, I thought I knew very well where the story was going. But fortunately Legend is not a hack-and-slash book. There are subplots and enough turns and twists to make you want to read more. Its characters were very enjoyable too, even though some of them are stereotypical. I guess I was expecting a bit of that in a heroic fantasy novel written early in the 80s, so I found it was well attuned to the spirit of the book. I also enjoyed Gemmell’s heroes of epic stature with pretty cool names such as Druss The Legend and The Earl Of Bronze. However, Gemmell reminds us that those heroes are all human with their imperfections. They all fight their personal battles and struggle to face their personal demons.

One may find deeper meanings in the behavior and circumstances surrounding the protagonists. A hero, by definition, is a man or woman distinguished by exceptional courage and strength, celebrated for bold exploits. But Gemmell depicts ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats, some of them discovering their worth thanks to the circumstances that they find themselves into. The author paints a very human picture of men and women who, without a doubt, become some of the biggest heroes the Drenai have known throughout the story.

The story was not perfect either. The one thing that I disliked in the book was the sudden love story that developed between two of the protagonists. I thought it was very rushed. However, this is probably just a detail among many great qualities.

Rating: (8/10)

Noticeable Quote

- "Remember this: To have may be taken from you, to have had never." – Druss The Legend

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