This is the first in a new weekly feature entitled ‘Why You Should Read…’ It will be a series of articles by bloggers, publicists, editors and authors focusing on various speculative fiction authors, and giving you reasons as to why you should be reading these authors NOW.
If you would like to contribute a feature, then please do get in touch with us.
First up, we have blogger Steve Aryan. He runs his own blog Steve’s Fantasy Book Reviews and is also the co-host of a comics and pop culture podcast (which includes a Book Club and Author Interview feature on a regular basis). You can find him on Twitter under @cbosteve
Many people view Tolkien as the Grandfather of fantasy. Since then the genre has evolved dramatically and to me the Father of modern heroic fantasy is David Gemmell. Growing up I read Tolkien and then authors including David Eddings, Terry Brooks and David Gemmell. Years later I went back and looked at them again, and the books that stand up to the test of time and are still enjoyable repeat reads as an adult, are those by Gemmell. He always dealt with adult themes, created complex characters and wrote what some now term gritty fantasy long before such labels existed.
Gemmell’s style of writing is succinct and the pacing is fast, but he never sacrificed substance for speed. It is all on the page, a level of description that is just enough to tell you exactly what is going on, without feeling as if you’ve been short changed by the author. I don’t think he ever wrote a book over 500 pages and all were standalone stories, more or less. Several characters became popular so he wrote sequels and stories in the same settings, with the most famous being his DRENAI novels.
There are a number of recurring themes in Gemmell’s novels including courage, honour, redemption, loyalty and old age. Before becoming a full time writer he was a journalist and throughout his life and via his job, he met and came to understand violent men. As a result his characters were sometimes drawn from real life and were complex and never two dimensional. Some of them were larger than life and Gemmell’s most famous and popular character was Druss, the central figure in his first book Legend and several others after.
Legend is still my favourite and it is the one that most people cite when they talk about David Gemmell. After becoming an established author Gemmell admitted it could be written better in terms of style, but it wouldn’t improve the heart, or for me, the raw power of the story and the characters. From the beginning, even with its flaws, he created something memorable.
If you like gritty fantasy like Barclay, Abercrombie or Sykes, read the DRENAI novels starting with Legend. If you enjoy the current trend of assassin-led stories, read the WAYLANDER books. If you want capable female characters, read Ironhand’s Daughter and The Hawk Eternal. If you want heroic alternative history, read the TROY trilogy he wrote just before he died. If you want a post-apocalyptic sci-fi western, see the JON SHANNOW novels. With so many standalone stories he covered a lot of ground and all of his books went on to become bestsellers which tells you something.
David Gemmell is much loved and very well respected by fans, creators and the industry, and as a tribute to the man and his work, we now have the annual David Gemmell Legend Awards for fantasy. He was an amazing writer with enormous talent and is very sorely missed.