Have you read this book?
Hot on the heels of Dark Moon, and having enjoyed it so much, I decided to revisit Echoes of the Great Song. I say revist because I’d had the book in my stack for a few months, and had even started it a time or two, only to put it aside to pick up something else. Most Gemmell books, at least his recent ones, grab me pretty hard from the start, but Echoes of the Great Song…. well, maybe it would pick up once I got into it.
I’m pleased to say that it did, and it ended up being a pleasurable read, but it fell short when compared to the recent Gemmell books I’d read. It seemed rougher, not as polished, the characters less interesting and the plot less energetic than those of his Rigante books or Dark Moon. Well, about a third of the way in, I went to the front of the book and checked the copyright: 1997. So it’s an earlier Gemmell work, thus explaining the lack of polish.
In Echoes of the Great Song, the Avatars are immortal and live like kings, even though the power of their empire is waning and has been for some time. Their immortality comes from crystals that used to be charged with the power of the sun, but now are mainly charged with the life force of members of the races the Avatar’s have subjugated. Another race of people has appeared however, visitors from another dimension who are fleeing the destruction of their world. They are led by the Crystal Queen and their ruthless armies swarm across the land, bringing devastation and terror as they commit blood sacrifice to give power to their Queen. To counter them, the Avatars are forced to unite with the races they have held in thrall for so long. For main characters we have Talaban the warrior, Touchstone, a mystic tribesman, Anu the Holy One and the Builder of Time, Sofarita, the peasant girl who becomes a Goddess, and the Viruk, another Avatar warrior.
It’s classic Gemmell and a formula that has worked well for him: the gifted few against an overwhelmingly powerful many. Yet it was obvious to me that Gemmel hadn’t hit his stride yet. Everything was there that’s present in his most recent books, it’s just not as well done. It lacked that undefinable something that reaches out and grabs a reader and drags them into the story. I dutifuly read my few chapters a night, but never felt compelled to keep going.
Gemmell oftentimes raises philosophical considerations in his stories. What is the nature of evil? What is our obligation to each other and our world? To ourselves? What is the meaning of honor? Can an evil person be redeemed? His characters are often conflicted, larger than life, struggling to do good, and finding their nobility in their struggle. There’s some of that here, but not at the same order of magnitude as in his newer books.
Still, compared to the majority of fantasy fiction available, it’s a decent read. If you’re a Gemmell fan, you’re sure to enjoy it. If you’re a fantasy fan, it’s probably worth a look. It’s a pleasant and harmless enough way to pass the time.