Thursday, November 03, 2011
Legend, by David Gemmell
First up is a book that I read in mid-September: Legend, by David Gemmell
People have tried to get me to pick up Legend for years now. Every few months there would be a comment here insisting that I give the book a shot because I am sure to love it. We'll see. I might not have picked it up but I was in a situation where the only real access I had to books was a rare trip to a Half Priced Books and hope they have something decent. The result of one of those trips included Legend. Without much else to read and with the novel priced at $3, why not?
Originally published in 1984, Legend is a specific type of epic fantasy: which is to say, the ultra-heroic type where the hero is a hero and always does what is right and is capable of great feats. When I wrote about James Barclay's Chronicles of the Raven trilogy, I mentioned that I considered the Raven novels to be something of a bridge between quest fantasies of the 80's / 90's and the modern quest fantasies. Though I didn't realize it at the time, Legend is the beginning of that conversation of how that epic fantasy storytelling would shift.
Had Gemmell written about “Druss the Legend” earlier in the character's life, we would have been given a story of heroic feats of a young man at the height of his powers. There would have been a sense of obviousness in the story. Where Gemmell begins to twist things is that Druss here is an old man. Druss is something of a Clint Eastwood type character. You know he can kick the ass of men half his age, but you also know that people are going to want to test him even as they whisper about his legend. That's Druss and that's a major facet of Legend.
Having a somewhat “elderly” warrior means that there will always be a question on whether Druss's body will hold up to he demands of it and therein lies the tension. There's also a siege defending against vastly superior forces and the way Gemmell closes the novel is...interesting, but at its heart, Legend is heroic epic fantasy where things are a little too simple, too pat, and in many cases, too obvious. On the other hand, Legend does not pretend to be anything other than what it is.
There is a place for this type of fantasy. Certainly there is a market for it, and the David Gemmell Legend Award celebrates epic fantasy and Gemmell's legacy. I'm just not sure this is what I want to read on a regular basis.