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White Wolf by David Gemmell (Skilgannon the Damned: Book 1)

7/10 Brilliant, heroic and brutal. One for the Gemmell-fans.

David Gemmell has been one of my favourites since I’ve started upon fantasy. After Tolkien I stubbornly disliked any book I read until came across Legend from Gemmell. That book simply changed my life, making me aware that there were was more brilliant fantasy and since then I’ve searched out and read every book he wrote.

However this story, White Wolf is not his strongest book. His style of writing is not for everyone. There is no abundance of literary descriptions. The story is the introduction of a new hero and main character but I would certainly recommend readers to read Legend and Waylander first.

White Wolf is an addictively entertaining, fast paced pragmatic story that drags you through the pages. Gemmell's combat scenes are with a timing and convincing quality that I’ve rarely read by any other author. The characters are simple and strong. Heroic, superior warriors that provide many a fine battle. Essential about his heroes is that they are not perfect nor pretend to be so. Every character has his own, disturbing past and conflicts. Where there are some clichés there are never “too good to be true” characters in Gemmell’s stories.

The thing I have against this book is that it is slightly off-balance. The beginning of the story is typically Gemmell. A fast, thrilling entry of Skilgannon, an ex-general, master swordsman who has changed into a peaceful monk to atone for his sins.

Which doesn’t work out and ends in blood.

The hero crosses path with an old axe wielding warrior, Druss the Legend. Even though the heroes have different quests, they travel together to a legendary temple of healing and to free a little girl from a bad man in a faraway castle. Along the way other individuals come up and their stories mix.

The defining of good and evil is one of Gemmell’s main inspirations. The “no matter the cause or the past, the righteous course of action must be carried out” is a comforting familiar aspect, in which the more grey of Skilgannon gives a nice contrast to the black and white view of Druss. But in this story the balance between action and the morality lessons is off. The beginning is great, than the story gets a bit dull and the last parts of the story are great again.

So, if you’ve read previous works by Gemmell you’ll certainly like it. If you haven’t read any of his, I would advise to begin with Legend.

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David Gemmell's Skilgannon the Damned series


White Wolf

Skilgannon the Damned: Book 1
7/10

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