Wolf in Shadow by David Gemmell

The Big Peat

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I am – at times deliberately – a contrary creature. Sometimes I take pride in my flit-about butterfly approach to reading, in which every commonly held sin is acceptable in the name of reading happiness. And sometimes, not often but sometimes, I like to read things all the way through regardless, just for the sake of knowing and study and completion. The last of which is why I am now go through the last few handful of David Gemmell books I’ve read.

It is why I read about Jon Shannow, the wolf in shadow.

Wolf in Shadow is an interesting cocktail; part post-apocalyptic, past weird western, part I don’t even know what and wholly David Gemmell. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about Gemmell is the way he was so rooted in very human emotions and yet went way off into the bushes for some of his fantasy conceits. This is one of them, but I will get there in good time.

Jon Shannow is the Jerusalem Man, an arguably crazed yet honourable soul who wanders across the bad lands of where ever (maybe once the Middle East), searching for the now legendary Jerusalem in the hope that will give him the answers about God and the world he craves. Since Jerusalem is hard to find and bad lands are, well, bad, he fills in his spare time by killing brigands. Which is a very useful skill when Abaddon, Lord of the Hellborn wants you dead.

The first third of this book felt a little lacking. Bandits try to kill Jon Shannow and are swatted away with near-merciless precision, like prime Jonah Lomu playing a bunch of kids. Sometimes he intimidates people, although always people who deserve it. Jon is a man of iron morality and few social skills, which comes through in his social skills with Donna Taybard, the widow who beds him, and her friends and family.

But then Gemmell separates Shannow and Taybard – no fridging, to my relief – and this is where stuff gets funky. Shannow ends up wandering through societies full of mystics and scholars from before the apocalypse as Taybard and her community comes under threat from the Hellborn, between them uncovering the decisions and mistakes that has led to the Hellborn’s rise and the danger threatening the land. A third sub-plot opens up too involving Daniel Cade, a brigand who sees a chance to go legitimate and cement his gains by resisting the Hellborn and embracing God – with some strange consequences. The revelations offer the plot the spice it needs and creates the uncertainty and soul searching the characters need and gives the whole thing the added dimension that really brings it to life. I’m being vague to try and avoid too many spoilers but trust me when I say I found the majority of this book fascinating.

Thematically, the book feels simplistic and incoherent at points, which is both a strength and a weakness. The weakness is it would have been stronger for being more joined up, but the strength is it makes the characters’ statements on how virtuous violence can be seem all the more organic. Prose wise this is classic Gemmell, crisp and a little laconic. It won’t especially appeal to fans of beautiful prose but it won’t especially jar either and it is speedy and easy to read.

This is not my favourite Gemmell. It lacks the depth of character that I associate with his best work, the exploration of vulnerability and living with fear. I can’t point to many scenes I find deeply memorable and emotional. But it is a fine book. In the foreword. But maybe that’s just me. In his foreword, Gemmell talks about how through Shannow’s eyes, he could see how important it was to be strong in the important places.

And maybe you’ll find that if you read this.



(This review was originally posted at Wolf in Shadow by David Gemmell – Peat Long's Blog (wordpress.com) )
 

svalbard

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Good review of a and in imho a great book. The Jerusalem Man is an iconic figure for me. He is a character who deserved a TV series all for himself, a comic book series in his honor. He deserves a wider audience. Jon Shannow is The Man. Implacable yet vulnerable. I do believe he is one of David's greatest creations. In fact the the ultimate hero would be a combination of Shannow and Druss.
 

The Big Peat

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Good review of a and in imho a great book. The Jerusalem Man is an iconic figure for me. He is a character who deserved a TV series all for himself, a comic book series in his honor. He deserves a wider audience. Jon Shannow is The Man. Implacable yet vulnerable. I do believe he is one of David's greatest creations. In fact the the ultimate hero would be a combination of Shannow and Druss.

Isn't that just called Waylander? :p

Interesting that you're the second person who's responded with "TV show". I can definitely see how it'd look, which is a big thing.
 

svalbard

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There were multiple sub plots and characters that could have been axed, to the benefit of the film overall.
Alfred could gave gone, or been given much less screen time.
Legolas had no real use, narratively. They added him for the sake of it. A quick cameo might have been okay, but no more.
Tauriel and the whole romance and love triangle ground the film to a halt, due to the lack of chemistry.
You could probably get a more enjoyable film just by editing them differently and creating a more streamlined plot.
Isn't that just called Waylander?

Touche
 

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