Monday, April 21, 2014

Review of White Wolf (Drenai #10) by David Gemmell

White Wolf (Drenai Saga, #10)
by David Gemmell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Writing 4/5
Imagination 3.5/5
Plot 4/5
Setting 3.5/5
Characters 4/5
Grimdark 5/5

My Overall Enjoyment 5/5

Once again, I would like to sing the praises of David Gemmell. This book, the tenth in his Drenai series, is possibly my favorite or at least tied with 2 others in the series,Waylander and Legend. The main character, Skilgannon, is a young priest and former general on the run from the Witch Queen. He is responsible for horrible atrocities in the past in the name of the Witch Queen, who was also his former lover. Druss, the main character in several other Drenai books also returns here. Skilgannon is searching for the Temple of the Resurrectionists and Druss is seeking his friend Orastes and they journey together along with some other minor characters and meet more on the way. It is an action packed thrill ride interspersed with lots of moral philosophy. There is some sorcery, powerful but with a light touch.

Skilgannon is one of my favorite characters in fantasy and Gemmell builds him expertly, mixing his current thoughts and feelings about his situation with flashbacks to his past which helps us connect better with him. While I will never be a master swordsman or a deadly warrior and I have never committed atrocities on a large scale, I still empathize with him as a person who has many regrets and failings but is searching for a way to overcome them and become a better person. Druss of course is similar but has his own distinct nuances and characteristics.

The world the Drenai books are set in are brutal and dark but not hopeless. There are a lot of races along with different beasts and many locations which have been explored in the past ten books. I really love exploring this world and while it is not the best world building in all of fantasy, it is very good. Gemmell writes succinctly yet he makes this world come alive to me.

My favorite parts in Gemmell's writing are the little phrases or paragraphs which are woven in throughout and speak about different concepts like heroes, good and evil, the condition of man, love, revenge, hate, etc. Following are just a few of my favorites from White Wolf but all of his books include these little phrases.

'How simple love would be, Younger Brother, if we only had to bestow it on those who deserved it. Yet what would it be worth? If you gave a poor man a silver coin then that would be a gift. If you expected him to pay you back, then that would make it a loan. We do not loan our love, Lantern. We give it freely.'
'Scholars tend to overcomplicate matters,’ said Skilgannon. ‘If a man runs at you with a sword it would be foolish to spend time wondering what led him to such action. Was his childhood scarred by a cruel father? Did his wife leave him for another man? Was he perhaps misinformed about your intentions, and therefore has attacked you in error?’ He laughed. ‘Warriors need black and white, Elder Brother. Shades of grey would kill them.'
'There’s nothing to be frightened of, laddie. We live. We die. A wise man once told me that one day even the sun will fade, and all will be darkness. Everything dies. Death isn’t important. What counts is how you live.'
'And I’m not wise, Rabalyn. Had I been wise I would have stayed home with the woman I loved. I’d have farmed and planted trees. I’d have raised cattle, and sold them at market. Instead I found wars and battles to fight. Old and wise? I’ve met wise men who were young, and stupid men who were old. I’ve met good men who did evil things, and evil men who tried to do good. It’s all beyond my understanding.'
'No. I regret that. Though I have to say that I get tense around the very young. The screaming and the squalling grates on me. I’m not a great lover of noise. Or people, come to that. They irritate me.'
'You remind me of Sieben. He loved these debates, and would twist words and ideas round and round until everything I believed in sounded like the grandest nonsense. He should have been a politician. I would say that evil should always be countered. He would say: "Ah, but what is evil for one man may be good for another." I remember once we watched the execution of a murderer. He maintained that in killing the man we were committing an evil as great as his. He said that perhaps the killer might have one day sired a child, who would be great and good, and change the world for the better. In killing him we might have robbed the world of a saviour.’ ‘Perhaps he was right,’ said Diagoras. ‘Perhaps he was. But if we followed that philosophy completely we would never punish anyone, for any crime. You could argue that to lock the killer away, rather than hanging him, might prevent him meeting the woman who would have given birth to that child. So what do we do? Free him? No. A man who wilfully takes the life of another forfeits his own life. Anything less makes a mockery of justice. I always enjoyed listening to Sieben ranting and railing against the ways of the world. He could make you think black was white, night was day, sweet was sour. It was good entertainment. But that is all it was. Would I deceive an enemy? Yes. Would I deceive a friend? No. How do I justify this? I don’t.'
When he spoke it was as if he was reciting a prayer. The words hung in the air. ‘Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil.’

I quote these to give a sample of the themes which run through Gemmell's books. These ideas, as well as others, are all explored throughout the story. This type of philosophy is highly relatable to every reader as these are all things which people ask or wonder. There are many more good ones but it would be impossible to put them all here and that's a big part of why I love to read these books never knowing what he will touch on next.

If you are looking for something great, check out this book and any other Gemmell books. If you like to think and enjoy realistic darker themed fantasy, this is a must read book.


Nathan (@reviewbarn) said...

I check my used book store for Legend every time. They always have tons of Gemmell, but never the one I really want to read most.

philip witvliet said...

Waylander is really good also! I can't wait to reread Legend one day.