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(The Drenai Saga #1)

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  29,330 ratings  ·  1,447 reviews
He is DRUSS the Legend. His skill in battle has earned him a fearsome reputation throughout the world and the stories of his life are told everywhere. But the grizzled veteran has spurned a life of fame and fortune and has retreated to the solitude of his mountain lair to await his old enemy, Death.

Meanwhile, barbarian hordes of the Nadir are on the march, conquering all b
Mass Market Paperback, 345 pages
Published 1994 by Ballantine Books (first published April 1st 1984)
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Pete Kim you need to read them in order. it is more rewarding that way and gives a truly interesting perspective. the author meant it to be that way. and yes, …moreyou need to read them in order. it is more rewarding that way and gives a truly interesting perspective. the author meant it to be that way. and yes, you can read only legend and be done with it as a stand alone novel. if i may, every single book is almost the same book. sounds terrible? well guess what, me and gazillions of other readers all thought that same song and dance was so good, we read all his novels :)(less)
Grog Wilsnatch The series ended properly, all of David Gemmell's books finished and closed the holes, I wish that he had lived longer and written more books but that…moreThe series ended properly, all of David Gemmell's books finished and closed the holes, I wish that he had lived longer and written more books but that is selfish of me. All of his books I rate 5/5 and reread them periodically (less)

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Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I never read any David Gemmell until I was already published. And even then, he first came to my attention after someone e-mailed me, saying something along the lines of, "I'm glad someone like you is here to carry on Gemmell's tradition now that he's dead..."

After I got a few more e-mails along a similar line, I went out and bought Legend, read it, and was terribly flattered by the comparison.

Since then, I've actually won the Gemmell award. Which is flattering in its own right. Plus awesome,
Ahmad Sharabiani
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
A Legend Book = Legend (The Drenai Saga #1), David Gemmell

Legend, published in 1984, is the first and most famous novel of British fantasy writer David Gemmell. It established him as a major fantasy novelist and created the character of Druss, who would appear in several subsequent books. It was also the first novel in The Drenai saga.

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 th
Sep 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The quality of a book is generally judged by the words in it, in addition to the story. It's not just what you say, how you say it also matters.

If not a complete counter example, Legend is a book where the rule loses its effect. Legend is certainly not the best written book ever, but it is most definitely one of the best books ever written.

David Gemmell never finished school, since he was expelled at the age of sixteen, and the unrefined writing is apparent throughout the book. He struggled
Oct 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, own
Originally reviewed at Bookwraiths .

David Gemmell might not have invented action adventure fantasy, but he refined it, polished it up, and presented his updated version (Against the Horde/Legend) in 1984 to a reading audience who loved every minute of it. Luckily, I was one of those readers back in the 1980s; this book instantly becoming one of my favorite fantasy stories for years to come. But when I re-read it a few weeks ago, I have to admit being concerned it would not live up to my memories
Mark Lawrence
Mar 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I've read a lot of Gemmell books and reviewed rather few of them, which is a sorry state of affairs for someone who won the Gemmell Legend Award twice!

The fact is that I read most of them a LONG time ago, and although I can remember loving them, I can't remember enough of what went on between the covers to write a worthwhile review.

However - since today is the 15th anniversary of David Gemmell's untimely death when he was only 2 years older than I am now, I will at least say that Legend was the
Mayim de Vries
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
There is something unambiguously alluring about last stands; those situations in which a body of troops holds a defensive position in the face of overwhelming odds and against all hope for victory. We all know the battle of Thermopile 480 BC when a Greek force of approximately 7,000 men for seven days (including three of battle) held off the Persian army, alleged by the ancient sources to have numbered over one million. Less known, but not less impressive, is the Battle of Hodów between the King ...more
Jul 03, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021, fantasy
As an avid fantasy reader, I try to "broaden" my horizons and read old-school fantasy (which is pre-90s for me). Sure, I rarely end up loving it but it gives me an insight into this genre and allows me to see their influences on my favorite fantasy authors and books. This book is largely accredited as a major influence on the grimdark genre and many authors claim to be influenced by Gemmel. It's also on the 1001 list books to read before you die (after reading this book, I seriously think they n ...more
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
*** 4.44 ***

A buddy read with the Fantasy Buddy Reads Group, because we love the Epics!!!

And even though it barely reached 350 pages, this gem is a true Epic! It was written in the 80's and has some of the marks of its time, which coming from me is a complement, of course, being a product of the generation which came to age at that time. I find it interesting, that the books I love most, are always somehow connected with war. The authors do a great job painting the fear, loss, and horror with th
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, reviewed, 1980s
I read this book years ago and I consider it a testament to how good of a book it is that I remember it all quite clearly. In many ways it is not a great fantasy novel, and in fact I remember that around the half way point I nearly quit it because I found it a bit too formulaic.

