Donovan's Reviews > Legend

Legend by David Gemmell
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Mar 10, 12

bookshelves: fantasy
Read in December, 2004

Having loved Robert E. Howard's Conan books and movies, it wasn't surprising that I would enjoy David Gemmell's character Druss and his adventures throughout the Drenai series. For me it is all about Druss - everything else is just extra detail about the universe this character lives in. What an awesome and fun character. If you enjoy tales of barbarians, far off exotic lands, friends, betrayals and fight upon fight upon fight being small and epic then you'll love this series.
It includes...
Legend
The King Beyond the Gate
Waylander
Quest for Lost Heroes
Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf
The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend
The Legend of Deathwalker
Winter Warriors
Hero in the Shadows
White Wolf
The Swords of Night and Day


Plot ***Spoilers***
Legend
The Drenai Empire is under threat. The tribal Nadir people have been united for the first time by the great warleader Ulric, who has forged a massive empire in the North. The Drenai leader Abalayn is trying to negotiate new treaties with Ulric, but war is brewing and a 500,000 strong Nadir army marches on the fortress of Dros Delnoch, gateway to the Drenai heartlands. Dros Delnoch is the greatest fortress in the world, a narrow pass guarded by six high walls and a great keep, but under Abalayn its complement of defenders has been reduced to less than 10,000 men under the leadership of an unfit General.

The fate of the Drenai hinges on the defence of Dros Delnoch. If the fortress can hold the Nadir horde for three months, the Drenai general Magnus Woundweaver might be able to gather and train a Drenai army. However, given the odds, no-one truly believes that Delnoch can be held.

The novel follows the stories of two men who find their destiny at Dros Delnoch. Regnak (Rek for short) an ex-army officer and natural 'baresark', seeing a war brewing, resigned his commission because he lacked the courage to risk his life and took to a life of wandering. Rek is an idealist and eventually he returns to Delnoch at the persuasion of the woman he falls in love with and finds his destiny as the Earl of Bronze. The other man is the greatest hero of the Drenai people - Druss the Legend. His death was foretold defending Delnoch and while given the choice to avoid it and fall into senility Druss marched to the great fortress to defend his people one last time. In this story Druss is greatly aged and much weaker than his prime but still a formidable warrior and an inspirational leader to the Drenai. The story also flicks into the perspective of several defenders during different stages of the siege as time goes on. It also follows The Thirty, a group of 30 warrior priests of the light whose purpose is to fight and die (except for one priest that leaves to continue the order at the end of each great battle) for the greater good and their people, the Drenai.


The King Beyond the Gate
The King Beyond the Gate takes place a century after Legend takes place. The Drenai are under the rule of Ceska, a usurper of the throne who over time has become a mad emperor. Ceska rules with an iron fist, with the Joinings and the Dark Templars as his tools of terror. The Joinings are horrifying werebeasts, made by merging man and animal, and the Dark Templars are priests of darkness, with power beyond compare. Thus it falls to one man to overthrow the tyrant--- Tenaka Khan.


Waylander
The Drenai King is dead - murdered by a ruthless assassin. Enemy troops swarm into Drenai lands. Their orders are simple - kill every man, woman and child. But there is hope.

Stalked by men who act like beasts and beasts that walk like men, the warrior Waylander must journey into the shadow-haunted lands of the Nadir to find the legendary Armour of Bronze. With this he can turn the tide. But can he be trusted? For he is Waylander the Slayer. He is the traitor who killed the King.

For the last twenty years the farmer, Dakeyras, who tragically lost his wife and children has been travelling the world as the assassin Waylander the Slayer. Consumed by anger and guilt, on his journey for revenge against his families murderers, he has become a soulless killer who will kill anyone for money. However, his assassination of the Drenai king and the events that follow help Waylander to reclaim his humanity and makes him the perfect anti-hero.

