Re-reading David Gemmell's Legend

Brian G Turner

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So part of my research pile included David Gemmell's Legend, so I've begun re-reading this.

I read it once, about 20+ years ago, and I remember enjoying it then, except for the ending.

I have to admit I was hesitant to re-read it now:

a) because I remember Gemmell said the writing wasn't very polished,
b) I thought it might be a bit of a cheesy read (I probably originally read it not long after Dragonlance).

What astonishes me about this book is the amount of concentrated detail in it.

For one, the little details of historical realism are superb. Real work has gone into this and most readers might not notice - heck, it just helps enforce the context - but as an aspiring writer I can see just how much attention has given to it. It's a long time since I've read an epic fantasy that does (possibly Robert Jordan's Eye of the World).

Secondly, the use of psychology is superb. I've studied the effects of violence via Rory Miller's books, and Gemmell uses it all here - but very succinctly, and it's all show don't tell. Again, I can see as an aspiring writer how he uses this to build up context and character reactions and it's very well done.

Overall, I'm really surprised - the attention to detail is stunning, and the characters, while not drawn to a great depth, are sketched with enough personality and character to make them individual, memorable, and easy to follow.

I now better understand why David Gemmell is regarded as one of the masters of 'epic fantasy', which is as much an indictment of modern writers in this subgenre and their failure to attend to detail. I'll probably have to look out for more. :)
 

biodroid

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It was a great book, i had tears in my eyes reading that book. You know what you are getting with his books and you cant go wrong reading them
 

mattwaldram

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One of my favourite lines in Legend works beautifully in the edition I have (and maybe in all editions, who knows) because it splits over two pages. The scene is when Druss is heading to the Dros, and he stops in a bar. He unwittingly manages to upset a man (Dorian) who decides to try and kill Druss. In my edition, one page ends: "Dorian attacked!"
And the next page begins: "And died."

Bloody love that.

He is my favorite author that I have ever read. One of the things I wish I could have done is meet him before he died.
I actually was lucky enough to meet him on a couple of occasions, and he was kind enough to talk to me at some length about writing and he gave me a load of advice and told me some superb stories. Also, when I was getting married (2006) he wrote a letter that he wanted me to pass on to my brother - who was my best man - outlining the things he should and shouldn't do as best man. I can't remember all of the details (I'd have to get the letter off my brother) but I think he threw in a couple of anecdotes from his own personal experience.

That letter was sent in May, so only a couple of months before he died.
 

Adam Collins

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Read it back in the late 80s and loved it. Must get a copy for a reread. Gemmell had an amazing ability to breathe life into a character and make him/her real. Hence I still remember poor old aging Druss, that image of the all too human and fallible hero is still vivid in my mind all these many years later. Genius.
 
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muf

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One of my favourite lines in Legend works beautifully in the edition I have (and maybe in all editions, who knows) because it splits over two pages. The scene is when Druss is heading to the Dros, and he stops in a bar. He unwittingly manages to upset a man (Dorian) who decides to try and kill Druss. In my edition, one page ends: "Dorian attacked!"
And the next page begins: "And died."

Bloody love that.



I actually was lucky enough to meet him on a couple of occasions, and he was kind enough to talk to me at some length about writing and he gave me a load of advice and told me some superb stories. Also, when I was getting married (2006) he wrote a letter that he wanted me to pass on to my brother - who was my best man - outlining the things he should and shouldn't do as best man. I can't remember all of the details (I'd have to get the letter off my brother) but I think he threw in a couple of anecdotes from his own personal experience.

That letter was sent in May, so only a couple of months before he died.
That was my moment that I sat up and took notice. That line was made me laugh out loud. It made Druss seem so completely invincible, like he was a warrior on another level to anyone else. Most would have a big fight, but Druss just ended it in the blink of an eye. I also had the privilege of meeting David, twice. He signed my books Waylander and Quest for lost heroes. I still miss to this day that thrill when I would go to the bookshop and see a new novel from him sitting there waiting for me to grasp in my eager hands.
 

The Big Peat

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I re-read it just the other day for a review and to me, if anything, its better now. The prose is still very readable. Yes, you can see the holes if you look closely, but the pace sweeps you alone. Well, it did for me. The thematic power of it is hugely more apparent to me now.

I heartily recommend reading the other Gemmells but, to be honest, this might still be my favourite.
 
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