Thursday, May 25, 2017

Book Review: Quest for Lost Heroes

Book Review: 'Quest for Lost Heroes' by David Gemmell

4 / 5 Stars

‘Quest for Lost Heroes’ first was published in 1990; this Ballantine / Del Rey mass market paperback (291 pp) was published in July, 1995, and features cover artwork by Luis Royo.

QFLH is the fourth book of the so-called ‘Drenai Saga’. The books are loosely linked, so it’s not necessary to have read the preceding volumes to understand the backstory to this entry:

Nadir raiders attack an isolated settlement in the country of Gothir, slaughtering most of its people and carrying off its young women to sold into slavery at a forthcoming auction. Among the abductees is Ravenna, the beloved of Kiall, a young man who survives the raid.

Refusing to consign Ravenna to a wretched and miserable life as the concubine of a Nadir nobleman, Kiall travels to the capital of Gothir, there to ask the Earl of Talgithir to send a force of armed men to recover the captives.

Rebuffed by the Earl, a desperate Kiall turns to the eponymous band of Heroes for aid. 

These are Chareous, reserved and contemplative, a master swordsman….. Beltzer the Axeman, a hulking, foul-tempered man with very bad personal hygiene……..and Finn and Maggrig, accomplished archers and boon companions (wink wink) who have retired from society to live together in a cabin (wink wink) in the remote wilderness.

All four of the Heroes earned their laurels 15 years previously, at the siege of the fortress of Bel-Azar, where they alone survived a pitched battle with the Nadir hoards. However, the passing of the years, and the fading of their fame, have been unkind to the Heroes, who are struggling to find a meaning in a time of uneasy peace……. a time in which heroes are no longer needed.

More out of a sense of bored frustration than a dedication to the ways of chivalry, the Heroes agree to accompany Kiall and rescue his beloved. This, however, is no small feat, for their journeys will take them through the realms of darkness, where all manner of otherworldly evils assemble…..and even if they should survive those trials, the company will be forced to venture into the heartland of the Nadir kingdom……and a confrontation with Jungir Khan, its psychopathic ruler…….

‘Quest’ follows the standard approach David Gemmell took to crafting his fantasy novels: injecting a note of sober-minded realism into the narrative. In this case, the heroes of myth are shown to be vulnerable to decidedly un-heroic fears and depressions; their status as heroes derives not from their fame, but from their willingness to confront, and rise above, their human foibles.

The 2010s are an era in which fantasy novels are getting more and more bloated; so much so, that they are stretching the limits of paperback printing and binding technologies. For example, the latest novels from Brian Sanderson of ‘Mistborn’ fame are The Way of Kings (1280 pp) and Words of Radiance (1328 pp), the first two volumes in a projected 10 - volume series called 'The Stormlight Archive'. 

In comparison, ‘Quest’ is an example of a straightforward and entertaining heroic fantasy read. This one is worth getting.

No comments: