It’s been five years and a couple of months since David Gemmell tragically died, and a great storyteller was taken from us. His final two books were published posthumously, with Fall of Kings being completed by his widow, Stella. Even now writing these words isn’t easy; I was lucky enough to consider David a friend, and to spend time in his and Stella’s company.
I haven’t read any of David’s books since Fall of Kings, in fact I’ve read very little since completing Fall of Kings, and anything I have read has been distinctly not heroic fantasy. I don’t think I’ve been avoiding it intentionally, but there’s definitely a small part of my reading soul that doesn’t want to accept David is gone and doesn’t want to move on.
I read a huge amount of fantasy literature in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s but eventually I struggled to find anything fresh and enjoyable, with the sole exception of David Gemmell’s work. His books were always entertaining, always enjoyable, and always emotional. People can discuss style and prose as much as they want, but in his heart, David was a storyteller and that shines through in everything he wrote. His ability to engage you, to show you the hearts of the people in his stories, to embroil you in their lives and their emotions is unparalleled in modern fantasy literature. I struggled to find that engagement anywhere else in the genre, and although I’m sure it exists, not finding it left me jaded and put me off fantasy fiction for a long time.
While helping Grete sort out the book collection and get them all onto Good Reads, we went through all my David Gemmell books and it was the first time in a long time that I’d seen them all lined up. I resolved to start reading them again, and there’s no other place, no better place to start, than Legend.
I picked it up last night, and put it down a hundred pages in and a couple of hours later. It’s still as good as I remember, instantly engaging and enjoyable. I hadn’t realised, or had forgotten, just how much of the world Druss inhabits is described in the first few chapters, and how many of the later books are based on short throw-away lines or character names in Legend. David’s style is just so easy to read, and that’s because it’s like being there with him, listening to him tell you the story.
Legend is about honour, courage, fear, duty, age and faith.
It is as poignant and as relevant now as it was when he wrote it.
I would have sat in the darkness and listened to David tell stories to hold back the night, without that chance, I’ll re-read all his books and share my life with him again.