Back in 2006 I heard the news the David Gemmel had passed away. I was greatly saddened by the news, not just because I was an avid reader of all his novels, but also because his novels had come to personify everything that I love about modern fantasy writing. Fast action, fascinating stories, outlandish worlds full of heroes and magic. However, what separated David Gemmell from the crowd was the depth of the characters he created. Not only were the main characters carefully thought out, every support characters life will have been carefully crafted and moulded into a believable character. If the story required two sentries to be waiting on guard duty, he wouldn’t simply create two generic guards, ready to be bumped off when needed. He would explain why they had joined the army, what motivated them in life, what their worries were – did they have a family? Were they looking forward to seeing them that night? It was this level of character development that made the worlds he created so real, so vibrant. I think it is a good lesson to any aspiring fantasy writer, that the world you create will not be judged solely on the magic you imbue in its fields, woods, and paths, but on the people who run through them, climb them, and walk down them.
I have chosen his first novel, ‘Legend’ as my favourite, simply because that was the first of his novels I read and for that reason alone will always be special to me. It centres on the main character, Druss, a man living up to his own legend, as he tries to imbue courage into the defenders of a fortress fighting desperate odds.
He died before his incredibly exciting final series, ‘the Troy trilogy’ was concluded – but it was finished brilliantly by his wife Stella. I was delighted to see, when I passed through a local book store recently, that Stella Gemmell continued to write, and her novel ‘The City’ was there. I haven’t had a chance to read this yet, but if it is anything like the novel she finished posthumously for her husband David, I know it will be a winner.