Legend by David Gemmell

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Legend by David Gemmell

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Meghan Burton
Reviewed by Meghan Burton
Summary: A masterpiece of fiction on siege warfare, LEGEND explores the life of a legendary hero leading up to his final battle, a hopeless last stand against a vastly formidable enemy.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 352 Date: October 2009
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841498584

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Dros Delnoch, a massive fortress with six walls of defence, is in danger of falling to the Nadir. With its fall, the Drenai empire is soon to follow. The Nadir haven't lost yet and as a result, morale among the defenders is low and desertions are rampant. The men long for a hero, but the legendary Druss has hidden himself away in the mountains and become a myth.

This book is all about the siege. As a result, the first hundred pages move very slowly as the players all move into place and we become acquainted with all of them. Nothing really happens but a general movement towards Dros Delnoch. We learn who the heroes are and who the cowards are, the problems with the way the fortress is run, and take a mystical side trip to fulfill the obligations of fantasy. The author tries to use one element to liven up the otherwise slow beginning by introducing a love story between a self-confessed coward and an unattractive daughter of an Earl. It is, however, shallow, and since we don't know the characters yet, it's hard to believe in the love story. As such, the book is lacking an emotional pull to start. All of this is necessary for the story to continue, but overall I feel it could have been done with more finesse.

The narrative of the siege itself, however, is fantastic and does help to make up for the book's initial slow pace. For one thing, tension is extremely high throughout the latter half of the book. I genuinely did not know which side was going to emerge victorious. It certainly feels like the bad guys are going to win, but because the reader is rooting for the good guys, it's a combination of dread and hope.

As far as characters go, Druss is by far the best. He is a legendary hero, but by getting inside his head, the author can show us that he's really old and tired, that he is an excellent fighter but it takes a huge toll on him, and that his real skills lie in motivating people to do their best. To the other men fighting, he seems like a god, but the reader can get very well acquainted with the humanity of Druss. It's very significant that the book picks up when he gets to the fortress, because he gives everyone hope, identifies their personalities and encourages them individually, and in general causes us to care about the entire outcome of the siege because he is an amazing character. We want him to succeed.

Besides the slow beginning, the other problem with the book is that it feels a bit shallow and isn't original. It's the fact that this is like an expanded Helm's Deep from Lord of the Rings, that it uses standard gender tropes like women as healers needing men to save the day (and then immediately falling in love afterwards), and the fact that none of the secondary characters really appeal. It took me halfway through the book to remember any of the soldiers' names, for example. It improves in the latter respect, but not entirely enough to redeem those initial faults.

That said, I was really enjoying it by the end and I grew to care about what happened in the siege. I also really liked that the ruler of the Nadir hoard wasn't quite as terrible as he was made out to be. He besieged Dros Delnoch for the good of his empire, not because he was a horrible man. A nice touch to wrap up an overall good, but not great, book.

Thank you to the publisher for sending a copy to The Bookbag!

For another, more extended Tolkienesque work, try The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams.

Buy Legend by David Gemmell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Legend by David Gemmell at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Legend by David Gemmell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Legend by David Gemmell at Amazon.com.

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