I wanted to cover 2 of the best series ever written (in my personal opinion)
David Gemmell: Drenai
Legend (1984) Druss, Captain of the Axe, the stories of his life were told everywhere. Instead of the wealth and fame he could have claimed he had chosen a mountain lair, high in the lonely country bordering the clouds. There the grizzled old warrior kept company with snow leopards and awaited his old enemy death. The Fortress Mighty Dros Delnoch, protected by six outer walls, the only route by which an army could pass through the mountains. It was the stronghold of the Drenai Empire. And now it was the last battleground for all else had fallen before the Nadir hordes. And hope rested on the skills of that one old man…..
The King beyond the Gate (1985) Once the mighty fortress had stood strong, defended by the mightiest of all Drenai heroes, Druss, the Legend. But now a tyrannical, mad emperor had seized control of the fortress, and his twisted will was carried throughout the land by the Joinings — abominations that were half-man, half-beast. Tenaka Khan was a half-breed himself, hated by the Drenai for his Nadir blood and despised by the Nadir for his Drenai ancestry. But he alone had a plan to destroy the emperor. The last heroes of the Drenai joined with him in a desperate gamble to bring down the emperor — even at the cost of their own destruction
Waylander (1986) The Drenai king is dead – murdered by a ruthless assassin. Enemy troops swarm in to Drenai lands. Their orders are simple – kill every man, woman and child. But there is hope. Stalked by men who act like beasts and beasts that walk like men, the warrior Waylander must journey into the shadow-haunted lands of the Nadir to find the legendary Armour of Bronze. With this he can turn the tide, but can he be trusted? For he is Waylander the slayer. The traitor who killed the king…
Quest for Lost Heroes (1990) The Drenai people are enslaved, and the Nadir reign has begun. But in the tiny realm of Gothir a group of slavers seize a peasant girl and set in motion a chain of events that will shake the world of the living and stir the worlds of the dead. A quest spanning two spheres, a soul waiting for vengeance Kiall, a romantic farm boy, seeks the aid of Chareos the Blademaster to rescue the girl, Ravenna. In company with Beltzer of the Axe, the archers Finn and Maggrig, and the mysterious Tattooed Man, they set off into Nadir lands – where dark forces oppose them. As their quest lures them through the Gateway of Time and the Valley of the Damned, the demons of the dark await. But the quaestors are no ordinary men, they are the Heroes of Bel-Azar and one among them holds a secret that could free the world of Nadir domination. For he is Nadir Bane, the hope of the Drenai, the heir to a legendary title. He is the Earl of Bronze.
Waylander II (1992) In the mountains of Skeln, high among the pine forests and the peaks, the woodsman, Dakeyras, and his beautiful daughter, Miriel, live a life of tranquil solitude. Not for them the fears of coming wars, the gathering of armies, and the dreams of the mighty. Yet now grim-eyed warriors stalk the mountains, trained assassins, killers for hire. Men like Morak, the deadly swordsman with a taste for torture, Belash, the Nadir Bladesman, nursing dreams for revenge, and Senta the Gladiator, who has never known defeat. Their orders are simple. Ten thousand in gold for the man who kills the woodsman. Easy wealth for battle-hardened warriors. Or so they believe. But Miriel is a woman of fire and iron, skilled with bow and blade, taught her skills by one of the deadliest killers of all time….. Her father, Dakeyras. Better known to history as Waylander the Slayer.
The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend (1993) Druss the Legend, Saviour of Skeln Pass. Protector of Dros Delnoch. The most famous – and dreaded – of Drenai’s heroes. But what lay behind the legend of the man known as the Captain of the Axe, so named for the mighty weapon, Snaga? From whence did he come? What drove him to become the scourge of the Nadir, the Vagrians and the Ventrians? In these early tales we find Druss as a young husband hewing trees rather than foes, temper kept in check – most of the time – by his beloved wife, Rowena. But when she is stolen by slavers, a more deadly Druss emerges….. a druss that even the mightiest should fear. And thus we begin to learn the secret of Snaga, and of Druss himself. And the slaying begins.
