David Gemmell

Wolf in Shadow

The Sipstrassi Tales 1

This was a departure from the strictly heroic fantasy Gemmell Iíd read before. Sure there was much that was down the line Gemmell: hero whoís just that much better than anyone else when it comes to a fight; admiration for Christian approaches until it gets to the loving your enemies bit; comradeship; selfless heroism. But this was a more experimental world than that of the Drenai. In post-apocalyptic Europe mystical stones endow magical powers in (somewhat randomly) varying degrees. The arbitrary ways this power emerged and the lack of any attempt to make various settings cohere was probably what made me enjoy this book less than any other Gemmells Iíve read.

This felt way too much like the faÁade of Steven Kingís The Gunslinger. Donít get me wrong, King can write Ė few can match his ability to evoke a visceral scene. However both these books lacked substance Ė they felt like some disjointed scenes that had been thrown together with no real attempt to make them cohere. In Gemmellís defense you could say thatís a feature rather than a flaw in painting this deliberately chaotic future. Maybe, but then I come back to saying I donít enjoy reading a book where anything can happen without justification.

Itís this undercurrent that didnít let me revel in the usable characters, backstory and interplay. Itís not a dogís breakfast, and there are several nice moments (Gemmell on a bad day is still pretty good), but I couldnít feel much in the way of suspense or relief in this world without rules. No, not the anarchy of the political landscape, the anarchy of how the author used the stones of power.

May 2008