Saturday, September 04, 2010
About a decade or so I was browsing in a bookstore and spotted a book cover featuring a big guy with an ax and that's how I discovered Druss the Legend and David Gemmell. Friday I was browsing at Barnes & Noble and I spotted a book cover featuring a big guy with an ax. The Book was called Kell's Legend. The author's name was Andy Remic. I'd never heard of him, but then again I'd never heard of David Gemmell on that fateful day in 1999, so I thought what the hell. Give the new guy a shot.
Turns out that the book is dedicated to David Gemmell and, at least in parts, reads a lot like one of Gemmell's books. In fact the hero, The eponymous Kell, is pretty much a Druss clone, an old, gray, soldier with a demon cursed ax. Kell calls people laddie (like Druss) and he is teamed with a foppish dandy who is actually a deadly swordsman and likes to refer to Kell as "old horse" a nickname that Druss's clotheshorse dandy sidekick, Sieben, favored for the burly Druss. So yeah, I think Remic was going for a Druss homage. I got no real problem with that since its all surface detail and as the book moves along you see pretty quickly that Kell is a very different character from the Silver Slayer.
Besides, if you want originality just wait until you meet the book's villains. Kell's Legend is subtitled 'Book One of the Clockwork Vampire Chronicles' and that's exactly what the bad guys are, partly human creatures with clockwork bionics, called the Vachine, who need a mixture of blood and oil to survive. This is a really creepy idea and Remic never backs away from the more gruesome aspects of his steampunk cyborgs. The chapter describing the origins of these creatures is particularly chilling. The mixture of heroic fantasy and weird horror really makes the book feel unique and different, banishing any worries about this being just a David Gemmell knock-off. Remic borrows a few of Gemmell's tropes but he takes them in his own direction.
One thing Remic does share with Gemmell is the ability to write a slam bang, tooth loosening, bone crunching fight scene and there are plenty of fights in Kell's Legend. Since I'm always looking for more action oriented fantasy, this one made my day. I read about half the book in a sitting and then the second half in one more. That's always a good sign. The sequel, Soul Stealers comes out this month in the UK and next month here in the US. I can't wait. I will note that this might not be a good fantasy for younger readers as the violence is pretty over the top and the language, while not quite in Joe Abercrombie's league, is somewhat rough. Otherwise, highly recommended.