Saturday, February 20, 2010

Quest for Lost Heroes

I first read this book about a decade ago. Found myself thinking about it recently, so I dug out my copy and was reminded of just why I like the late David Gemmell's books so much. They're full of the kind of action you'd expect so from a man who once listed his influences as Akira Kurosawa, Louis L'amour and Stan Lee. They're well written with the kind of seamless prose and narrative force that keeps you turning pages. And the characters are always well drawn, down to the smallest supporting character, everyone gets his or her moment.
But beyond all that are the messages about things that actually matter that Gemmell imparts over and over. Friendship. Honor. Responsibility. Love and obligation. His heroes do what they have to do, no matter the cost, and boy does it sometimes cost them.
Quest for Lost Heroes is exactly what the title implies, but it's not a quest for heroes who have vanished, it's about men who have become lost in their lives setting out to do something that matters again. A quartet of over the hill warriors set out on one last adventure to help a young man save the girl he thinks he's in love with. It won't be easy and everyone who left won't come back, but the journey has to be made.
In some ways it's the old "retired gunslinger" story. Gemmell is never far from his love of the Western. I've heard other reviewers compare his heroes (Druss, Waylander, etc) to "Indian Fighters" and they aren't off the mark. There are times the books feel like Cowboys with Swords. I'm okay with that.
But that doesn't mean the stories or the characters are simplistic. There are many shades of gray in Gemmell's worlds, even if his protagonists tend to see things in black and white. Some of Gemmell's villains are almost heroic and some of his heroes aren't very likable.
As I mentioned in a couple of my earliest posts here at Singular Points, it was David Gemmell who brought me back to reading heroic fantasy after well over a decade of reading nothing but crime fiction. And he's still keeping me coming back for the action and adventure and even to learn something now and again. Can't ask for much more than that.

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