White Wolf Paperback – Feb 25 2004
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David Gemmell is Britain's most popular writer of hard-edged heroic fantasy. White Wolf opens a new subseries, "The Damned", set in the world of his Drenai saga and featuring the invincible axeman Druss the Legend--now well into middle age. But the central character is Skilgannon the Damned, deadly wielder of a very special pair of swords and a former general whose nickname comes from a war atrocity that he does not deny. His attempt to make a new life as a monk ends abruptly when civil unrest threatens the monastery and Skilgannon's old fighting skills come into play with appalling effectiveness. In flashbacks to decades earlier, a young Skilgannon painfully and plausibly learns the warrior's art, until his boyhood finishes in a blaze of horror. He finds true love, but his lady is also in love with power and gives the orders for a city-wide bloodbath that makes him forever The Damned. Now known as the Witch-Queen, she won't forgive him for leaving her...
Other stories intertwine with Skilgannon's. There's a young lad who wants to be a swordsman; a fey girl haunted by voices; twin brother fighters, one with a personality ravaged by brain cancer; and Druss the Legend, still indomitable but beginning to worry about his heart. Their paths entwine in a land full of disorder, hostile troops, desperate refugees, and escaped arena beasts (sorcerous hybrids of man and animal). Gemmell excels at combat scenes, with a pace, timing and gripping conviction rare in the genre. He makes it clear, with grim compassion, that opponents aren't just straw men to be knocked over. Skilgannon is forced to kill people he admires, or who admire him; even legitimate self-defence turns sour when we hear the version told by the dead man's fiancée. At the climax, Skilgannon, Druss and their surviving companions stage an audacious assault on a particularly obnoxious villain's well-defended fortress. Much bloodshed follows, with satisfactory settlement of many debts and a final gleam of hope for the future. More tales of Skilgannon will surely follow. --David Langford --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
This new heroic fantasy in Gemmell's engrossing Drenai series takes place immediately before his first published novel, Legend (1984), but stands well on its own. Skilgannon, swordmaster and former general of Queen Jianna's army, walked away from the queen's service after his forces sacked a city with such savagery that his name is ever after followed by "the Damned." He's spent three trying years submitting to monastic discipline in hopes of understanding the places of man and evil in the world. His dreams are disturbed by a white wolf; his thoughts by memories of his dead wife and hopeless love for Queen Jianna. Now the surrounding town is torn by civil unrest and the monks debate fleeing: Skilgannon might have stayed with them but for the price on his head and the futility of his disguise as Brother Lantern. The abbot sends him to the capital, Mellicane, escorting an unworldly monk. In the woods outside town, they pick up the boy Rabalyn, whose troubles with a town bully ended with the torching of his aunt's house and the killing of the aunt and the bully; his ne'er-do-well parents are said to be in the capital. Thus begins a journey that will continue beyond Mellicane and draw in the author's most famous character, Druss the axeman. The plot seamlessly supports the predictable violence. Magic plays little part in everyday life, but when it affects the deeds of rulers and leaders, Gemmell describes it in a concrete, nuts-and-bolts way in welcome contrast to much airy-fairy fantasy.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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In the chaos following the death of the Emperor Gorben at Skeln Pass, civil war racked Ventria and spread to Tantria. The Tantrian king has attacked Datia and Shakusan Ironmask, leader of the king's guardsmen, has sent Arbeiters out among the people to stir up anger against agents of the enemy, foreigners and the churchmen.
In this novel, Skilgannon the Damned has left the Witch Queen of Naashan, his lover, and is living as Brother Lantern in a community of monks. The Arbeiters have led the townsfolk in torturing and hanging foreigners and burning down their houses. Now they are arousing the people against the churchmen. A crowd has badly beat old Brother Layban and Brothers Lantern and Braygan have come to obtain healing herbs and potions from the Apothecary. There an Arbeiter strikes Brother Braygan and attacks Brother Lantern and thereby seriously hurts himself.