The Legend of Deathwalker (1996) Under the brutal oppression of the Gothir, the Nadir tribes dream of the Uniter, the Great One, who will bring the tribes together and end their centuries of torment. But for one man it is more than a dream. Talisman, a mysterious and enigmatic Nadir warrior, rides out to the Shrine of Oshikai Demon-bane, seeking the legendary eyes of Alchazzar, twin jewels of enormous power that will light the path to the uniter. With him rides the beautiful Zhusai, a mystic tormented by the ghost of a long-dead Nadir queen. But others desire the secret of the jewels. Garen-Tsen, the sadistic power behind the Gothir throne, believes the magical gems will lead him to glory, and send the elite soldiers of the Gothir army to sack the shrine, and butcher the few defenders. They cannot lose; five thousand men against a handful of savages and a renegade Drenai warrior. But the savages are led by one of the most brilliant strategists of the day. And the renegade is Druss the Legend.
Winter Warriors (1997) The prophecy was clear. Upon the death of three kings the world will be plunged into chaos, and all the cast-out demons of history will return to bring blood and horror to the world. Two of the kings are dead. The third, about to be born, is hunted by the Demon Riders of the Krayakin, Lords of the Undead. All the terrifying forces of evil range against a pregnant queen at bay in a haunted forest. But she is not alone. Three warriors stand with her : the last remnants of the once proud Drenai army. Three old men, ancient heroes, discarded by the king : Nogusta the Swordsman, Kebra the Bowman, and the hulking fighter, Bison. The fate of empires rests on their fading skills as they journey through a tormented world on a perilous quest to save the unborn king.
Waylnder 3 Hero in Shadows (2000) The ruined city of Kuan-Hador reeks of dark mystery. Shunned by brigands and merchant alike, it is home to fearsome things – slavering white beasts who possess an insatiable appetite for death and destruction. The sorcerers and their foul minions will soon be free to wreak a horrible vengeance upon all that lives. Only a rag-tag group of unlikely heroes are prepared to stand against them : Kysumu, the Rajnee swordsman; Yu Yu Liang, a humble ditch-digger with dreams of glory; Keeva Taliana, a warrior woman as fierce as she is beautiful; and the mysterious Grey Man, a man with a blood-drenched past known throughout the land of the Drenai as Waylander, the Slayer. Now, to defeat a timeless evil, an ancient riddle must be solved, and Waylander, the prince of assassins, must kill a man who cannot die…
White Wolf (2003) kilgannon the Damned had vanished from the pages of history. No-one knew where he had gone, and the assassins sent by the Witch Queen could find no trace of his passing. Three years later, as a mob intent on murder gathers outside a distant monastery, they are faced by a single unarmed priest. In a few terrifying seconds their world is changed for ever, and word spreads across the lands of the East….. Skilgannon is back. Now he must travel across a perilous, demon-haunted realm seeking a mysterious temple and the ageless goddess who rules it. With assassins on his trail and an army of murderous foes ahead, the Damned sets off on a quest to bring the dead to life. But he does not travel alone…. The man beside him is Druss the Legend. In a world torn by war, White Wolf is a page turning tale of love, betrayal and treachery, which examines the nature of heroism and friendship and the narrow line that divide good from evil, redemption from damnation.
The Swords of Night and Day (2004) A thousand years after they fell in battle, two heroes – Druss and Skilgannon – are revered throughout the war-torn lands of the Drenai. Yet men and women live in abject fear of the Joinings, abominable meldings of man and beast, and of their mistress, the dark sorceress known as the Eternal. None can stave off these ruthless foes. But what if the soul of one such hero could be called back from the void, his bones housed again in flesh? An ancient prophecy foretold that Skilgannon would return in his people’s darkest hour. To most, this is a foolish hope. But not so to Landis Kan. For years, as the power of the Eternal grew, Kan searched for the tomb of Skilgannon the Damned. And at last, he found it, gathering up the bones and performing the mystic ritual. But the reborn hero is an enigma : a young man whose warrior skills are blunted and whose memories are gragmented. This Skilgannon is a man out of time, marooned in a world as strange to him as a dream, remote from all he knew and loved. Or nearly all. Before bringing Skilgannon back, Landis Kan had experimented upon other bone fragments found in the hero’s tomb. That ritual resulted in a surly giant who possessed astounding strength, but no memories. To Kan, he is a dangerous failure. To Skilgannon, this giant represents thier last hope. As the ageless evil of the Eternal threatens to drown the Drenai lands in blood, two legendary heroes will once again lead the way to freedom.
