Oct 032011
 

I read In Her Name: Empire in literally one sitting.  I couldn’t put it down and was so engaged I didn’t even want to stop for food!

There are almost two parts to this book.  First, an invasion of colonised space by an alien species, and humanity fighting back with enormous losses.  This is followed by a more fantasy-like setting with a gladiatorial feel which fills the rest of the book.  The two styles didn’t lessen the impact of the story at all, and if anything they made it more intriguing.

I loved how Michael Hicks showed us Reza’s life from a very young boy through to a man, and he is my favourite type of hero.  He never tries to be heroic, he just does what he can to survive, but without compromising his ideals.  Reza’s initial survival was enabled by ultimate sacrifice and incredible courage and from then on, I was hooked.  His decisions were wonderfully reasoned and played out, and even after I’d finished the book I kept thinking about it, and what would I have done in his situation.

The Kreelan race provided a puzzle for me, and I think it’s down to Hicks’ clever writing that while you know they are the enemy, you slowly come to realise they are also a deeply connected and spiritual people, with their own strict way of life that is completely alien. Their history and their mystical way of life was brilliantly envisioned and made it really easy to empathise with them, despite their role.

It wasn’t until the end of the book I was reminded that they are in fact, the enemy.  And I cried.

The plot was really well laid out, driving us through a series of events that forge Reza into a survivor, from young boy to man, with amazing strength of character and very likeable.

The character of one of the Kreelan warriors was really well conceived.  Again, it’s down to excellent writing by Michael R. Hicks that I hated the character at first, but as Reza grew and his perceptions changed, so did mine and I ended up loving her (no names, to avoid spoiling it)!

The Kreelan are a warlike people who are bound together by soul and so deeply steeped in honour, tradition and ceremony that it is stagnating their culture.  I thought it was interesting that on the Kreelan planet, there is no evidence of technology nor that the people could be capable of space flight, but it’s a given that they are since they are waging war on humanity. I suspect that will feature more in the next books of this trilogy.

The pace is tricky as it covers a long period of time but I thought Hicks handled the jumps forward well, and I enjoyed the book all the more because I got to see Reza at so many points in his life, and eventually learning who he is now.

The ending didn’t really come as a surprise, you knew the eventual outcome was always a possibility but that didn’t detract at all from its power.  Reza’s honour, belief and loyalty made him stand out amongst heroes and it moved me to tears.

In Her Name: Empire is a book that has heart, emotion, sacrifice, and courage and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: Michael R. Hicks
  • Format: Kindle
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Jun 182008
 

I loved this book. Throughout his previous books, I believe David has been experimenting with the idea of possessed people, or those driven by need, desire or other overwhelming emotions; we also have the example of Druss’ axe, which appears to be demon possessed.

With one of the main characters of this book, Tarantio, David takes the concept another step further, plays the idea out a little deeper. We learn about Tarantio, and the demon within him, Dace. Throughout the book, Tarantio talks to Dace, and Dace comes alive inside him to fight when danger threatens. We are never really given a clear explanation about the demon Dace, is he real, is he simply something created by Tarantio earlier in his life, is it illusion or reality.

The by-play between the two personalities is gripping and good reading, and to be honest, for me, the underlying story in the book came second. Which isn’t to say it’s a bad story, it had all the right elements, the bad guys, the good guys, heroes and heroines, lost worlds and civilisations. But for me, Tarantio and Dace were what this book was about. The darkness inside all of us. That which keeps us alive in those moments we live by our instincts. In Tarantio, his instincts would appear to be alive and well, and called Dace.

(This review was written sometime in the late 90′s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 182008
 

Well, this book starts off slowly, and to me, the prose felt very jagged and coarse, but that could well be the style, which is very celtic in feel. Initially we are greeted with a blur of characters, all of whom have the potential to be our ‘hero’, before the story settles and it becomes obvious who the focus is.

