Why You Should Read… David Gemmell

This is the first in a new weekly feature entitled ‘Why You Should Read…’ It will be a series of articles by bloggers, publicists, editors and authors focusing on various speculative fiction authors, and giving you reasons as to why you should be reading these authors NOW.

If you would like to contribute a feature, then please do get in touch with us.

First up, we have blogger Steve Aryan. He runs his own blog Steve’s Fantasy Book Reviews and is also the co-host of a comics and pop culture podcast (which includes a Book Club and Author Interview feature on a regular basis). You can find him on Twitter under @cbosteve

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsMany people view Tolkien as the Grandfather of fantasy. Since then the genre has evolved dramatically and to me the Father of modern heroic fantasy is David Gemmell. Growing up I read Tolkien and then authors including David Eddings, Terry Brooks and David Gemmell. Years later I went back and looked at them again, and the books that stand up to the test of time and are still enjoyable repeat reads as an adult, are those by Gemmell. He always dealt with adult themes, created complex characters and wrote what some now term gritty fantasy long before such labels existed.

Gemmell’s style of writing is succinct and the pacing is fast, but he never sacrificed substance for speed. It is all on the page, a level of description that is just enough to tell you exactly what is going on, without feeling as if you’ve been short changed by the author. I don’t think he ever wrote a book over 500 pages and all were standalone stories, more or less. Several characters became popular so he wrote sequels and stories in the same settings, with the most famous being his DRENAI novels.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThere are a number of recurring themes in Gemmell’s novels including courage, honour, redemption, loyalty and old age. Before becoming a full time writer he was a journalist and throughout his life and via his job, he met and came to understand violent men. As a result his characters were sometimes drawn from real life and were complex and never two dimensional. Some of them were larger than life and Gemmell’s most famous and popular character was Druss, the central figure in his first book Legend and several others after.

Legend is still my favourite and it is the one that most people cite when they talk about David Gemmell. After becoming an established author Gemmell admitted it could be written better in terms of style, but it wouldn’t improve the heart, or for me, the raw power of the story and the characters. From the beginning, even with its flaws, he created something memorable.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsIf you like gritty fantasy like Barclay, Abercrombie or Sykes, read the DRENAI novels starting with Legend. If you enjoy the current trend of assassin-led stories, read the WAYLANDER books. If you want capable female characters, read Ironhand’s Daughter and The Hawk Eternal. If you want heroic alternative history, read the TROY trilogy he wrote just before he died. If you want a post-apocalyptic sci-fi western, see the JON SHANNOW novels. With so many standalone stories he covered a lot of ground and all of his books went on to become bestsellers which tells you something.

David Gemmell is much loved and very well respected by fans, creators and the industry, and as a tribute to the man and his work, we now have the annual David Gemmell Legend Awards for fantasy. He was an amazing writer with enormous talent and is very sorely missed.

Great thanks to Steve Aryan of Steve’s Fantasy Book Reviews! Look out next Friday for a feature on Cherie Priest!


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AMANDA RUTTER, one of our guest reviewers, used to be an accountant in the UK but she escaped the world of numbers and is now living in a fantasy world she creates. She runs Angry Robot's YA imprint, Strange Chemistry. And we knew her when....

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11 comments

  1. I read a Gemmell book based on Greg’s recommendation of Gemmell. It was Knights of Dark Renown (reviewed on our Gemmell page). I liked it a lot, especially, as you say, the theme of redemption. The book was dark, but it didn’t leave us in darkness — there was hope at the end (in contrast to Abercrombie). I look forward to reading Legend.

    Thanks, Steve!!

  2. Great post!

    Gemmell is a legend. No doubt about it. No book of his has ever disappointed me. And every time I re-read his work, I discover new reasons to love his work. I’m grateful he managed to write as many books as he did before he died.

  3. What little of read about Gemmell himself, its easy to see a lot of his own personal traits in his heroes.

  4. Totally agree, Gemmell wrote so many excellent novels. I particularly like the Troy and Drenai series. Troy series blew my mind how he explained or connected the Greek legends with his story. So good. Druss is one of my all-time favorite characters.

  5. Joe- Druss is a charamatic character. On the one hand a fierce and unbeatable warrior but on the other a devote husband and a kind of lovable grandfather.

    Kat-I’d love to read your review of Legend if you ever get a chance.

  6. Funny enough, I just picked up and started Troy:Lord of the Silver Bow.

    About 200 pages in, and quite enjoying it.

  7. Ravenheart was highly recommended to me, as well. Sword in the Storm also seemed to get excellent reviews.

  8. Anonymous /

    Gemmell’s the reason I fell in love with reading. He died on my birthday and I felt like I had been nut punched all day.

  9. I went on the holiday the day this was posted, so had no idea how people would respond, but I am glad to read there are still a lot of fans out there who remember him, and a lot of new fans discovering him for the first time. He was a Legend.

    Steve Aryan

  10. AlisonOG /

    I have been a reader of fantasy for several year and the only books that I have ever kept are David Gemmell’s books along with Tolkien and Stephen Donaldson. Everyone talks of Druss and he is an amazing character but my favourites are Waylander and Skilgannon because they start out bad but end up fighting for the good side!. I have to admit that I have read his books at least three/four times and still love reading them even though I know the stories really well. The only books that I have not read by Gemmell are the Troy books but my dad has read them and he has told me that they are quite good, pretty much on par with the rest of his books.

  11. Andrew /

    Pretty sure he is wenching somewhere with Robert E Howard as we speak

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  1. Books That Changed My Life – Part 2 | Stephen Aryan - [...] thing. A couple of years ago I wrote a short article about why you should read Gemmell over at Fantasy Literature…

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