Monday, 24 September 2012

Review: Hero in the Shadows

Hero in the Shadows
Hero in the Shadows by David Gemmell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The gate was locked under spell and sacrifice. Those gone were never to return.

The demons of Kuan Hador were banished from the world thousands of years ago. The mystic warriors the defeated the evil are lost to history and the grave. When Man is gone from life, Man does not return.

Now, mists of ice, and beasts of mist lurk in Kuan Hador. The ancient spells are fading.

Gone are the days of the demons, and gone are the Men that stood against them. Few stand against the gate. Kysumu the swordsman, of the line that defended the world in a distant era. Yu Yu Liang, a ditch digger. Ustarte, the priestess. And the Grey Man, a man thought gone who did not stay that way.

Things never truly stay gone, and such is the way with a man that cannot die. But, the Grey Man will kill him.

He has to. For the Grey Man is the traitor who killed the king, the Prince of Assassins.

Waylander is back.

David Gemmell’s ‘Hero In The Shadows’ is the final tale featuring Waylander, in the Drenai saga. Sequel to ‘Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf’, the novel gives a change of place and name to Waylander’s story, furthering his motivations and the development of the legendary Prince of Assassins.

After ‘Waylander II: In The Realm of the Wolf’, Waylander has turned his back on the lands of the Drenai, travelling to new shores in an effort to start again. Now, known to the locals as the Grey Man, he is seen as the rich foreigner, an elusive outsider that the other nobles and merchants can benefit from. But, when a group of Mercenaries attack a village on the Grey Man’s land, Waylander takes to the hunt. Waylander is not the only killer on the prowl, as an icy mist lurks from Kuan Hador, a city forgotten to time. Heroes, be they from the shadow or the light, are drawn to Kuan Hador to face the return of an old enemy.

Waylander returns with an old friend, and the scars both mental and physical of a life hard lived as an assassin. New additions to the cast Kysumu and Yu Yu Liang come from the pre-established land of the Chiatze, a richly envisioned realm with a heavy oriental influence. And, in regards to enemies, Waylander has fought demons and beasts before, but facing Demon Lords is a hardier foe than anything that the Prince of Assassins has ever matched.

Gemmell writes with a cinematic grandeur in ‘Hero In The Shadows’. As ever, the dynamic fight scenes are simple but deadly, painting a picture in blood rather than over-the-top descriptions. Waylander’s an old veteran of his craft, and Gemmell is the master of his own, and the familiar motions are as well-oiled and greased as the mechanisms of a crossbow.

Gemmell’s stray towards the fight against a ‘Greater Evil’ rather than the struggle of Man Vs Man is an escalation from the other Waylander novels, but it’s a fitting evolution for the Prince of Assassins. After all, Waylander has proved himself time and time again against mortals, so it’s only right that he pit his skills against a worthy opponent. As a fan of Gemmell’s work, and having read all of the Drenai books, it’s awe inspiring to see the author ‘tip his hat’ to tales set in the same universe, though a different time. Without saying too much, several characters appear in his other stories including ‘Winter Warriors’ (see my review here:, and the books of The Damned ‘White Wolf’ and ‘The Swords of Night and Day’.

‘Hero In The Shadows’ closes the book on Waylander’s story, but can an Assassin ever have a happy ending?

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