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Legend - David Gemmell

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Author: David Gemmell / Genre: Sci-Fi / Fantasy

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    11 Reviews
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      14.07.2011 20:27
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      Possibly the greatest book not on the big screen

      It is over 12 years since I read my first David Gemmell book and I have loved every one of them. This is the first one I read and I was captivated from the very start. The way he writes its as if the characters come alive and you get to know them intimately. You empathise with every experience and are genuinely touched when disaster befalls them.

      An ageing mighty warrior called upon in the nations greatest time of need. Druss must travel to the ancient Fortress of Dross Delnoch to prepare the defences and turn a group of peasants and farmers with low moral into a force capable of defending the mighty fortress against a horde of savages intent on destroying the proud and ancient Drenai people. Aiding him is a young beserk Earl, an outlaw leader and a mysterious group of warrior priests known as the 30. The group stand on the abyss and spit in deaths eye. Can they achieve the unachievable and save the nation or will the Drenai fade into the pages of history. Step forth Druss and the fabled Earl of Bronze. Destiny awaits.

      Once you pick this book up I guarantee you will never put it down and this is just one of many books surrounding the lives and events of the Drenai and of Druss the legend.

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        26.04.2010 13:36
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        Enjoyable and well know fantasy tale, deserves its reputation.

        Easily Readable with a certain element of "un-put-down-ability"

        A well known and well loved piece of fantasy fiction, that does not challenge or push any boundaries but is entertaining all the same.

        In a sentence the book could be described as - a take on the "Helms Deep" scenario from The Lord of The Rings. Mass hordes of enemy soldiers put our heroes under siege in a mountain fortress that has for years been the stronghold of our heroes in times of trouble.

        To this scene enter Druss a ageing but fabled warrior whos name sends fear running through enemys and courage through the veins of his allies.
        A large part of the storyline hinges on the ability of the aging and weary Druss. Will he be strong enough to last through this most vital campaign of his long lide?

        If you are looking for an inventive and progressive fantasy novel this might not be for you, however for an enjoyable and easy read it may just be unparallelled in the genre.

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        12.01.2009 15:39
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        A seminal piece of fantasy fiction

        A simple title for a simple story: a fading empire, under threat from a torrential horde of invaders, seeks to hold fast behind an indomitable six-walled fortress. Despite the monumental size of the Dros, the beleaguered Drenai face an impossible task against a united, voracious and undefeated Nadir swarm.

        So daunted and dejected are the Drenai troops as they wait for what appears to be impending doom, that the call goes out to find and enlist the help of an aged Drenai warrior. His name is Druss. Druss The Axeman, Druss The Soul-Stealer, Druss The Legend.

        This novel lies close to my heart. I was formally introduced to the world of words by Mr David Gemmell, and in particular his seminal work Legend, when I was barely a teenager, and whilst my tastes have evolved since I will always treasure the effect his work and this book had - and continues to have - on me.

        Shown through the impact he makes on the dispirited Drenai troops, Druss's character is efficacious, and whilst there are numerous other intriguing cast members in this story Legend belongs unsurprisingly to Druss. His dualistic nature, whereby he is confident yet vulnerable, stoic yet fragile, makes him utterly engaging. And in his advancing years he has become both world-weary and accepting, often castigating his own deadly skills and questioning the morality and meaning of his actions.

        Legend is archetypal of Gemmell's novels: impossible odds, anti-heroes (or, at least, reluctant ones), pacifism versus the need for violence. None of it is groundbreaking; you won't find his work on the literary awards lists. But it is in the emotional power of his characters and the raw, breakneck speed at which he writes his stories where Gemmell sets himself apart from his contemporaries. Legend typifies this as much as any of his other works. Indeed, in being David Gemmell's first fantasy novel, published in 1984, Legend sets a thematic blueprint for much of his future career (not to say that Gemmell rested on his laurels. His writing style changed considerably in his later years).

        In its truest sense, Legend is a rip-roaring page-turner, and whilst there are many books that can be described as such, Legend excels because it does not sacrifice characterisation for plot development. Gemmell's greatest talent was to fuse both and come up with something altogether more than the sum of its parts.

        Sadly, David died in July 2006 of a heart attack (he was an avid smoker), robbing the fantasy world of one of its finest exponents. Whilst his writing matured in style, syntax and content over the years, Legend remains as perhaps the definitive, shining testament to his career.