Conn Iggulden: Ghengis
Wolf of the Plains Synopsis This is the brand new novel from the No.1 best-selling author of “Emperor”, his series on Julius Caesar. His new novel, “Wolf of the Plains”, is the much anticipated beginning of the “Conqueror” series on Genghis Khan and his descendants. It is a wonderful, epic story which Conn Iggulden brings brilliantly to life. “I am the land and the bones of the hills. I am the winter.” Temujin, the second son of the khan of the Wolves tribe, was only eleven when his father died in an ambush. His family were thrown out of the tribe and he was left alone, without food or shelter, to starve to death on the harsh Mongolian plains. It was a rough introduction to his life, to a sudden adult world, but Temujin survived, learning to combat natural and human threats. A man, a small family, without a tribe was always at risk but he gathered other outsiders to him, creating a new tribal identity. It was during some of his worst times that the image of uniting the warring tribes and bringing the silver people together came to him. He will become the khan of the sea of grass, Genghis.
Review: Quite simply a great read, one of my top 5 books of this year, alongside Simon scarrows Eagle in the sand & Young Bloods, Alex Scarrows A Thousand suns and David Gemmells Shield of Thunder. I have enjoyed all of Conns books to differing degrees’, his best until now was his debut Gates of Rome, but this new book blows that away. I suppose some of this may be due to the fact that little is known about Genghis in his early years. I do find myself making parallels with David Gemmells Nadir nation, which I think is a compliment to Conn’s work (I’m A big Gemmell Fan). The book its self, follows the young life of Temujin, through the trials of growing up in the harsh inhospitable plains of the Mongol nation through ..well I’m not saying how far this book takes him, (that would just spoil it), but the journey is an amazing one, he either had more luck than any thousand people combined deserved or he was just an amazingly resourceful cunning and driven person. The book is so well written you feel the pain and suffering of the boy and later the man, you can feel the will power he exudes over himself and his people. It Took me 2 days to polish off this book…and thats including going to work. I have now read it twice, the 2nd time i read it slowly over a week, and if anything my enjoyment increased with the 2nd reading. This is a must read…do not miss out on this book!
Bones of the Hills by Conn Iggulden
The powerful and exhilarating third novel in Conn Iggulden’s No. 1 bestselling Conqueror series, following the life and adventures of the mighty Genghis Khan The fatherless boy, exiled from his tribe, whom readers have been following in ‘Wolf of the Plains’ and ‘Lords of the Bow’, has grown into the great king, Genghis Khan. He has united the warring tribes and even taken his armies against the great cities of their oldest enemies. Now he finds trouble rising west of the Mongolian plains. His emissaries are mutilated or killed; his trading gestures rebuffed. So, dividing his armies, using his sons as generals of the various divisions, he sends them out simultaneously in many directions, ranging as far as modern Iran and Iraq. As well as discovering new territories, exacting tribute from conquered peoples, laying waste the cities which resist, this policy is also a way of diffusing the rivalries between his sons and heirs and working out who should succeed the khan. This, the third book in the Conqueror series, is once more an epic story. Genghis Khan is an exhilarating and heroic figure.The sense of his ambition and his power, the relationships with his wives, sons and trusted aides, the sweep of his conquests, is all brought together by a masterful storytelling. It is a compelling read. With each book, you are left, even more, longing for the next.
Empire of Silver (The fourth book in the Conqueror series) (2010) Synopsis The eagerly awaited 4th novel in the bestselling Conqueror series, continuing the life and adventures of the mighty Khan dynasty. Genghis Khan is dead, but his legend and his legacy live on. His son Ogedai has built a white city on a great plain and made a capital for the new nation. Now the armies have gathered to see which of Genghis’ sons has the strength to be khan. The Mongol empire has been at peace for two years, but whoever survives will face the formidable might of their great enemy, China’s Song dynasty. The great leader Tsubodai sweeps into the west: through Russia, over the Carpathian mountains and into Hungary. The Templar knights have been broken and there is no king or army to stop him reaching France. But at the moment of Tsubodai’s greatest triumph, as his furthest scouts reach the northern mountains of Italy, Tsubodai must make a decision that will change the course of history forever.