We are taken through the life of the hero, starting as a young boy, all the way through to manhood in the first book. As I said, the story is slow at the outset, but Gemmell picks up the pace towards the end, which is typically bitter sweet. The characters are lively, with a much larger range of people than is usual for a Gemmell story, but then this is his first real series vs. single novel.

I mentioned the celtic style, and there is a real celtic feel to the tale, with all the much loved celtic myths, and the ever present armies across the waves. The tale is very narrative, and for some, that style is going to grate. It shares a lot in this respect to the Pendragon books by S. Lawhead. All-in-all, a good tale, not his best, but certainly building up to something which could be very interesting. I await the next book with relish.

(This review was written sometime in the late 90′s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 182008
 

Winter Warriors has that essential element that keeps me coming back to David’s books over and over again. I was tired, visiting my parents-in-law, and going to bed. It was around 11pm, and I thought I’d read a couple of pages, since I wasn’t really in the mood to read too much.

At 4am, I put the book down, finished, every page read. It’s an indescribable element of David’s work – that must continue reading quality that I really miss in other authors like Goodkind, Jordan, Martin, etc. Oh I enjoy the books they write, but I can pause for weeks between chapters and not really feel like I’m missing out. Winter Warriors on the other hand, I just *had* to finish, I needed to get to the end.

Emotional, passionate, thoughtful, insightful, and carrying those things along,
a story about heroes and heroism. Someone recently mentioned that it didn’t feel like a Drenai novel to them – too much magic. For me, Winter Warriors has all the core Drenai elements. People sticking to their guns, come hell or high water, doing the right thing, painful as it might be. To me, that’s the Drenai nation in one.

The story is intriguing, and all the more interesting for the high magic content, the characters are colourful, interesting, three-dimensional. Some might argue we have stereotypical characters here, the mighty and swift killer, the huge bear-like swordsman, the reserved thoughtful archer. Yet, each of those characters brings something new. To give one example, our ignorant, abusive, huge obnoxious warrior, also delivers a baby half-way through the story. David uses those extra details to flesh out the cliches we want, demand and love.

I felt the ending given by the ‘good’ demon was somewhat obvious perhaps, although I do wonder if that was the point – that the ‘bad’ demon was so engulfed in selfish revenge that he could never consider his brother being so selfless. There were many excellent highlights during the book, the relationship between the young lad and the archer is excellent.

The surprise with the amulet at the end is a nice touch, and Antikos comes through to prove that you can change the nature of man! All-in-all, an excellent story, bringing some of David’s favourite themes together, possession, age, usefulness, revenge, good vs evil and what is evil, and lumping them in with more demons than you can shake a stick at.

We also had a very short siege to keep those folk happy!

(This review was written sometime in the late 90′s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 182008
 

Without doubt, one of David’s best books to date. I would be hard pushed to say if Legend, Waylander or Hero in the Shadows were his best work.

David has taken the character of Waylander and given it a depth that we’ve never seen before. The emotional complexity in this book is far greater than anything David has achieved before, although we did get a glimpse at this in Midnight Falcon. The book contains some old favourites, and a small number of new and excellent personalities. I feel that David has succeeded in giving us just the right number of players in the plot, whereas in Sword in the Storm and Midnight Falcon, there were a lot more people (or at least, it felt like there were). In Hero in the Shadows we get a small but superb supporting cast. You will love Yu Yu – I promise.

The mix of emotion is well balanced, with humour offsetting the darker moments, and some scenes that will rip the heart from your chest and leave you gasping. Well, they did me anyway. Waylander is everything we’ve come to love, deadly, swift and merciless, but expect to see something new from him as well. The story is pretty normal fare, Waylander must save the world from an ancient and all-encompassing evil, aided by the best swordsman the Chiatze people have to offer, and by a ditch digger. A legendary ditch digger no less.

However, I don’t read David’s work to analyse every plot twist, I read his work because it’s moving, emotional, gritty and some of the best storytelling ever written. David manages
to look at many of his favourite themes, honour, belief, the nature of good and evil, age, remorse, and yet once again, gives us something new for each of them, and expands some of them. We see how belief can sometimes blind and lack of it can sometimes free the soul.

