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Book Review: Waylander by David Gemmell


The basic story idea of Waylander is like a picture of a Big Mac – perfect, juicy, mouth-watering, and oh so tempting. The book itself, unfortunately, is the sad, squashed reality handed to you in the drive thru.

Waylander is an infamous assassin, whose conscience is touched – literally – by the purity of the priest Dardalion, whom Waylander incidentally saves in pursuit of his stolen horse. Waylander’s walk towards the light would have been more compelling if it had been by conscious choice rather than appearing to be by ‘infection’ with Dardalion’s purity. At the same time, Dardalion is tainted by Waylander’s amorality and abandons his pacifist stance, taking up weapons in defence of the innocent – to the horror of most of his brother priests.

Waylander is approached by the old King of Drenai, and father of the king he murdered, to find and retrieve his fabled ‘Armour of Bronze’. The armour has no special powers, but could serve as a rallying point for Egel, the general leading the failing Drenai army against the invading Vagrian forces. Although there is no particular reason for him to agree, Waylander does so, even though he is assured of almost certain death in the attempt.

While David Gemmell clearly has some understanding of the elements of a good story, his execution into the written word is clumsy at best. There is rarely any sense of setting, and then when there is, it is insufficient for the reader to feel they are present. Many of the characters are poorly defined and indistinguishable from each other. Some minor characters seem to have received more development than they should, while some major characters languished from neglect. Dialogue was short and sharp, with no identifying characteristics to identify the speaker; it suffered from ‘talking heads syndrome’ and the characters were indistinguishable. Some characters act in ways which defy logic or reason, apparently behaving in that way solely because it suited the author. The romance is handled clumsily, and the characters fall into each other’s arms with a suddenness that is unconvincing. In fact, I was more convinced she’d happily cut his throat and never shed a tear.

Some of the most interesting parts of the book are Waylander’s explanation of the nature of fear, and his philosophical attitude towards it, and Dardalion’s exposition on why taking up arms in defence of the innocent is more of a sacrifice than merely allowing himself to be killed for the benefit of no one.

While I was not impressed with the book this time around, I did enjoy it a lot more when I was a teenager, and David Gemmell is amazingly popular, so his books do appeal to a certain audience. If you’re in your teens, or simply enjoy your fantasy straightforward, uncomplicated and limited to a single book, this may still be worth your time.

Waylander by David Gemmell: Review by Club Fantasci

Club Fantasci held its May Hangout on Friday to discuss Waylander by David Gemmell. You can watch the discussion by hosts Dionne Lister, David Lowry, Melody-Anne Jones Kauffman (or MJ as she likes to be called) and myself below. All hate mail to MJ!

Reviews by each of the hosts will be available on the Club Fantasci website. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads

June’s Book of the Month is Fool Moon by Jim Butcher and you can join us for the discussion on Friday June 28 7:30pm CST.

It’s All David Gemmell’s Fault

David Gemmell

See, it goes like this. I bought Dad a Kindle. Dad bought the entire collection of David Gemmell books in Kindle format and therefore decided to dispose of all his paperback versions. I volunteered to relieve him of some. 

And, having just acquired more hard copy books, I resolved to have a book clean-up of my own and get rid of those I’m unlikely to ever read again (or will happily download onto my Kindle if I am unexpectedly taken by the urge to read them again).

So I’m hip-deep in piles of books, staring at an inexplicably still full bookcase, and I’m blaming David Gemmell. The fact that it was I who bought the Kindle that started this cascade of events? Pfft! Minor detail.

When we moved into this house I had grand plans to turn the room marked as ‘study’ on the floorplan into ‘library’. I already has 2 6’ x 3’ bookcases, and they were full to overflowing, so I thought a nice 7’ x 5’ bookcase across the back wall would be awesome. Of course, as is the case when you move into a brand new home in need of landscaping and the like, the bookcase had to wait in favour of more pressing budget concerns.