Brother Lantern can see that the monks are very much at risk of attack by the townsfolk, but the Elder Brother will not flee, for the monks' duty is to the flock even if it costs their lives. Brother Lantern stands against the mob and cannot refrain from resisting after the Elder Brother is attacked and wounded. After a few assailants are killed or maimed, the townsfolk cease their assault of the monastery. Brother Lantern now knows that he cannot remain a monk, for he is not willing to die for "scum". The Elder Brother returns the Swords of Night and Day to him and asks only that Skilgannon escort Brother Braygan to Mellicane to take his vows from the Elders of the church.
On the way to Millicane, Skilgannon and Braygan find the boy Rabalyn, wounded and delirious, fleeing from murder accusations by a town councillor, and take him with them. Later, they encounter refugees running from the armies attacking Tantria and witness a calvary patrol attacking women and children among these refugees. Before Skilgannon can intervene, Druss kills all but one of the patrol and sends the survivor away with a warning. After an attack on the refugees by Joinings, great beasts created by magically combining man with animal, Druss and his friend, Garianne, join Skilgannon's company to escort the refugees to Mellicane.
Druss has been searching for Orastes and his daughter, Elanin. In Mellicane, he learns from his friend, Diagoras, a Drenai warrior, that Orastes' servant was found in the dungeons, but none know where Orastes has gone. He discovers, however, that Elanin has been taken by her mother with Shakusan Ironmask to a ruined fortress.
This novel is about love and loyalty, evil and remorse, and, above all, revenge. The plot is simple, but the characters are complex. It contains violence, yet even more compassion, and it involves lovers, but is not romantic. The author has produced another gripping tale that reflects the contradictions and mysteries of human nature.
Highly recommended for Gemmell fans and anyone else who enjoys tales of high tragedy and great loves.
As is all of Gemmell's work, the writing is sharp and the dialogue clean and clear. Gemmell's real gift however, lies in his utterly human, 3-dimensional characters. Interestingly, the author explains (via his characters dialogue) how a warrior must think in black and white terms; wrong and a right; good and evil. Gemmell's characters are none of those things. They are all wonderfully filled with shades of gray, just like all of us.
'White Wolf' and all of it's new characters are a wonderful addition to the continuing Drenai saga. I for one would like to see more of Skilgannon. Although complete in and of itself, this novel begs to be followed with more stories of Skilgannon.
For two years he sought peace as a priest but the outside world found out him and forced him to flee. In the city of Mellicane, the legendary Joinings, men and beast magically melded into one, were on the loose and Skilgannon along with another hero, the legendary Druss warrior, repelled the attacks. They joined forces to rescue a little girl held hostage by Skilgannon's greatest enemy, a child greatly beloved by Druss. Both knew this may be their last battle but they are true heroes determined to rescue a child from a madman.
David Gemmell knows how to write a winning sword and sorcery tale starring a tortured hero (much like Elric of Melinbone) it is impossible to dislike him despite the atrocities he committed. The story line is fast-paced and rich in color with a villain reminiscent of Hannibal Lechter. Druss is a half-century in age and his time is passing yet he still has the power to instill fear into his enemies' hearts. WHITE WOLF is a stirring fantasy that will please fans of the genre.
After reading White Wolf it was as if I had fog lights. The fog is still there but I can see my way through the history I have constructed and can see glimpses of what lies ahead. Gemmell brings us both new and familiar in this novel with druss recounting some of his history and skilgannon reliving his. At the same time David teases you with a girl carrying the Prince of Assassins crossbow and body parts of slain hero's being preserved which proved enough to make me salivate about the possibilities.
While perhaps not individually as awe in-spiring as Legend and Hero in the Shadows, it is a masterful piece that lends cohesion to this world that I so love. If that is not enough for you... our troubled protagonist fights with two katanas... how cool is that.