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          09.10.2006 14:10
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          A great fantasy in less than 500 pages

          My good friend and fellow-writer Gildor_Inglorion knows a thing or two about books – and more specifically, about the fantasy genre from which seemingly no major work has escaped him. A little while ago, he gave me a copy of 'Legend' to borrow. Before I had the chance to read it though, it emerged that author David Gemmell had died. His death was a brief topic of conversation for us as I had heard little of the man, but the surprising media coverage surrounding the death of the 57 year-old fantasy author reminded me that I should get around to reading the novel that began his successful but sadly all-too-short career.

          Legend was first published in 1984, and was the first of many books based in the same world (comprising the Drenai Saga), though in spirit it is very much a standalone story. Considering it was Gemmell's first novel, Legend proves an excellent alternative to the longer, more involved fantasy epics of George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire) and Robin Hobb (Farseer), and to me it proved preferable to Stephen Donaldson's much-lauded Lord Foul's Bane (and far more palatable), which seemed disinteresting in comparison.

          After wading through a number of hefty trilogies, Legend proves refreshingly compact at 432 pages. Despite this relative lack of length, Gemmell does a superb job of establishing a strong storyline, vivid setting and, in particular, a host of excellent characters.

          The story revolves around a number of personalities, the majority of whom are destined to meet up with each other in a place known as Dros Delnoch – a mountain fortress/town and the gateway to the Drenai empire. The reason for the convergence on Dros Delnoch involves war with Lord Ulric, the leader of a race from 'beyond the gate' known as the Nadir. The Drenai have legends, courage and six giant defensive walls on their side, but whilst their army totals 10,000 at an optimistic count, the Nadir are thought to number over 500,000.

          The reader is introduced to a host of characters who have entered themselves into this seemingly hopeless situation for a catalogue of reasons. Rek, a young wanderer who rescues (and promptly falls in love with) Virae, unwittingly inherits command at Delnoch – he feels a sense of duty to Virae, and proves a fine, very humane lead who grows in stature as the story progresses, with a nice line in witty quips. Gemmell builds up his characters in simple but brilliant ways; short but eminently readable passages can quickly reveal character traits and weaknesses, as well as creating auras around the most formidable figures. Druss, the 'Legend' himself, is the best and most-successful example of this. It is quickly established that he is known for countless remarkable acts and is, both physically and by reputation, a giant among men. But the now-ageing recluse sets off from his mountain retreat with the sense that he has cheated death for long enough. Though perhaps technically not the central character of the story, he is nevertheless its driving force – his feats in leading the Drenai and holding back the Nadir hordes make for great reading (it regularly feels like you could be witnessing an action-movie sequence on paper), but so too does the examination of his vulnerabilities, and the constant worry that he would be remembered merely as a legend and not as a man.

          It isn't just the main figures who are distinguishable either – you have the side-kicks such as Orrin; a man described as a competent leader in peacetime but out of his depth during war, though Gemmell doesn't simply discard him (something many in his place may have considered), and proves all the better for it; there's the easy-going forest-thief Bowman who has a complexity of character that isn't initially apparent and there is also a group known as 'The Thirty' with their mysterious mind-powers and thought-provoking prophecies. It would have been nice to have had a few more sections from the point of view of the leader of the opposition, Lord Ulric, though the reader is still treated to a solid and ominous foe.

          Legend doesn't waste time dallying with useless details or convoluted descriptions; it moves a long at a lively pace and yet still manages to paint a very rich picture of the central protagonists and the world in which they live. There are passages that detail characters backgrounds, but thankfully the author doesn't get lost in chapter-long rants; they are generally short and yet more often than not, very insightful – helping to build the readers understanding piece by piece. Despite the narrative switching perspectives rapidly, the story remains on track and never strays into filler material.

          As a more traditional, sword and sorcery style of fantasy story it is highly effective and atmospheric. Gemmell allows the reader to witness passages not just from the high-ranking Drenai officers, but also foot-soldiers, civilians and even from the viewpoint of certain Nadir soldiers. The admiration the two opposing forces have for each other is made apparent, revealing that the struggle at Dros Delnoch is nothing as crude as good-versus-evil. Thus Legend comes across as a very complete story.

