Wednesday, 14 May 2014

‘Sword in the Storm’ – David Gemmell (Corgi)

Born in the storm that doomed his father, Connavar grows to manhood among the mist-covered mountains of Caer Druagh, where the Rigante tribe dwell in harmony with the land and its gods.
But beyond the border, across the water, an evil force is gathering strength, an unstoppable force that will change the world beyond all recognition.
Haunted by malevolent spirits and hunted by evil men, Connavar sets out on a spectacular mission to save his people.

You know those times when all you want is a good story? Those times when you don’t want to think that hard, just to be entertained? We all have a ‘go-to’ author during those lean, comfort reading, times and my ‘go-to’ guy is David Gemmell. Often imitated but never bettered, in my opinion, as far as epic fantasy goes.

There are a few of his books that I still haven’t read and a lucky scratch card win (I have them, occasionally) meant that I could finally give ‘Sword in the Storm’ a go. And what an amazing read it was; I do a lot of my reading (okay, all of it) on the train these days and while reading ‘Sword in the Storm’ it felt like I wasn’t on the train at all, I was sharing Connovar’s personal journey through a land where everything is black or white (no shades of grey here, not really) yet richly coloured at the same time. ‘Sword in the Storm’ is the first book in Gemmell’s ‘Rigante’ series and I’d only read ‘Midnight Falcon’ up to this point; I can now see myself picking up the other two books in the series.

Gemmell’s trick, as a writer, is that he has one trick and he plays it damn well in every book he writes. The main character who becomes a hero to his people despite the internal (sometimes external) conflict that almost cripples him. There is a huge fight at the end of the book and our main lead becomes the man that he was always meant to be, someone very close to him will die during the final pages though and teach him that glory does not come without pain. That’s the way it goes in just about all of Gemmell’s books (the ones that I have read anyway) and you’d be forgiven for wondering why anyone would read essentially the same book over and over again.

The thing is, Gemmell believes what he is saying so much that you can’t help but get caught up in the joy he clearly feels when a character makes a perilous personal journey and ends up coming down on the right side of the moral line (no matter how many of his other characters have done exactly the same thin). This is very much the case with ‘Sword in the Storm’ and Connovar himself who is really put through the wringer by Gemmell. While the outcome is never in any doubt, you still can’t help but root for Connovar in the meantime; a charismatic young man whose worst enemy is the anger that lurks inside him. The reader feels his pain and shares his joy (tinged with a little sadness) when it eventually works out. It’s simple stuff yet incredibly effective when you’re the reader in the middle of it all.

Gemmell doesn’t just stop there though, giving us a beautiful backdrop where it’s all too easy to stop and stare at it. The lands of the Rigante are gorgeously drawn and not only does it give us something nice to look at (Gemmell perhaps dwells on the scenery for a little too long sometimes), it makes it very clear why Connovar feels that need to fight against his enemies and prepare for the coming of the Stone soldiers. When those fights inevitably happen Gemmell does the other thing that he is renowned for, giving his readers scenes that don’t shy away at all from the violence and horror of war. There is glory to be had but the cost is a heavy one to bear, it always is. Again though, it is incredibly easy to get lost in the crash of sword and shield; Gemmell writes a battle scene that flows easily, carrying the reader through the ebbs and flows of war.

‘Midnight Falcon’ used to be my favourite Gemmell novel but ‘Sword in the Storm’ is running it close after just one read. It’s a glorious, rousing read and just what I was after in my reading, not sure what to read next that could possibly come close.


  1. If you think these two books are good, the third and fourth Rigante books are even better....especially Ravenheart.

    I love Gemmell. I still haven't read the final two Troy books as I still want to have an unread Gemmell in my to-read mountain.

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