Picking up a David Gemmell book for me lately is the equivalent of returning to the childhood home you grew up in after a long absence. We know the type of story Gemmell is going to tell, the characters are rock solid, and the Heroic Arc of our characters will be filled with happiness, loss, and redemption. Except with Sword in the Storm I got to see so much more from Gemmell and I am kicking myself for not reading this series sooner. The side characters are just as important to the story as our main hero and they go through moments of intense pain and loss that I couldn’t possible put into words. We have a story of pride, honor, friendship, war, and the many tragic moments that life brings to humans. This is the best book I have read by David Gemmell and it is not even close.
Sword in the Storm is the tale of the Rigante warrior who will grow up to be know as a vicious killer and warrior to his enemies known as Demonblade due to each one being a different color. To the Rigante tribe he is known as Connavar, born in a storm that destroyed his father’s sword and ultimately led to his death. It was from that time moving forward that Connavar would be named Sword in the Storm and his legend will grow from there. Although Connavar is the main character, we will get view points from several different characters as well. First we have Ruathain, friend to Connavar’s father and was in battle when he fell to the enemy. Ruathain came back from the war to marry Connavar’s mother Meria but will always carry grief and pain for not keeping his promise to return his friend to his family. Meria is also a view point and we see from her perspective the challenges of losing a loved one through depression and resentment. David Gemmell puts us as the reader through the hardships of family dynamics and I have never felt so attached to these types of scenes until now.
Banouin is a traveling merchant living in the Rigante region originally from the Empire of Stone. It is through Banouin that Connavar will learn to fight and the military tactics of his enemy. There are more characters to discover but I will let the readers discover these amazing characters for themselves. The magic that is prevalent in the Rigante series revolves around the Seidh, a mythical race of gods who live in the Wishing Tree Woods. When Conn saves a fawn from the brambles, he is gifted with a knife of unknown worth and power. Later Conn will encounter the Morrigu, also known as the Goddess of death and mischief, asking what Conn most desires in this world. Conn answers glory and he shall have it. From here the Rigante gets visitors from across the sea and it is realized that war will be coming to Conns home. He must travel across the sea with Banouin as his guide to learn more about his enemy and I will stop here. Can’t ruin all the fun!
David Gemmell is the master of Heroic Fantasy and will never shy away from throwing a few gut punches every few chapters. The interactions between his characters are so well realized, I feel like I could talk to them through paper and they will answer me back. The adventure is not the main focus of the story but meant to drive the plot forward while we are dealing with the many choices of our characters. One man’s or woman’s accolades will lead to another’s resentment and envy as we get to see both sides of that coin. As legends grow, it is often misunderstood that the person behind the mask is almost never who we have envisioned. Pain and darkness reside behind those eyes and one way or another it will be unleashed.
For those you who have not read anything by David Gemmell, I implore you to pick up Sword in the Storm. Classically written heroic fantasy with some of the most complex and addictive character writing in the genre today. It is a shame that David Gemmell past away while he was still in his writing prime but don’t let this series pass you by. It was just the type of story I needed to dive into and book 2 is right around the corner.