The book starts with the main character Waylander (Dakeyras) saving the Source priest Dardalion from torture and certain death inflicted by a band of 5 thieves. After rescuing the young priest he travels with him, though Waylander is used to traveling alone - as he has done for the past 20 years.

Soon Waylander is being accompanied by a good-looking young woman Danyal, as well as three small children. He subsequently embarks on a journey to bring back the Armor of Bronze, a symbol, and a rallying point for the Drenai.


Quest for Lost Heroes
The Drenai fortress of Dros Delnoch has fallen and blood hungry Nadir hordes sweep across the land, bringing desolation and despair. But, with the Nadir triumphant, slavers seize a young girl in the tiny realm of Gothir and a peasant boy sets off on a quest that will shake the world. To rescue her, Kiall must cross the savage steppes and journey through the Halls of Hell, facing ferocious beasts, deadly warriors and demons of the dark. But the boy is not alone. With him are the legendary heroes of Bel-Azar: Chareos the Blademaster, Beltzer the Axeman and the bowmen Finn and Maggrig. And one among them hides a secret that could free the world of Nadir domination. For he is the Nadir Bane, the hope of the Drenai. He is the Earl of Bronze.


Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf
High in the wooded, peaked mountains of Skeln, the woodsman Dakeyras, and his beautiful daughter Miriel live a life of harmonious solitude, while her twin sister, Krylla, has married and moved away. A group of grim-eyed members of the assasins guild stalk Waylander, for a bounty of ten thousand in gold put on his head by Karnak after Karnak's son Bodalen and his friends caused the death of his daughter Krylla and murdered her husband. Warriors like Belash of the Nadir, from the Wolfshead tribe, Morak the deadly swordsman with a taste for torture and Senta the young, good looking Gladiator who has never been beaten.

Battle-hardened warriors all, they have no fear of this task - yet they should have. For Miriel is a woman of fire and iron, skilled with bow and blade and taught her skills by one of the deadliest killers of all time: Her father, Dakeyras, better known as Waylander the Slayer.


The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend
The story begins in Druss's village in the Drenai Empire. He is a misfit and socially awkward but finds solace in the love of his wife Rowena. While he is away from the village chopping wood, a party of slavers, led by Harib Ka and the master swordsman Collan, comes to the village and kills or enslaves everyone they find. With his dying breath, Druss' father tells him to fetch the family battle-axe (Snaga), which was stolen by his grandfather Bardan. Druss meets the hunter Shadak, who is hunting the slavers to avenge the death of his son, and they join forces to pursue them. Shadak succeeds in interrogating Harib Ka before Druss kills him, and learns that Rowena (who Harib Ka has realised has mystic powers) has been taken to the port of Mashrapur. Druss travels to Mashrapur and meets Shadak's friend Sieben. Together they find out that Rowena will be transported to the distant land of Ventria. Druss attempts to break onto the ship to rescue her, but is ambushed by Collan's men on the dock. Druss is badly wounded but survives, and Shadak reappears to kill Collan. However, they fail to stop the ship from setting sail without them.

When Druss recovers, he and Sieben (who is fleeing a jealous lover's husband) join a group of mercenaries recruited by the Ventrian soldier Bodasen, who is going to support the emperor Gorben in a war in Ventria against the neighbouring Naashanites and rebels. En route, they are attacked by pirates; and during this fight Sieben sees a demon materialise to defend Druss and comes to the conclusion that Druss is possessed. The soldiers arrive in Ventria and succeed in rescuing Gorben from a siege. Gorben is impressed with Druss and promotes him to serve in his elite bodyguard- "The Immortals". Sieben learns from a priest that Snaga is harbouring an evil spirit, but fails to persuade Druss to abandon the weapon. Meanwhile, Rowena has married Michanek, the leading general of the Naashanites. He is an honourable man and becomes concerned when she falls ill. He is told that she is suffering as a result of her mystical powers, and has these removed, along with her memory, in order to save her life.

