Book: The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend

The book: The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend, by David Gemmell

The edition: Orbit mass market paperback, 346 pages

The story: in previous Gemmell books, Druss was the Deathwalker, the Legend, the sung hero of past renown. This is the story of how he became that hero: powerfully strong from a young age, he only finds peace with his wife Rowena, and when she is stolen by slavers, he’ll do anything it takes to save her and bring her back. Druss’ search for Rowena goes through brawls, long voyages, magic interventions and unending wars, in an adventure that continuously grows.

My experience with the book & my thoughts: whoever wrote the cover blurbs for Gemmell didn’t know what they were doing: none of the covers ever sparked the least interest in me, and some even scared me off. But because husband likes them [ETA: the books, I mean, not the covers or the cover blurbs as such] (and because I was looking for a book with “first” in the title for two challenges, and we had this one at home) I finally gave it a try. And wasn’t it a pleasant discovery!
A fantasy world where chivalry is still a moral principle to follow is refreshing after the kind of fantasy I have been reading lately (cough, cough… ASOIAF… cough), and I liked that the Drenai world is not so different from our own, you don’t need to understand a completely new society. In this setting acts a whole cast of characters of all kinds, and the only one I had issues with is Druss himself, because we never really get to see what moves him and what makes him the way he is — but the rest of the cast, from the loving wife to the mad grandfather to the ironic friend to the knight in shining armor, they all had me hooked to their stories.
On the other hand, I have to say that this book feels a bit rough, as if it was rushed through somehow and it had more potential that what was actually developed. The narrative is somewhat episodic, and because of that, a page was added (I suppose by the editor, not the author), summarizing what happened in between — and I have very strong issues with that, because it even spelled the characters’ names wrong! But that is the only negative thing I can really say about it, and I am now curious to follow with Gemmell’s more famous (and hopefully better-developed) works.

What I liked: traditional high fantasy that delivers exactly what it promises, and interesting and well developed characters.

What I didn’t like: the lack of reference maps.

Language and writing: kudos to a style that gives a feeling of high prose without ever using obscure words (not even one WWW find for me here!)

Read this if: if you liked the Shannara books

Counts as: Antonym challenge, Semi-charmed summer challenge


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