Legend by David Gemmell (The Drenai Novels: Book 1)

David Gemmell is unquestionably one of my favourite fantasy authors. For the past 25 years his books have been read and re-read and I am still not weary of them, and I hope that will always be the case. Some Gemmell books I read as a teenager and so I was interested in seeing whether my now older, more cynical self, could derive the same amount of pleasure experienced all those years ago.

Legend was David Gemmell's first published novel, which he began writing in 1976 when he believed himself to be suffering from a terminal illness (he was misdiagnosed). He wrote what was then tentatively titled The Siege of Dros Delnoch as a way of taking his mind off his illness but the fatalism and the exploration of the meaning of human life that runs strongly throughout the narrative is no doubt influenced by his state of mind at the time.

The book was finally published in 1984 under the new title Legend, since when it has become a worldwide bestseller that marks the beginning of Gemmell's highly popular Drenai series of novels.

Druss is the legend, a warrior whose life stories are told everywhere. He has shunned a life of comfort and wealth in favour a solitary life spent on a mountain bordering the clouds. He is sixty years old and death awaits him when he receives a request of help from the defenders of the fortress of Dros Delnoch. The Nadir are conquering all before them, as did the Drenai in years past. All that stands before them and victory is the fortress, protected by six outer walls and the stronghold of the Drenai empire. If the fortress falls, so do the Drenai...

Now while I love Gemmell I am not so blinkered as to be unable to admit that his work is not without fault. But what Gemmell does so bloody well is write the the kind of books for which the term fire-side reading was invented. And Legend is far from perfect, this was after all Gemmell's first foray into the realm of writing fantasy and his skills are from as honed as they would later become. But this is where it all began, the book in which Gemmell stamped his trademark on the fantasy genre. This showed just how enjoyable heroic fantasy could be and in Druss, Gemmell invented an unforgettable and tragically heroic figure who’s never beaten and is able to overcome almost insurmountable odds.

Here is an extract from the beginning of the book:

“A shadow fell across Druss's eyes, the sun died in the heavens and the mountains receded into mist. Pain clamped Druss's mighty chest, soul deep, and he almost fell.
'Proud mortal!' hissed a sibilant voice through the veils of agony. 'I never sought you. You have hunted me through these long, lonely years. Stay on this mountain and I guarantee you two score more years. Your muscles will atrophy, your brain will sink into dotage. You will bloat, old man, and I will only come when you beg it.
Chapter 5: Legend

Legend is wonderful heroic fantasy with great characters and the author has a  way of describing landscapes and setting moods that fully immerses the reader in the world of the Drenai. The characters are given just the right amount of back history, not too little and not too much and there is a pleasant mixture of action, suspense and plot. All these elements merge together to create a story that is rich and satisfying.

I personally do not think that this is Gemmell's finest but it surely has to be his most important, as without it nothing may have followed. Legend is a great place to start if you have not read any of his work before and a great blend of sword, sorcery and heroism. A MUST read for any heroic fantasy fans.

10/10 Superb heroic fantasy from the fire-side storyteller.

Review by

9 positive reader review(s) for Legend

23 positive reader review(s) in total for the The Drenai Novels series

Legend reader reviews

from Andover

It's always refreshing to read contrary reviews to gain a different perspective. Alas, I am forced to agree with other reviewers. Legend is a fabulous book. The book I've most re-read. Thought-provoking, inspirational, moving. And damn exciting!
10/10 ()

from Scotland

David Gemmell is the best! Writes the greatest anti-heroes in heroic fantasy - gone are the black and white, good v evil stereotypes and he takes us to that grey area where good, moral people are doing bad things. In a genre that often contains books of 800 pages it is still refreshing to read his books of around 300 pages. He manages to give more in those pages that other books twice or three times its size. I can't see how nay fantasy fan could not enjoy his work, it has everything.
10/10 ()

from UK

Legend was my introduction to Gemmell's work, on recomendation by a friend. Loved it, re read it recently and led me to read more of his books. Undoughtedly one of my favorite fantasy writers.
10/10 ()

from Australia

The very best of this heroic genre. the best.The way that the warriors are more and more defined in the course of battle is potent and highly believable.
10/10 ()

from South Africa

This book changed my life in so many ways, saved my life when I was on the brink of madness and brought me into a world of fantasy. Druss became more than a Legend to me. So did Rek and Virae and everyone else in this book. Thank you to a legend for creating legends. A more brilliant book has yet to be written.
10/10 ()

from Australia

Best book I have ever read. It has all the elements of an aswsome book and I have to read again and again or I don't feel satisfied.
10/10 ()

from Durban, South Africa

A truly epic tale which I just have to return to at least once a year. I even tell it my children quite often around the fire in our back yard. Minus the gory details of course :)
10/10 ()

from Birmingham, UK

Superb. Anyone who reads this book would surely read Gemmell's other books, a brilliant read.
10/10 ()

from Ardrossan, Ayrshire

Not the best book I've ever read, but for some reason I need to read it again every few months. I can't fault the story or characters in any way. Also, the more Gemmell books you read, the more you will grow to love Legend.
10/10 ()

from Bridgend

If you love heroic fantasy where characters are the stuff of dreams then this book is surely the pinnacle!!!!
9/10 ()

9.9/10 from 11 reviews

All David Gemmell Reviews