          Gemmell's writing style seems tailor-made to this kind of story. It doesn't require a map – as his descriptions make things perfectly easy to follow. He also doesn't need a glossary of flowery terms in the back of the book – as they simply aren't required. It is a pleasingly straightforward tale in many respects, strengthened by the authors simple, to-the-point style and excellent moral and character-based examinations.

          Are their any criticisms to be levelled at Legend? Well, perhaps if you're picking at straws it isn't the most original of works. Perhaps that's the wrong word... maybe Legend is a little more 'uniform' in its delivery than most fantasies – only the concept of 'The Thirty' is notably unusual and though the towns and landscapes are dynamically described, they certainly aren't out of the ordinary. There is also the potential to argue that, because you get to see things unfold from so many different viewpoints in a modestly-sized novel, that certain figures aren't developed to their full potential, though I wouldn't personally subscribe to this train of thought as its somewhat unfair.

          It is gritty and features some fairly graphic, violent sequences which given the plotline, is entirely understandable. Despite this, there is a pleasantly optimistic feeling to Legend – despite the subject matter, I rarely felt downcast during the book; there are many trials and tribulations that have to be met, but Gemmell doesn't beat up on his characters to an excessive degree – something Robin Hobb does a lot of in her excellent-but-depressing Farseer trilogy. Instead, a sense of hope is created from unlikely situations and lessons are learnt.

          Legend is a great fantasy novel and the perfect place to start if you are new to the fantasy genre. Exciting, gripping, easy to read and not long-winded, and it can be read either as a standalone novel or as part of Gemmell's extensive Drenai Saga – I strongly recommend it either way, though if you enjoy Legend half as much as I did, you won't want to stop after this!

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            04.09.2005 12:16
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            An excellent and enjoyable introduction to Gemmell and the Fantasy Genre

            I've never been much of a fan of Fantasy fiction. I've tried to get into it a few times but with the exception of Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, it's just never seemed like my kind of read. That was until recently while browsing my local bookshop I decided to pick a book at random by an author I'd never read before. So without any knowledge for his reputation or other work I picked up this, the first book by David Gemmell. The book itself proclaimed him as the best writer of fantasy fiction and this made me think perhaps I'd made the right choice.

            The book is the first in his Drenai series and takes us to the mountain fort of Dros Delnoch where an attack from the Nadir Hordes. With a force outnumbering the Drenai by almost 60 to 1 the Nadir obviously had the advantage. The Drenai, however were not going to give up without a fight and with 6 Walls between the town and the battle field they at least had a slim chance. To raise spirits around the camp and give the men hope they call in a Drenai legend by the name of Druss. Famous for winning battles against the odds even he thinks there is no hope but is willing to fight anyway. Can they save the Drenai Empire or do the Nadir have simply too many men…..

            The first few chapters seemed to pass me by but soon enough it drew me in and all of a sudden I was hooked. It's not often that I get lost in a book but I certainly did in this one. It holds the interest nicely and keeps you turning the pages, which I think is always a bonus with a book. His style seems to draw you in and makes you want to find out what's going to happen. The books focus on the battle at Dros makes it quite fast paced.

            When the front of the book proclaimed him to be the best Fantasy writer I have to say I had my doubts but the more I read the more I felt this was a relatively true statement. One of the aspects I really liked about his writing style was the way he introduced us to the history of his characters. I was expecting 100 + pages of build up about the history of the Drenai before the main story really got started. Instead he gradually filled in the gaps as the story progressed.

            I thought this was a great way to tell the story and not get bogged down in too much detail that could have dragged the book out. If I was to pick a weakness with his writing then I'd have to say it's within one of his main characters. While Druss is the inspiration that keeps the story moving along the art played by Rek is in complete contrast. One of his main characters commands instant respect and really seems like a lead character in the story, while Rek takes a lot of time to warm to, in fact he doesn't really come into his own till the second half of the book.

            I found in the first half of the book that Rek's character, although being portrayed as the antihero, seemed to be a little wishy-washy in the first half. Once he was in the face of the battle a new side to Rek seemed to come through and that vastly improved my enjoyment and overall readability of the story. The rest of his characters are quite strong characters and really make the story a lot more enjoyable, apart from the slight blip with Rek each character in the story adds something and makes Gemmell's style all the more readable.