I'm so glad I didn't. The last third of this book is some of the best fantasy has to offer. The last third of this book is honestly so good it raises what should have been a 2 star novel to a 4 star one. Had the entire b
Sep 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The Drenai Empire (good guys) is threatened by barbarian horde from Nadir (not-so-good guys) where a leader emerged who managed to unite almost all the tribes and wants to conquer his neighbors. The neighbors are not prepared: they have small army and not enough competent commanders. The first fortress which happened to be in the way of barbarian contest is Dros Delnoch; if I understood correctly this is the only fortress capable of delaying the conquest of the Empire. If it falls, the rest will ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody
Recommended to Orient by: Emelia
An awesome BR with Lovely Pinky and my fellow Catman, two faithful Cat-holics.

“Get rid of your doubts. Yesterday is dead. Past mistakes are like smoke in the breeze. What counts is tomorrow..”

I love epic fantasy <3 Fantasy books rarely let me down and “The Legend” sure didn’t. Opening such a book I look for a promise from the author, I want to dive into the rich, picturesque world, intriguing narrative, and of course gripping characters with true to life personalities (and of course with nam
Jun 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, gemmell
This was a masterclass in pulpy, old-school fantasy with all that entails both good and bad. The characters were fairly 1 dimensional, the world-building wasn't particularly unique or inventive and the plot was fairly straight-forward. For most books these would be criticisms and yet for this one it's almost praise: Gemmell seems entirely happy with this formula and he executes it very well. The skillful execution of these reliable tropes combined with the addition of some other nice features ma ...more
Sep 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
The Nadir army heads for Dros Delnoch, a keep guarding a mountain pass. Druss the Legend comes out of retirement for one last battle. But even with Rek the baresark and the earl of Delnoch's daughter help Druss and eleven thousand men stand up against an advancing army many times their size?

I'll be honest with you. My brother pushed this on me almost a year ago and I wasn't in a hurry to read it. I've read a few David Gemmell books before and it takes a special book to get me to read Tolkien-esq
Dec 30, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, 2021-shelf
I can't believe I've spent THIS much of my life not reading David Gemmell.

Or perhaps, I can, since I didn't start reading epic fantasy until WoT and even then didn't really get into any OTHER practitioners of this dirty arcane art until a decade later, and by then, Gemmell's work was already two decades old.

So why is this particular work important?

Because it reads just like ALL the modern epic fantasy titles that rely on low or no magic to propel their tales. Okay. Let's reverse that line and
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
“ ‘Druss the Legend. Mightiest man of his era. A killing machine, a warrior. And why? Because I never had the courage to be a farmer’, Druss told himself.

‘When I die’, he thought, ‘everyone will mourn for Druss the Legend.
But who will mourn for me?’ ”

Now compare the above quotes with this famous line from the movie Notting Hill:

“The fame thing isn’t really real, you know. I’m also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

Two very different kinds of story somehow conveyin
Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
The five star rating is of course a matter of taste.

David Gemmell is (was) one of the most gifted writers of this type of fantasy ever. It's hard to compare him to anyone else as he's sort of in a class by himself. Some compare him to Glenn Cook (whom I also like) but there are only "some" similarities. I suppose if I must come up with a "tag" I'd call Gemmell's work "heroic fantasy", sometimes "dark". While it would be incorrect to say his heroes "always" die, it is true to say that if the stor
Anthony Ryan
Nov 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The book that really put David Gemmell on the map as an exceptional exponent of heroic fantasy. Gemmell's ability to take archetypes and depict them as real people was always one of his greatest strengths, and he succeeds admirably here. Legendary axe-wielding warrior Druss marshals a mis-matched group of Drenai to defend the mighty fortress of Dros Delnoch from the Nadir horde. All the classic Gemmell ingredients are present; gritty action, breathless pace and a depth of characterisation that h ...more
"I shall die soon ... Here at this Dros. And what will I have achieved in my life? I have no sons nor daughters. No living kin... Few friends. They will say, 'Here lies Druss. He killed many and birthed none'."
"They will say more than that," said Virae suddenly. "They'll say, 'Here lies Druss the Legend, who was never mean, petty nor needlessly cruel. Here was a man who never gave in, never compromised his ideals, never betrayed a friend, never despoiled a woman and never used his strength again
In a word, awesome! Druss is now one of my favourite characters. This was my first Gemmell and I really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.

The multiple point of view was well done and kept things interesting. I liked all of the main characters and enjoyed watching them grow as the book progressed. Gemmell doesn't pull his punches and it was brutal at times which is something I always appreciate. I was hooked from the beginning and my interest didn't falter.

A most enj
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
A friend here on GR asked me about short opinion of this book and if I can write something. So Agos, I hope you find this at least bit helpful.

It was in my early days on Goodreads I read this but my memory is still surprisingly fresh partially because in those days my number of reads per year was barely dozen or so rather than 3-digit numbers I am now managing each year.

Despite being written in 80's this is not Tolkien-esque fantasy but more inspired by, as name says it, legends and myths. This
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is more to life than merely waiting for death. For life to have meaning there must be a purpose.

But what is the purpose is to die by merely prolonging the inevitable? What if you know you cannot hold? Will you still fight on?

