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Sword in the Storm by David Gemmell
Review by ConundrumThis book opens on a stormy night. A young woman is giving birth, and the local witch is playing the role of mid-wife. The father is being as helpful and out of place in that special way that only expectant fathers can manage.But then the witch sends him off to find out the childs 'soul name'. In this tribe everyone has two names, one that your friends call you by, the other is your soul name that ties you to the Earth.The soul name is taken from something that is happening in the world at the time of the birth, such as Two Dogs Fighting or Eagle In The Moonlight. So the father sets off in this stormy night to see what he can see.He draws his sword for protection, but then realises he's standing in the middle of a storm holding a long iron rod. He hurls the sword far away from him and it lands blade-first in the ground.Lightning suddenly strikes the blade, and it explodes. Hence, the child's soul name is Sword In The Storm.
If this introduction doesn't tell you that this is a child of destiny, then you obviously haven't read enough fantasy ... :-)
The rest of this book follows much the same path in that it keeps promising more and more, but ultimately fails to deliver.The closest approximation that can be given, for those who are unsure what I mean, is to imagaine watching all the first parts of all Star Trek two parters ever, but to never watch part two of any of them. Annoying to say the least.Actually, to be fair, that is not totally true, some of the threads do get resolved. But they are the threads you wish were left alone as they ultimately result in the deaths of major characters.And that, at least, is where David Gemmell does have a few differences from most fantasy authors as he is not afraid to kill people. In fact, one of the deaths left me with the distinct impression that the character was only killed off as David Gemmell was bored and wanted to liven the writing up for himself.If that is indeed the case though, then David Gemmell gets bored easily as this book rarely stands still for long. There are enough events crammed into it's 478 pages to last Robert Jordan three whole books.And that is one of my few (minor) quibbles with this book, it's too damned fast!As I said at the beginning, this book opens with the heroes birth, and it ends when the hero is 18-19. In this time he does more than Frodo ever does ... or even Luke Skywalker.As a result, certain events tend to get skimmed over. Particularly in the latter half of the book. Yet the latter half of the book sees the biggest changes for all the characters concerned.Also, a few of the characters go through ... obscure character changes. Now whilst this is more than possible over 18 years, the reasons are more often than not stated coldly and we are not allowed to see it happen.Some of this is unfair though. After all, cramming 18 years into 478 pages is no easy feat, but I feel that as a result the book should either have been bigger, or expanded into two books.
Minor quibbles about too much happening and not enough of the plot lines being resolved aside, this is an otherwise excellent book.The characters are believable and well rounded, even to the extent that it is believable and understandable why one of the ladies becomes a prostitute, and you even feel sorry for her doing so.The action scenes are exciting and genuinely tense in places. Particularly during the sequence in which the young hero learns that nature can be much deadlier than any man. Gemmell seems to have a knack for suddenly making a mundane scene turn into a tense situation that can explode at any time.
But even so, I still want to see how some of the unresolved plots are concluded. Maybe the sequel, which concentrates on the heroes son, will answer them ... :-)
In case you are still in doubt, I recommend this book to everyone. Just be warned that your favourite character might not have that good a life expectancy ... :-)
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