It had taken me a while to purchase this novel, and get around to reading it. David Gemmell, Stella’s late departed husband was one of my favourite authors, so I’m not sure why it had taken me so long, surely I should have been eager to buy it as soon as it came out…but I didn’t. I think the reason why was in case I was disappointed, and then the final link to her husband’s great writing would be gone. But I shouldn’t have been so reticent, Stella Gemmell has proved with her first solo novel, The City, that she is a writer in her own right now, and I won’t hesitate to purchase more novels from her in the future.
Stella Gemmell has previously worked with her husband on many different projects, and finished David Gemmell’s last trilogy on Troy posthumously, so I knew I wasn’t dealing with a novice when I picked up her novel. However, with her previous work I was never quite sure where her influence started and his ended, but in The City, this was all her own work.
Just as with her husband, Stella understands that the basis of a great novel is the characters and I really liked the characters she brought together in her novel. They were a varied assortment of warriors and civilians, with different backgrounds and well researched back-stories, just the sort of characters that used to make her husband’s novels so vividly alive.
I was however less convinced with the general premise of the book, and the story that held the novel together. I don’t want to be overly critical as that isn’t my way, but I felt the novel was missing something in holding me in a grip of suspense. I don’t want to give too much away, but the story revolves around a pointless war, being waged by a corrupt Emperor and his close-knit group of family members. But that’s the trouble with such a war…it’s pointless, so you can only see one way the story is going. Maybe a more subtle backstory into the origins and motives of the war would have helped.
But I am quibbling here, it is still an exciting ride and the characters she creates compensate for any lacking in the story. We have to remember that the difficulty Stella will always have, it that she will always be compared to her husband – it’s impossible for her not to be. That might not be fair, but that’s life unfortunately (for example, look how often I have referenced him just in this post alone). The trouble with that is that David Gemmell was a very experienced writer of twenty or so novels and this is her first solo work – it’s not a equal comparison, writing is like anything else in life, the more you do it the better you get at it.
I really hope Stella continues her writing career, and that I get a chance to read more of her novels. She is developing a unique voice all of her own, and in The City she has proved she is a writer of no mean talent. If the novel isn’t quite the finished article yet, I think it is a great start and I can’t wait to read more of her work.
You can buy the novel The City, from Amazon here.