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For the vast majority of novel readers there are a number of sure-fire, guaranteed-good-read-authors. Included in these ranks are the likes of Stephen King, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Beryl Bumstead. Basically, these authors have their work in the little shop at the airport. Refining the search a little to the fantasy genre sees a similar occurrence of big names that you come to know and love from their past efforts. Most fantasy aficionados would agree the big names include Robert Jordan, Raymond Feist, David Eddings, and George R. R. Martin. To this list I wish to add David Gemmell. Everything I've read of this bloke's has been an absolute snorter, including Hero In The Shadows. Unlike most of the big time fantasy authors, Gemmell isn't an exponent of epic fantasy. This is best illustrated by a lack of the obligatory map at the front of the book. Instead, Gemmell is a master of heroic fantasy. Every book I've read of his revolves around a central immensely heroic figure, such as Druss, the greatest warrior that ever lived. In this vein, Hero In The Shadows features another of Gemmell's larger-than-life heroes -Waylander The Slayer. So, who's Waylander? To borrow a lead in from both Don McLean and George Lucas, "a long long time ago" Waylander was a simple man: a farmer, husband and father. Until one fateful day when, whilst he was away from the homestead, mercenary raiders stumbled across Waylander's little piece of happiness and brutally raped, tortured and murdered his loved ones. Upon discovering the grisly handiwork performed by the raiders, Waylander's heart turns black, and he sets about tracking down each and every one of the villains involved. This task took years, and during that time, Waylander discovers that he has quite a talent for killing. Thus, upon the death of the last raider, he becomes a paid assassin - the likes the world has never seen. Over the foll
owing decades, the greatest of warriors and the mightiest of kings found themselves powerless against the killing prowess of Waylander The Slayer. Legend has it that there isn't a soul alive that The Slayer couldn?t extinguish if he so intended. Hero In The Shadows introduces Waylander well into his middle age. His days of assassination are far behind him. With the unbelievable riches that came his way as payment for his dirty deeds, Waylander traveled to a distant land to start a new way of life, devoid of killing. However, it's not to be as his new home is threatened by an ancient evil. Thousands of years ago an evil horde of sorcery-spawned creatures, half beast, half human, was defeated on the lands now owned by Waylander. The destruction of mankind was narrowly prevented by a coalition of all the human forces. The conflict concluded with the expulsion of a sorcerer and his minions through a rift, a magical doorway to another world. The doorway was then sealed. However, the spell binding the doorway closed is beginning to flicker and fade. With the assistance of a new sorcerer, the threat of the doorway opening wide is imminent. The only thing standing in the way of the tide is a master swordsman, a priestess, a serving girl, a ditch digger, and Waylander, the master assassin. If things aren't daunting enough as they are, it's reported that the sorcerer is immortal and cannot be killed. Can Waylander do the impossible and kill him? Despite writing in the fantasy field, Gemmell adds a great degree of realism to his work. This is best illustrated in his various characters. Rather being guilty of the stock-standard two-dimensional characters normally found in fantasy, Gemmell mixes things up. In Hero In The Shadows the villains may fight for a terrible cause, but they also love their children. Similarly, the heroes may be fighting for a shining cause, but they also have apparent flaws - they may be vain or treat the pro
stitutes they sleep with poorly. In this way, Gemmell's style is different and somewhat refreshing. Additionally, I enjoyed Gemmell's 'adult' style. He doesn't succumb to Jar Jar Binks syndrome like so many other fantasy authors do. There are no purple dragons, pixies, or serene elves in Hero In The Shadows, which is nice for a change. If its wonderful, magical creatures that a 10 year old would be 'spellbound' by that you're looking for, then Gemmell's not going to be your thing. Instead, Hero In The Shadows is a story heavily laced with violence, and other adult concepts. The Hobbit it aint, but it is fast and furious and a very easy read. If you like the sword aspect of sword and sorcery then Hero In The Shadow is for you. If it's the fairies and talking dragons that you like the most about fantasy, then perhaps Gemmell's not for you. Hero In The Shadow is a great read. However, as it isn't Gemmell's best work, I'm giving it four, instead of the full five stars. Cheers for reading, ~Joe P.S - Beryl Bumstead's latest novel wont be appearing in a bookstore near you, as she doesn?t exist.
Hero in the Shadows is David Gemmells latest offering. Anyone who has not read Gemmell before can start with this or go back to the original Waylander book. The plot is that Waylander has retired to a far off land where he acts as Lord and Protecter to a small settlement. The emergence of dark magic (unfortunatly fairly predictable if you know Gemmell) leads to Chaos and destruction. Waylander and his old skills come once more to the fore. David Gemmell is king of what is called Heroic fantasy, you can't help cheering his heroes and booing his villans, Gemmells talent is getting you rapped up in the action. Although his books are fairly predictable now and again he pulls off astiunding twists that keep you astounded and wanting more.
Ninth volume in the 'Drenai' series, in which Waylander the Slayer stalks an ancient evil. Everything has its season, and in Hero in the Shadows Waylander, the assassin hero of some of Gemmell's earlier books, is now a middle-aged man looking for peace in a world that will, for the most part, let him alone. The crimes of his past come back to haunt him, however, as he finds himself responsible for a young prince whose grandfather he murdered, and as creatures of doomed legend come back to rule the world with blood and horror. An ageing paladin, and a loud-mouthed braggart whom a magic sword has chosen, and a kitchen girl who is unusually handy with her knives become his allies, along with a priestess who is not telling all she knows, or all she is...Gemmell is one of the best writers of fantasy adventure and this new book is attractively gloomy in its atmosphere and has a pervading sense of the ironic. The action sequences are powerful and well-visualised--Gemmell always knows how a particular sort of fight would feel. And there are no simple morals here--most of the characters, heroic or villainous, exist in the grey hinterland between dark and light, where evil acts are often performed in sorrow and good actions often have mixed motives behind them.