            This was my first taste of Gemmell's work and I think suffice to say it won't be my last. Despite it being a genre I've previously struggled with his book seems to have given me that way in. I've already seen my way to purchasing the next book in the series and would certainly recommend Gemmell to anyone looking to start reading the fantasy genre. Although I currently have no basis for comparison I've found Gemmell quite easy to get into and his style flows nicely. He is certainly an author who opens the genre up to a number of new and perhaps unlikely readers and I'd certainly recommend this book as enjoyable, easy reading.

            Amazon.co.uk: £5.59
            Amazon Market Place: £1.25

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              21.08.2001 22:47
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              This is the first book written by David Gemmell, the first Drenai novel, and also the first of his books I’ve read. I can’t, therefore, compare this to his other work as yet. However, it also means I’m not going to be overwhelmed with his popularity and reputation as “the finest living writer of heroic fantasy” (as the front cover proclaims), so fans – don’t get annoyed if I’m not all gushy and hailing this as the best book ever, okay?! Thanks. That said, this IS a good story, and an impressive debut from a man who has gone on to fame and fortune. I would say this book is almost basic – by that I mean there’s no sweepingly epic plot or complex system of magic or other fantasy staple. It’s quite refreshingly simple, actually, and nicely down to earth for a fantasy novel. Legend is the tale of just one main event: a battle for the fortress of Dros Delnoch. Gemmell doesn’t waste time here explaining in depth the two opposing cultures – Drenai and Nadir – who are at war. Instead, he brings together his characters for the battle preparations, and lets the history and culture seep through where it will while he gets on with telling his story. Something I very much appreciated was the lack of a big, bad, utterly ‘evil’ force for the good guys to fight – it’s such a clichéd set up these days. Here, we find that although there is a ‘them and us’ feel, neither side is intrinsically evil. As my earlier quote from the front cover of my copy of the book said, this is classed as “heroic fantasy”. However, it could be argued that this story is almost more concerned with anti-heroism. Let me explain: In many fantasy tales, the great and mighty hero strides about – well, heroically – and is the image of perfection in looks and deeds. This is not the case in Legend. The two contenders for the title ‘hero’
              ; are Rek and Druss. Druss, the ‘Legend’ of the title, is sixty and arthritic. Throughout the story we are treated to glimpses of his own version – i.e. the truth – of his legendary achievements, as well as seeing his struggle to live up to the image of being a Legend rather than simply a man. This, in effect, is what makes him a real hero. It also lifts this book a little beyond those with a more rose-tinted view of heroism. Rek, on the other hand, was a slightly disappointing character in my opinion. He is an anti-hero: a self-confessed coward who, despite his skill as a fighter and strategist, would far prefer to run away from danger. However, I found his transformation a little too slick, and a minor let down in an otherwise good and fairly credible story. At the beginning of the book, we are shown Rek’s fear of the dark; later there is a mention of him being locked up as a child, and references to the lasting psychological problems this has caused. As the story progresses, however, these elements are more or less dropped, and Rek becomes a somewhat two-dimensional plot facilitator (ooh – the big, pretentious words I can come out with at times! lol). Happily, though, once Gemmell has finished transforming the character, Rek becomes more three-dimensional and interesting. Aside from that minor blip, this is an otherwise well-crafted and very readable book. Gemmell’s writing style is strong even in his first novel, and his use of reasonably short chapters makes the story melt away almost before you notice. I’m always sceptical of authors hailed as ‘the greatest’, but after this I can see it might not be completely inaccurate. There are to date nine novels in the Drenai series, plus other books by David Gemmell, and I’ll definitely be reading more of them.

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                04.05.2001 18:39
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                The first novel by David Gemmell, and it is a classic piece of heroic fantasy fiction. The story revolves around a warrior, called Druss, who has achieved such status amongst his people, the Drenai, that he is simply known as The Legend. When the Nadir horde invade his homeland, he journeys to fight against them at the fabled fortress of Dros Delnoch, carrying with him his butterly shaped bladed axe. The fortress is has a central keep, encircled by seven massive walls, and the defenders hold each as long as possible before having to fall back to the next. At the midst of the battle is Druss, wielding his mighty axe, hewing down Nadir warriors by the score. Although this is the first of the Drenai novels that David Gemmell has written, this and each subsequent book can be read on their own without having read any of the others. Gemmell has also written two further novels about Druss, one of which deals with Druss's history and the reason he became known as Druss the Legend. (The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend) David Gemmells writing style is short, sharp and to the point. While his characters are well described and easy to identify with, you are not laden down with un-necessary detail. Once you start reading you will find it very difficult to put down, until you've read the very last words. All in all a great book by the King of British Fantasy writers, and it serves as an excellent introduction for those readers that are new to the realm of fantasy fiction.