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
Deborah Obida
'Liberty is only valued when it is threatened, therefore it is the threat that highlights the value.

This book exceeded my expectations, I've had this on my tbr for years and never got around to reading it till now. Legend is a classic fantasy with a dash of modernism. There are lots of battle scenes, friendship, diversity and romance. The romance is what surprised me most, I did not see that coming, it was a soul mate kind of love. The depictions of the battle scenes were awesome.

Is my sc
Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it
An unfathomably numerous Nadir army heads to the mighty stronghold of Dros Delnoch to either accept surrender or slaughter their defenders. The old legendary warrior Druss known by many names such as Captain of the Ax, the Axman, Deathwalker, and the Silver Slayer comes to Delnoch in search of a worthy fighting death. When he arrives he realizes he can't just fight because the warriors of Dros Delnoch need him to lead.

Much of the tale of Legend seems to revolve around dying well. There are a lot
Clemens Schoonderwoert
This marvellous debut heroic fantasy, the book is from 1984 but it still reads as fresh now as then, is the 1st volume of the "Drenai Saga" series, from the author, the late David Gemmell.

Storytelling is of a superb quality, the story is wonderfully structured and executed as a whole, and all the characters come tremendously to life within this very exciting heroic adventure.

The characters featuring in this gripping heroic fantasy can be related to Romans, Celts, Mongols, Vikings, and some other
Jun 09, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Nutshell: military dilemma comes to improbable resolution through the intervention of a surly codger who kicks half million kids off lawn.

We know we might be in trouble on the first page with the “slanted eyes” of the foe (1). Trouble is confirmed by “the face was flat and cruel, the eyes dark and slanted” (2). Leader of the enemy is identified as “the Khan” (222).

This enemy is reportedly “half a million tribesmen” (20), and has “more than twice that in camp followers, cooks, engineers, and whor
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The Fantasy Guild book of the month!

“We are not made for life at all, old horse. It is made for us. We live it. We leave it.”

I read this as book of the month with The Fantasy Guild! Honestly, I heard a lot about Gemmell but I don’t think it is the kind of books that I would usually pick up on my own. I thought it would be a different kind of experience and I ended up enjoying it more that expected!

This book was published in 1984
Jul 10, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, read-in-2012
Where do I even begin? I just don't get it. I don't get the praise for this book, I don't get the four and five star ratings... I just don't get it.

It's just so stuffed with awful, it's overflowing. It's lucky to be getting two stars from me.. If not for a few (very few) redeeming sections that I actually enjoyed, it wouldn't even pull that. But I mean honestly. Really? Really really?

I don't even know where to start. I mean Rek.. He was just so inconsistent. He's described one way when we meet h
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This was a pretty enjoyable, straightforward fantasy. Despite being published in the eighties it doesn't feel quite as dated as some of its contemporaries. Basically, it feels like the author took the premise of the Battle of Helm's Deep (™Tolkien, LOTR) and stretched it out but the insight gained as various characters faced their own mortality was pretty interesting. Though this is marked as the first in a series it felt like a pretty self-contained story, i.e. no cliffhanger, with even a nice ...more
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
After a disastrous start, when I almost abandoned it, I ended up liking it a lot.

Even if I’m not a fan of military fantasy, the battle here was a great experience. However, the love story intertwined with the war is the worst I have read so far, but I guess Gemmel’s intention was to show that love prevails no matter what.

Druss, Serbitar, Hogun, Gilad, Orrin, Bowman, even Ulric – I loved them all. Rek and Virae not. But I can’t help wondering if there’s more to the two of them, because all othe
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Took me awhile to get through, but I really enjoyed this book and personally this book showed me you don't need to have a book over 1000 pages to be epic. So pretty much, if your looking for an epic story with huge battles and an aging warrior who still knows how to kick arse no matter who it is, this is the book for you. ...more
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David Andrew Gemmell was a bestselling British author of heroic fantasy. A former journalist and newspaper editor, Gemmell had his first work of fiction published in 1984. He went on to write over thirty novels. Best known for his debut, Legend, Gemmell's works display violence, yet also explores themes in honour, loyalty and redemption. With over one million copies sold, his work continues to sel ...more

Other books in the series

The Drenai Saga (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • The King Beyond the Gate (The Drenai Saga, #2)
  • Waylander (The Drenai Saga #3)
  • Quest for Lost Heroes (The Drenai Saga, #4)
  • In the Realm of the Wolf (The Drenai Saga, #5)
  • The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend (The Drenai Saga, #6)
  • The Legend of Deathwalker (The Drenai Saga, #7)
  • Winter Warriors (The Drenai Saga, #8)
  • Hero in the Shadows (The Drenai Saga, #9)
  • White Wolf (The Drenai Saga, #10)
  • The Swords of Night and Day (The Drenai Saga, #11)

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“What will you do now?'

I think I will become a monk and devote my entire life to prayer and good works.'

No,' said Rek. 'I mean, what will you do today?'

Ah! Today I'll get drunk and go whoring,' said Bowman.”
“By nature of definition only the coward is capable of the highest
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