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


Book: The Epic of Gilgamesh

The book: The Epic of Gilgamesh, by N. K. Sandars (editor)

The edition: Italian translation by Alessandro Passi of Sandars’ 1972 edition, as published by Adelphi (1986), 165 pages, with introduction, list of names and analisys of sources by N.K. Sandars

The story: Gilgamesh, King of Uruk, is the son of a goddess and of a mortal father. He is the strongest of mortals, but still he must eventually die, and he is unable to accept this fate. The gods give him a friend, Enkidu, who is the only one who can stand up to his strength, and together the two embark on several adventures, either for the good of the country or simply for glory and to look for immortality.

My experience with the book & my thoughts: I read this one because I was curious, I had heard about the epic now and again, but didn’t know what it was about. Problem is, we know too little about what it was about. The editor of this edition did a good job of finding a balance between the erudite editions and the oral text behind them, but still, I found it hard to get at: because the original culture is almost lost to us, so are most of the references. (Sandars did say so in the introduction, so I expected it, but still.) (The thing that struck me as most uncomprehensible is all the going up the mountain, and down the mountain, and up again. As in, it takes them 3 days to go up the mountain, then Gilgamesh has a dream and says to his friend “Let’s go down the mountain to talk about it”, and the following night Enkidu has a dream and Gilgamesh says again “let’s go down the mountain to talk about it”… What???)

Links to better understand this book:

Counts as: Back to the Classics – country I won’t visit during my lifetime; personal reading goal.