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                  12.12.2000 19:08
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                  Legend - David Gemmell David Gemmell has written well over 20 Fantasy books now. He is a master story teller. Legend was his first published novel. It is a fantastic read, un-put-downable. I am proud to be able to recommend this book to any reader. The book is based in a mystical world. The Drenai race are held under siege in their mighty stronghold, the legendary castle Dros Delnoch. A fort made with 11 outer walls... Outside sit 30,000 Nadir tribesmen, who have swept the land killing everything in their path. One Man, the might Warrior "Druss" had chosen to end his days, hidden in a mountain hideaway, but gets the call for help from the castle. He knows he must go, he knows he has little chance of survival. But their hopes rest with him. This book will make you laugh, make you smile, and make you cry. As the 11 walls start to fall, you will be sat on the edge of your seat (unless your in the bath...) His research into battles and war strategy is second to none. The detail is stunning, which makes the whole thing very realistic. Don't let this put you off, but the battle scenes are simply gripping. One final thing. If you are thinking of reading any David Gemmell books - read this one first.

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                    18.09.2000 06:44
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                    Legend, as David Gemmell's debut fantasy novel, is an admirable work, but not the first book I'd reccommend to those new to the author. That honour would have to go to The Lion of Macedon, which is a better-constructed, more mature work than Legend. But this is not to say Legend is a bad work by any means. The jump-off work into the world of the Drenai, its successor, The King Beyond The Gate, is an improvement, and the third Waylander (although set in a time pre-dating legend and TKBTG) is - for me - the breakthrough novel which sets David Gemmell up in the highest constellation of fantasy writers that contains only Tolkein and the Feist/Wurts collaborations. From that point on, the appearance of every new Gemmell became a no-questions-asked "just buy it" occasion. Legend itself is a classic small-force-versus-big-force saga (think Thermopylae and you're halfway there). The hero of the piece, the aging axeman Druss, is an excellent character and one that Gemmell has expanded upon in other works. There's a bit too much magic by the end, and the Nadir's failure to take the final victory is a bit rabbit-out-the-hat-like, but little about the book really jars credibility, given the world it is set in. All in all, a good place to start out on a brilliant author. And, just think, if you choose this as your first Gemmell, and enjoy it, you will have the joy of knowing that the subsequent books get even better.

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                      04.07.2000 23:16

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                      I have read every David Gemmell book that has come out. This was his first outing as an author of heroic fantasy but from the begining he writes like a pro. This is the book of the defence of Dros Delnoch a mighty fortress many walls blocking the main entrance to Drenai terretory. This story is so full of heroism and wonder that it moves me every time I read it (about 12 times so far). Druss the Legend is and old warrior waiting to die in the mountains. After a letter begging his aid arrives he travels to the Dros to help with the defence, their he finds a bedragled and demoralised army about to be faced with the biggest and most dangerous force of all time the Nadir Hordes. Druss wips the men in to shape in a way that is clear class and the lines and images are classic such as "When you see death spit in his eye for me laddie" make this book one of Gemmels best. If you buy this book and enjoy it try some of Gemmels others such as Druss the Legend and The Eyes of Alchzabar.

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                      01.07.2000 20:17
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                      Legend is one of Gemmell's earlier books. Yes, it uses the good old retired hero idea that he so loves, and sees Druss (the Legend, to give him his full title) journey from his mountain home to help a castle under seige. Of course the presence of such an inspirational figure lifts the morale of the troops, and Druss beats up some bad guys. Okay, that's an oversimplification, but that's the general gist of it. It's actually a good book, and you can't help but be caught up in the excitement of the troops when Druss arrives to help them - even though you haven't a clue you Druss is. That's really Gemmell's gift - he can paint a picture of a heroic character extremely well, and it really shows in this book. It's also quite long, although I haven't a clue how (it just seems to disappear as you read it, and you're finished in next to no time), so it's quite good value for money too. If you want a good heroic fantasy romp, buy Legend and you won't be disappointed.

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                  • Product Details

                    First volume in the 'Denai' series.