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Knights of Dark Renown (1989)

by David Gemmell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Drenai: Chronological order (1), Drenai

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572630,296 (3.8)5
The Knights of the Gabala, legendary protectors of the Nine Duchies, have disappeared through a demon-haunted gateway between worlds. Only one held back - Manannan, whose every instinct told him to stay. Now he is the Coward Knight, and in torment. Murder and black magic beset the Duchies. As the storm clouds of war gather, Manannan rides to the Forest of the Ocean and prepares to face his darkest fears. For he must ride through the same gate and seek out his vanished companions. And the secret he will learn there will tear his soul apart ...… (more)
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    Waylander by David Gemmell (Sandwich76)
    Sandwich76: My first David Gemmell book and my favourite
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Knights of Dark Renown - David Gemmell ****

This is one of those books that has Gemmell doing what he does best, a fantasy novel set in a different yet similar world to our own, one we can can recognise from history but with enough magic and mayhem to transport us into a whole new experience. Much of the plot is mingled with our own Arthurian legends and myths, but Knights of Dark Renown is as much a coming of age novel as heroic fantasy. We follow a young boy named Lug who possesses a number of strong powers, but he does not yet know how to control them or even their extent. One night he witnesses the Knights of the Gabala passing through a magic portal in order to protect the kingdom. The Knights never returned from this fateful mission, but one remained behind. Now branded a coward he travels the lands looking for redemption. Couple these two pathways with that of the wizard Maerlyn, who is able to breath life into his almost robotic creations, and you have an action packed 400 pages.

A new evil appears, with mass genocide of all citizens of nomadic descent taking place. Can the King be defeated and what part will Lug play? What happened to the missing Knights and how will their destiny play a part? We meet numerous colourful characters from wizards to warriors, and something I love about Gemmell is that we never really know who is next to get bumped off. He certainly doesn't get attached to his creations.

A really brilliant stand alone book from Gemmell, and one that I can easily recommend. I was tempted to award 5 stars, and although it came close I just thought there was something a little missing. ( )
  Bridgey | Jul 3, 2015 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

It's been six years since the legendary Knights of the Gabala rode through a gate to hell in order to fight the evil that threatened the realm. They haven't been heard from since. But they are desperately needed now because the King, once a noble man, has begun rounding up the nomad population in Holocaust style. People who oppose his actions are named traitors and the King's new henchmen are very strong and very .... undead. The king's new policies have alienated a lot of people — mostly peasants. Can they band together and defeat this evil? Are there men and women who will rise up and lead this motley group?

Knights of Dark Renown is a deep and engaging multi-layered heroic fantasy. Not one of those that's got a cover sporting a big muscle-man with a sword in one hand and a buxom bikini-clad babe in the other. Gemmell's characters are not stereotyped heroes and villains; They're complex and three-dimensional. Some of his heroes — both men and women — are so flawed that they don't see themselves as noble at all (and even the reader isn't sure that they really are). In David Gemmell's world, all men (and women) have the potential to be both heroes and villains — even at the same moment in time.

Gemmell covers a lot of psychological ground in Knights of Dark Renown. There are themes of love and betrayal, guilt and forgiveness, consequences of behavior, atonement and redemption, courage and cowardice. I was listening on audiobook and found myself often having to pause the recording so I could think for a while.

This book is dark and many of the so-called heroes end up dead. But even through all of the darkness, pain, and death, there are many uplifting “heroic” moments, such as when the coward does a courageous deed (and, as Gemmell said in an interview, only a coward can truly be courageous), or when the man who had done wrong all his life decides to end well.