During a break in the war, Druss goes travelling and loses Snaga in a river. Initially thinking he is free of it, he learns from the a wandering Source priest that it has been found by a brutal warlord, Cajivak. He and the mercenary Varsava set out to recover the axe and kill Cajivak, but Druss is captured and imprisoned in Cajivak's dungeon. At first he wastes away, but with the help of a former prisoner succeeds in regaining his strength and escaping, only to find that Sieben, Varsava and the archer Eskodas have mounted a rescue attempt. Druss kills Cajivak and recovers Snaga, then returns to the army.

By this point in the war the Naashanites are desperate and attempt to use a demon to assassinate Gorben, but he is saved by Druss thanks to Snaga- the only weapon that seems to hurt the demon. Druss also learns that Rowena has married Michanek and that her memory has been erased. He vows to kill Michanek and reclaim Rowena as his own as the army moves to besiege the last Naashanite stronghold, where Michanek has his home. Michanek has learned of Rowena's past and attempts to reconcile her to the idea of going back to Druss, but she will not have it. During the siege, Michanek is killed and Rowena takes poison since she cannot face life alone. Druss is forced to venture into the netherworld to bring her back. Druss eventually succeeds in finding Rowena, and despite a trick of Snaga's, rescues her. In the process he banishes the demon from the axe. Then he and his companions return to Drenai.

The epilogue deals with the events of Skeln Pass, a famous battle late in Druss's career (by this time he is presumed to be in his mid-forties). Gorben has gone mad and invades Drenai, and Druss and Sieben go to Skeln Pass to meet the troops and raise morale. The Ventrians launch a surprise attack, catching the Drenai unprepared, and Druss and Sieben are caught up in the fighting. Under the leadership of Earl Delnar, and with Druss's inspirational presence, the Drenai manage to hold up the Ventrian advance. In a night raid, Druss accidentally kills his old friend Bodasen. The next day, a furious Gorben, commits the Immortals, who have never been defeated, to battle. In the fierce fighting the ensues, Sieben is mortally wounded, but Druss and the Drenai manage to hold the Immortals long enough for reinforcements to arrive and win the war. In the rout, Gorben is killed by his own officers.

During the battle, Rowena, who has stayed at home with Sieben's wife Niobe, dies. She tells Niobe that she knew she was dying but sent Druss to Skeln Pass so that he would not have to witness it, as it would break his heart.


The Legend of Deathwalker
The novel begins during the events in the book Legend, During the defense of the fortress Dros Delnoch from the Nadir, Druss begins to tell a young warrior a story from his past. He tells how he and his friend Sieben travelled to the land of the Gothir and how he became involved in the political affairs there. Due to a prophecy that the King made Druss must lose a tournament, when he refuses to do this men are hired to kill him. In the course of the attempt on his life his friend Klay is shot in the spine with a crossbow leaving him paralyzed and mortally wounded.

To help him Druss travels to the land of the Nadir where a mystic has told him there are gems that can heal any wound. As he travels to the shrine of Nadir hero Oshikai, the Gothir send a force of 2,000 men to destroy it. Druss arrives at the shrine hoping to find the jewels but is unable to before the Gothir arrive and so helps 4 Nadir tribes to defend the shrine under the guidance of a Gothir trained Nadir soldier called Talisman. Talisman is on a quest to find "The Uniter", a man with blazing violet eyes called Ulric, who will unite the Nadir tribes after centuries of warfare.

During the defense of the shrine the spirit of Oshikai's wife Shul-sen is released from captivity with the help of Druss and Talisman, the spirit unleashes a storm on the Gothir army and those that are not killed are ordered to withdraw.

Druss' friend Sieben reveals that he has found the jewels which the Nadir call "The Eyes of Alchazzar", he takes them back to Gothir where they find that Klay had died a few days after they left. However they heal many of the sick in the hospice before returning the jewels to the nadir. Talisman then calls a meeting of the Nadir tribes in which he smashes the jewels to return the magic and life of the Nadir land, in doing this the energy flows through him turning his eyes a blazing purple, he then claims his name as Ulric.