Review Book four takes the story to the next stage, Genghis is dead and the legacy must go on, i was worried that this would mean that the story would get bogged down in detail of intrigue and lose its flow. But i should know better with Conn, his story telling ability seems to grow with each passing book. This book, though does not have the same frantic pace of empire expansion building as the others, the first three books are the birth of an empire and have that raw power and pace you expect from the creation of something new. book four is more like the patient building of something solid. I came away at the end of the book having enjoyed the heady battles across Russia and the chin lands but also feeling educated, like i had learnt more than i had with the previous books, and that didn’t mean the book lacked pace and flow, and it wasn’t just the very well worded epilogue, it just felt like it was maturing. I’m now left wondering if this isn’t the best book in the series….although i did love wolf of the plains with its race pace and energy. again 9/10
Conqueror Book Description The one and only Conn Iggulden takes on the story of the mighty Kublai Khan. An epic tale of a great and heroic mind; his action-packed rule; and how in conquering one-fifth of the world’s inhabited land, he changed the course of history forever. A scholar who conquered an empire larger than those of Alexander or Caesar. A warrior who would rule a fifth of the world with strength and wisdom. A man who betrayed a brother to protect a nation. From a young scholar to one of history’s most powerful warriors, Conqueror tells the story of Kublai Khan – an extraordinary man who should be remembered alongside Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte as one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever known. It should have been a golden age, with an empire to dwarf the lands won by the mighty Genghis Khan. Instead, the vast Mongol nation is slowly losing ground, swallowed whole by their most ancient enemy. A new generation has arisen, yet the long shadow of the Great Khan still hangs over them all … Kublai dreams of an empire stretching from sea to sea. But to see it built, this scholar must first learn the art of war. He must take his nation’s warriors to the ends of the known world. And when he is weary, when he is wounded, he must face his own brothers in bloody civil war.
Review This for me was a very eagerly anticipated book, but i was never quite sure what to expect. There was always the lead that this book was to be about Kublai Khan, and to a degree it is, but not in the way i expected, and that’s not a bad thing, having read so much it’s not often I’m surprised by an author. What surprised me most was the whole encompassing picture that Conn Iggulden has managed to cover in this one book, Yes its a 500+ page title, but the ground covered would take some authors 1000+ pages, yet Conn misses nothing, retains the action, retains the depth of detail and quality of writing. If anything was missing it was the wild pace of Wolf of the Plains, but that slowing of pace matches the story, Wolf of the plains is the Wild abandon of Genghis, where as Conqueror is the maturing of a nation, the education and building of Kublai. What i think pleased me most was learning about new characters from history, Guyuk, Uriang-Khadai, Arik-Boke and Mongke and their actions that led to the creation of the man Kublai Khan, the man the was needed to carve out a place in history, without the actions of the others he may well have been a scholar or a monk and vanished into obscurity, and who knows what would have happened to that part of the world…or the world as a whole? What thrills me even more is that at the end of the book, there is still at least a whole book if not a whole series still hidden away for Mr Iggulden to come back to, Like the empire series there is no real end, there is just a point in history reached that means the tale is paused. Conn I for one will be nagging you to come back to this, while i liked the empire series, I have loved the Genghis series, Wolf of the Plains being my favourite book you have written. I highly recommend this book and this entire series not just to fans of Historical Fiction, but also to fantasy fans, thriller fans ..anyone..anyone who loves a great read well written and well told by a natural story-teller.
My Meandering thoughts
Dotted among the synopsis of the Gemmell books you will note the mentions of the Nadir, a people who Gemmell has clearly modeled on the Mongol Nation, A great leader Ulric with strikingly different coloured eyes, Genghis Khan the man who unites the Mongol Tribes a man with strikingly different coloured eyes. It’s not genius deduction.
What is Genius is the story telling by these 2 excellent writers, both with an innate ability to tell a story in what for me is an older style, a way that in centuries past would have seen them as troubadours or a minstrels, travelling storytellers who travelled from hearth to hearth earning their living telling oral tales by firelight, although given the quality of these two even in the ancient world i think they would have found fame and fortune.
What i also love about the parallels in these stories is something i have thought for some time. There is not much of a gap between Fantasy and Historical Fiction.
You need to understand and research different nations and the way they lived and fought for both genre, (just to different degrees) you need to understand how fighting works (with swords and bows etc) you need to understand how to ride horses, you need to keep a coherent timeline and detailed character tree, who died when etc.
Ultimatly there is a lot of snobbery in the two genres and people stick to the one sie or the other, but more and more people are seeing the cross over…so why dont you take the leap and read these books by 2 of the best writers and 2 of the nicest people you will ever meet.
I still have a few signed books by both authors left