I heard Gemmell speak of a fan who told him of a heroic deed he had done after reading one of Gemmell's books, and I believe it. Though Gemmell shows us that good people can do evil things, he give us hope by showing us that we are capable also of great deeds — even if we've never done one before. It's this sort of inspiration that separates David Gemmell's fantasy from that of some of the writers in this genre who, striving to be different, give us darkness and leave us there. There's plenty of darkness in David Gemmell's work but, thankfully, he doesn't leave us wallowing in it.
Read more David Gemmell book reviews at Fantasy Literature . ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
I disagree with the user that this is not one of Gemmell's greatest book. While is not my favourite book of him, it is probably my second-favourite of this author. This story has incredible power and is one of the greatest books I ever read (even if I still like "Echoes of the Great Song" by the same author even better). The epilogue actually is a part of the "magic" which lets the story feel "more real". I don't care that he reused mythology character names. Not the only time he did something like that (see Troy Trilogy, which also is one of his greatest books). Anywaysm what I think makes this story really powerful is that it has believable, "human"-showed heroes, with all their weaknesses and strengths. The personalities of these heroes feel real. It is not the typical "standard fantasy heroes". ( )
  MagicSN | Dec 22, 2013 |
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I guess the publisher sees the author's name as the selling point of the book as it takes up almost a quarter of the front cover. The character on the cover, which turned out to be a sorcerer by the name of Ruad, reminded me of Tiny Tim and I couldn't help but wonder if he was tiptoeing through the tulips. The perspective of the artwork seemed a tad bit off to me as those knights on the horses appear too big and would be absolutely huge next to the sorcerer if the perspective was kept and they were moved next to him. Golden wolves, hmmm. Actually, going a bit beyond a first impression the scene shown on the cover doesn't appear in the book and at no point does the sorcerer keep the wolves on leashes. In fact the wolves only appear in a few minor scenes and their pride of place on the cover is misleading in relation to what you would expect to be reading.

MAIN COURSE: As with all Gemmell novels this is a well written and well told story. The story revolves around 'The Knights of the Gabala' who enter an evil dimension and don't come back. One of the nights, Manannan, is too scared to enter and stays behind. When the lands are besieged by evil he travels into the evil dimension to seek help from, and bring back, his fellow knights only to find they have already returned and are responsible for the evil sweeping the land.
Although a tale of magic and heroics this book goes a little further than most Gemmell novels and we find the evil knights have actually become vampires. Yes, vampires. They're very basic vampires in that they need blood to survive but no other traits are apparent as they go out in sunlight, can't fly, don't have an aversion to garlic etc. Even though Gemmell is a very skilled writer and he made the vampire aspect work it was still a step too far in my opinion as I'm not looking for a vampire fix in a medieval novel.
Even though the book is only 320pages the type font is small and the words are cramped on the pages which makes this a very long read and if printed like a standard paperback it would no doubt run well over 500pages.
Even with its length the ending seemed to take place very quickly. In fact, it appeared more spliced than rushed and had me wondering if it had been edited that way due to constraints as Gemmell's flow wasn't as apparent during the final chapter.

THE VERDICT: As usual Gemmell puts forth a tale of magic and love and heroics which revolves around flawed characters. Not one of his greatest novels but his writing never falls short and it is an enjoyable read. ( )
  BookMarcBlogpants | Oct 27, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
David Gemmellprimary authorall editionscalculated
Posen, MikeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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True friends are rare, but without them life would lack all quality.

Knights of Dark renown is dedicated with love to Val and Mike Adams, good neighbours, good friends. And also to Ivan Kellham, Sue Blackman, and the staff at Village Video, Hastings, who put with a quirky author serving behind the counter whenever he feels the need to run away from his word processor.
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The Knights of the Gabala, legendary protectors of the Nine Duchies, have disappeared through a demon-haunted gateway between worlds. Only one held back - Manannan, whose every instinct told him to stay. Now he is the Coward Knight, and in torment. Murder and black magic beset the Duchies. As the storm clouds of war gather, Manannan rides to the Forest of the Ocean and prepares to face his darkest fears. For he must ride through the same gate and seek out his vanished companions. And the secret he will learn there will tear his soul apart ...

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