5 months later I’m still waiting. I have books stacked on books in my bookcases. There is literally no spare room. I have books still packed in boxes, too. Probably not enough to fill a 7’ x 5’ bookcase, but I’d be buying more books in the future, right?

Then I bought a Kindle.

One of the books I inherited,
although the cover is not this cool
I will still buy books in the future – Discworld books (not that there’s likely to be many more) because the footnotes don’t read right on the kindle, Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives because of all the artwork that’s lost in the ebook format, the concluding book of the Wheel of Time because I have all the others in hard copy. But not many. Not nearly as many as I was before.

So when Dad started clearing out his David Gemmell books, it made me think I should do the same. I know, bizarre in the same breath as saying ‘I’ll take those, thank you’, but true nevertheless. I really like David Gemmell and I know I will read those books over and over again.

But there are some things in my bookcase I don’t and I won’t.

My skills as a writer have grown in the last twelve months, and with it my critical editing eye. There are some books I can’t read anymore. And there are some books, that while I can read them once, while they are fresh and new, and the suspense carries me past the writing errors, I can’t re-read because the quality of the writing becomes more apparent. And let’s face it, I’m not known for my tolerance levels. OK, I am, but not because I have a hightolerance level…

I don’t mean to be snobby, only to say it’s harder to turn my inner editor off now. And of course, as one grows older, one’s tastes change.

I can look at my bookcase and concede there are titles there I am unlikely to read again, either because the story no longer appeals to me, or the quality of the writing was lacking. Things like:
  • Katharine Kerr’s Epic Deverry Series and the series that follows (I don’t think it had a proper name even!);
  • Numerous Dragonlance books (although I am keeping a few of the stories that truly captivated me);
  • Margaret Weis’s Rose of the Prophet series, which I slogged through exactly 1.5 times, always a good sign to never attempt to read it again;
  • The Chronicles of the Custodian by Martin Middleton – which not only use the dreaded first person, but involved (from memory) a lot of ‘telling’ instead of showing;
  • A lot of Raymond E Feist’s later books, which I felt grew repetitive and lazy – and to be honest I was tempted to get rid of Magician and its sequels as well. I’ve kept them, pending further thought;
  • Robin Hobb’s Farseerseries, the original cause of my deep dislike for first person in epic fantasy – I am never going to re-read this series and I’ve never picked up another Robin Hobb book because of them;
  • All Melanie Rawn’s books, of which the only one I liked was Dragon Prince – also the only one I don’t own;
  • The Andrakistrilogy by Tony Shillitoe;
  • The Acornaseries by Anne McCaffrey – I think this is actually YA, and I’m not into a lot of that;
  • Some of Sara Douglass’s later books, which I felt dropped off in quality. I’m afraid I only got halfway through the first book in the Darkglass Mountain series and I don’t think I’ll bother trying to finish;
  • The last of David Eddings’s books, which very much repeated his earlier work;
  • All the Jonathon Wylie books I own, including the Servants of the Ark trilogy; and
  • A few books of which I somehow wound up with duplicates – 2 Harry Potter books, Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson, and 206 Bones by Kathy Reichs.
So far I’m up to about 70 books, and I still have a few to check. So you may be wondering what I am keeping. So here are some of the books which were never in doubt:
  • The complete Discworldseries by Terry Pratchett (40+ books);
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan (and Brandon Sanderson);
  • Brandon Sanderson’s Final Empire trilogy and Stormlight Archives;
  • Brent Weeks’s Night Angel Trilogy and The Black Prism;
  • Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth saga;
  • George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones and sequels;
  • The David Gemmell books I already owned (to which I’ve now added Dad’s cast-offs); and
  • Janny Wurts’s Cycle of Fire trilogy and the Wars of Light and Shadow;
  • The early works of David Eddings;
  • Terry Brooks’s Shannara books and Landoverseries; and
  • Stephen Donaldson’s Mordant’s Need duo.
So is there something I kept you would have tossed? Or did I toss something you absolutely love?  Can you not bear to part with any of your hard copy books, notwithstanding the advent of ebooks? Or could you not wait to reclaim that space? 
Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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