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This being Halloween it seems appropriate to be writing a review about a book called The Ghost King. Also if you know anything about David Gemmell as a writer you will know he specialises in blood thirsty battle and monsters and ghouls and magic from spiritual plains. Ideal for such a spooky time of year then!
Now my copy of this book is the 1988 vintage (pictured above)but there is not much sense in me describing its cover to you. The latest edition of this book is mostly a golden colour with a beautiful sun rising over a mountain range. In front of this 3 people are stood on a hill wearing tunics and brandishing swords and bows and arrows. Above this in big dark golden Letters is the Authors name, the title appears in smaller type at the bottom. It breaks away from the typical dark cover that you will find on many Heroic fantasy books and would really draw your eye to it if it were resting with other books on a shop shelf. The illustration is beautiful and very eye catching.
I paid a measly 20p for mine from a church fair and I can safely say I got a great bargain. Full price the paperback will set you back £6.99 in the shops and £4.89 on Amazon. There are second hand copies on both Ebay and the Amazon marketplace at just 99p as well.
So what do you get for your money? Well you get one of the best examples of heroic fiction by the leading author in the genre in the world.
Thuro is the Kings son. He has a strong mind but is weak in body and as such is a bit of a disappointment to his warrior father. During a state visit to Eboracum Thuros father is set upon and killed by soldiers of their host Eldred , the Lord of the Britons and with now very obvious sights on the British Throne.
Finding himself lost from his fathers hunting party Thuro is saved from certain death when Laitha finds him and takes him to the house of her Guardian Culain. Thuro learns many lessons at the hand of this man, an ex-immortal who became sick of messing in the lives of men and decided to live his life out as one of them instead. Culain Shows Thuro a vision of what happened at the scene of his fathers death. He died valiantly, killing half a dozen of Eldareds men before throwing the great Sword of power into the lake where a ghostly hand reached up and dragged it under the surface of the lake.
Civil unrest is rife in the land and Eldared has more than just flesh and blood warriors to do his work. He has an immortal as an ally who can conjure monsters from the mist, horrific Atolls (massive wolf like monsters) and Soul stealers (shadows who can immobilise a human just by the slightest touch.
Thuro as the heir is responsible for putting this to rights. With Culain and Laitha and the help of a hunter cripple named Prasamaccus Thuro ventures into the worlds of Mist to find the lady in the lake and the sword of power. The sword his father drew from a stone decades before declaring himself the true king.
This is a fascinating read. You empathise with Thuro from the start. He is a bright lad, witty and likeable but fate has made him the heir to throne of a country torn by civil war and he is by no stretch of the imagination a warrior like his father.
Each character is crafted with loving attention as you would expect from Gemmell. The story moves along at a good pace, keeping you interested and ever craving to read the next page to see what surprise waits around the corner.
I should warn those of you with a weak stomach that this plot comes close to being that of a horror at times. The monsters and spirits of the Mists are truly frightening and I recommend not reading this book before bedtime!
As always this is not just a story of monsters and battles and heroic daring deeds. It is a book about people and relationships. It is about overcoming disability and ones own mental blocks and self image. It is about friendship, love, trust and courage.
Some of the more eagle eyed of you will have noticed some similarities in the plot of the ghost King to a certain very famous legend. That of the King Arthur. This is Gemmells take on the Arthurian legend and very much focuses on what happened after Arthurs death.
It is pure fantastical magic. In my mind Gemmell outstrips Tolkien, but I would at least put him in the same league as the author of one of the most classic fantasy books of all time, The Hobbit. To compare him to Authors of this time his style is very similar to the character intensive JV Jones but not as rambling as the Wheel of Time Author Robert Jordan. I honestly do not think there is another Heroic Fantasy Author out there in the same league as this guy. He is infinitely readable and constantly comes up with a thoroughly thrilling read.
If you enjoy Fantasy or horror books then I definitely recommend you give this book a try, it is well worth the read and I cannot fault it in anyway. It is Heroic Fantasy at its very best.