The book then comes back to the present day where we learn that Druss has fallen in combat in the defense of Dros Delnoch. Ulric/Talisman is saddened to learn of this, even though they were on opposing sides he considered Druss a great warrior.


Winter Warriors
Winged demons gather, silent and unseen, above the city of Usa, their talons long and sharp. Their purpose is clear, as is the prophesy: Upon the deaths of the three kings, the demon riders of the Krayakin will become flesh, free to slake their thirst with human blood - and the stench of evil will cover the land.

Two of the kings are already dead. For the prophesy to be fulfilled, spreading carnage across the world, the Demon Lord must sacrifice the third king: Queen Axiana's unborn child.

When Emperor Skanda disbands his army, the pregnant queen takes flight, pursued by the Lords of the Undead. All hope lies with three ancient heroes, though discarded by the emperor, they are still Drenai soldiers: Bison the giant, Kebra the bowman, and the great swordsman Nogusta - the Demon Lord's greatest foe. But will these warriors - once the best in the land - be enough to stem the tide of gruesome horror that threatens to envelop the world?


Hero in the Shadows
Waylander, the assassin anti-hero of Waylander and Waylander II, is now a rich old man looking for a world that will give him peace and atonement for his crimes. However, his relatively quiet peace is broken by the appearance of old demons from the past, and enemies from the present. Faced with enemies he cannot easily fight, even a magical sorcerer working for an unknown cause, he is forced to take up his crossbow and sabre to once again become Waylander. Aided by an idealistic warrior, a braggart with a stolen sword, a girl with a special talent, and a mysterious priestess and her followers, he seeks to close the chapter of his life by destroying the evil he has created by his own hand.


White Wolf
Skilgannon the Damned had vanished from the pages of history. No-one knew where he had gone, following the terrible triumph at Perapolis, and the assasins sent by the Witch Queen could find no trace of his passing. Three years later, a murderous mob gathers outside a monastery, faced by a single, unarmed priest. In a few terrifying seconds their world is changed for ever, and word spreads across the lands of the East -- Skilgannon is back.

Now he must travel across a perilous, demon-haunted realm seeking a mysterious temple and the ageless goddess who rules it. With assassins on his trail and an army of murderous foes ahead, the Damned sets off on a quest to bring the dead to life. But he does not travel alone. The man beside him is Druss the Legend.

In this tale of love, betrayal and treachery, in a world torn by war, White Wolf examines the nature of heroism and friendship and the narrow lines dividing good and evil.


The Swords of Night and Day
The book is set 1000 years following the death of Olek Skilgannon.

The novel is an exploration of the future of the Drenai world, focussing heavily on Jiamads (joinings of beast and men honed to fighting perfection). The story also contains a satisfactory ending to Skilganon's original life, including not only his first demise, but that of Jianna, the Witch Queen with whom he was deeply in love.

Both swords are mirror polished and extremely sharp, both having been enchanted by the Old Woman. The Sword of Day is golden in colour while the Sword of Night is silver. Intended as inferior copies of the legendary Swords of Blood and Fire, they had become infamous in the hands of Skilgannon.

The swords are frequently mentioned throughout the books as curved blades, and on the two UK hardback covers, are depicted as katanas. However, the swords are also described as being scabbarded in a single, curved sheath roughly five feet in length. This would suggest shorter weapons, such as short sabres or maybe as they are being depicted as katana they could be kodachi.

The swords, as with all weapons made by the Old Woman, are possessed to a degree, in a similar manner to Snaga, the axe of Druss the Legend. However, rather than a tangible demon, the swords simply drive the wielder to blood lust.

The Swords of Blood and Fire are wielded by Decado in this novel.
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