Oh, it doesn’t have any sieges in it.

This book also hints at something which has been present in some of David’s books before – that perhaps all of his stories are interlinked, taking part on a tapestry of a multidimensional universe. There is also an interesting, but short comment, on the reason why David’s heroes are heroes. Hero in the Shadows won’t disappoint anyone who reads it for those reasons. I can’t praise it highly enough.

(This review was written not long after it was published in 2000, for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 182008
 

David returns to the world of Waylander, and we get a chance to see what happens to our ‘hero’ once his adopted children grow, and his wife has died.

Initially he is almost in a daze, just getting through life, but then another old friend drags up an old grudge, and a collection of other circumstances bring Waylander back. The story swings into action, and while this story is dark, it’s not quite as dark as the original, and Waylander finds within himself things we were never sure were there before. The story is gripping, fast paced and tense, and the characters are as interesting as ever. A good sequel, well worth a read.

(This review was written sometime in the late 90′s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 182008
 

Another excellent Drenai book from David. While written after the previous three (two?) Drenai tales in real terms, the story tells of a time before those books (I think). We meet Waylander, one of David’s darkest heroes, certainly the darkest to date when this book was written (although since then, others have appeared darker still.)

Waylander’s life has been tragic and deadly, and it is affected deeply when he rescues a priest, against his better judgement, but no less so than the life of the priest he saves. The Earl of Bronze makes another appearance, and we learn of the creation of the Thirty – and that tale alone is good enough to make the book brilliant. As usual the book is awash with emotions such as hate, love, joy, sadness and heroism. Waylander finds himself falling in love, at a time when that act will kill him. We meet the Brotherhood, the evil counterpart to the source priests.

All-in-all, this is a gripping tale, told with slightly less finesse than Legend and King Beyond the Gate, but excellent none-the-less. Well worth the read, and another excellent Drenai tale.

(This review was written sometime in the late 90′s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 182008
 

I strongly feel that David reaches briefly back to his original style with this book. I appreciate that’s somewhat of a silly comment, considering this is about David’s fourth book, but our heroes are much less dark, much more like the heroes in Legend.

The story is fast paced, lively and full of character and characters. The plot is simple, but I was drawn in through that simplicity. The characters are believable (in as far as any of David’s characters are), and we come to learn about them throughout the book. Dreams are shattered, legends made, and as usual, lots of people die, the ending however, is not quite as bitter-sweet as some of the other books. Not his best, but still better than much of the competition.

(This review was written sometime in the late 90′s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 182008
 

Another excellent novel and story from David. Set 100 years or so after Legend (his first book) King Beyond the Gate tells how the Drenai are crushed beneath their own evil emperor. The story is gripping, and looks hard at friendship, love and war. It is far deadlier than Legend – if you thought that was bloody and caused the death of many loved characters, the end of King Beyond the Gate will make you think again. However, while death is rampant, it doesn’t feel out of place. The story is what I now recognise as ‘typical’ Gemmell heroism, and ensures you read from start to finish.

It’s not quite as good as Legend, I didn’t become as attached to the characters as I did to Druss and Rek, but you still feel for them when the knife falls.

(This review was written sometime in the late 90′s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)

Jun 182008
 

The first, and still the best if you ask me. David Gemmell’s first novel, and the first in the Drenai saga. An excellent epic heroic fantasy. It never tries to be anything grander than an heroic struggle for freedom and life. It avoids many of the cliches of ‘modern’ fantasy, and yet covers enough common ground that the reader is not left feeling lost. A story of invasion and war, and yet a story on a very personal level. Gemmell keeps you guessing right up until the last minute before giving you one of the most gripping and emotional endings to a book for many a year.

(This review was written sometime in the late 90′s for the original Gemmell Mania website)

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Book Information
  • Author: David Gemmell
  • Buy from Amazon (UK)