ISBN: 1857236424 (paperback)
The Ghost King is based on the story about King Arthur although this book is about his Father Uther Pendragon. Rebellion and invasion from barbarians. The young boy Thuro is in a castle in Eboracum (all names of cities and towns are historically correct, Eboracum is York) and his father is discussing an alliance against the barbarians. Thuro is a weak boy unlike his father. He enjoys reading more than the manly things in life: hunting, swordplay etc. Thuro and his father are invited out to hunt with the Lord of the castle in Eboracum and his retainers (personal soldiers). Thuro soon becomes lost by himself and little does he know there is treachery afoot. Thuro is thrown from his happy peaceful world into a land of war and treachery. Saxons, Angles, Jutes and Brigante trinesman are massing together to destroy the realm being helped by the powers of the witch queen and the Lord of the undead. The book is full of mysteries, different worlds, battles, heroism and intrigue. The book also tells of how the famous IX Legion disappeared (true story). And the hand that comes up to grab Excalibur as it is thrown into the lake and into another time. The boy: Thuro is taught how to fight by Culain, the legendary Lord of the Lance who has had more than one name throughout history. Another important character is Maedhlyn who also has had more than one name throughout history. This book very cleverly follows on from the Lion of Macedon and the Dark Prince. If you read it you will know what i mean when i said has had more than one name throughout history. The book itself is fantastic. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys David Gemmells books especially if you have read The Lion of Macedon and The Dark Prince. I don't want to give too much of the story away but Thuro will go trough the mist and emerge a different man. People who have read this excellent book will understand. If you are thinki
ng about buying it go for it it's pure excellency. 5 Stars
Ancient Britons, Romans, Saxons… No, it's not the latest episode of Time Team. It is the first book in David Gemmell's Stones of Power series, entitled Ghost King. Written after his successful Jon Shannow series, Gemmell has returned to what he does best – traditional fantasy with gererous amounts of magic, romance and violence. One thing to mention before any history buffs lay into me. Ghost King may be set in our past and uses may historical names and places, but it is not historically accurate. Nor does it claim to be. In his foreword, Gemmell says, "…it is not the story as it was – but as it ought to be". Ghost King is set in the sunset of the Roman Era. The Roman Empire is fading and their control over the western world is slipping, especially on the dismal island of Britain. The natives sense the Empire's vulnerability, and are beginning to press their advantage. Aurelius, the King of Britannia (who is supported by the Romans) has travelled to Deicester Castle to meet with Eladred, the King of the tribesmen, also known as the Brigante. He has brought with him his sole heir, Thuro. Unlike his father, Thuro is not a skilful warrior, and prefers the feel of scrolls and riddled to swords and death. Protected by his father and their many retainers, Thuro lives a sheltered life. However, treachery is in the air and Thuro's life will soon be turned upside-down. He soon meets Laitha, the beautiful, somewhat wild girl, and the legendary Culain lach Feragh, the Mist Warrior and legendary Lord of the Lance. Needless to say, Culain is exceptionally good at poking other people with sharp objects and Laitha proves to be rather adept with the bow and arrow. It is often Gemmell's violent style that draws readers to his books, and if you are feeling stressed, Ghost King's bloodletting is just what you need. However, for a Gemmell novel Ghost King is quite restrained. Thi
s does not mean that it is for the faint at heart. Gemmell is never afraid of death, and his characters all have a certain degree of pent-up rage. However, in Ghost King Gemmell seems to have kept their murderous excesses low, unlike his other books in which the body count often reaches five figures (once the epic battle scenes are counted). However, where Gemmell has cut back on his violent tendencies, he has gone overboard with characterisation and atmosphere. Gemmell has always been skilled at creating believable heroes, and in Ghost King he has not disappointed. In fact, he has created a double helping of hero in the forms of Thuro and Culain. One is a weakling boy, but has the soul of a King. The other is a formidable warrior, but who can feel time creeping up on him. They may sound like the usual clichés, but Gemmell's magic shines through time and again. What puts many prospective readers off fantasy is the fact that magic often plays a significant role. Even so, Gemmell handles the subject skilfully, and 'magic words', like abracadabra or other such nonsense, never cross the mouths of his characters. Instead, what little magic that is employed is done through the medium of the Sipstrassi Stones, which are basically magical rocks. The drawback of these 'Sontes of Power' is that they only have limited use before they become exhausted. In my opinion, this gives Gemmell's fantasy style much more credibility. Gemmell's writing style is a joy to read. Not only are his characters complex and deep, but his plots are refreshing and addictive. There are only two books in the Stones of Power series, and I moved onto the next one as soon as I finished the first. After I finish it, I will probably go and find another David Gemmell book to read. Oh well. To really sum it all up, Ghost King is a refreshing jaunt into yet another of Gemmell's fantastic worlds. The pleasant mix of act
ion, romance and magic will hold you in thrall, and Gemmell has a natural flair for creating mesmerising finales. Ghost King will grip you right to the end. -andydan
The first book in the Stones of Power series