Winter Warriors, by David Gemmell

winter-warriors-by-david-gemmell coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Ballantine
Published: 2000
Reviewer Rating: two stars
Book Review by Fraser Ronald

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David Gemmell is a good writer. He’s proved that to me and I have no question as to his capability. That’s part of the problem. I know what he’s capable of. When he doesn’t reach his potential, I am harder on him than if a writer of lesser talent who created the same work. I think my biggest difficulty with Mr. Gemmell is I’m reading in quick succession books published years apart. Maybe I should only read one Gemmell book a year.

Winter Warriors is another book about a group of fading heroes setting out to save the world, or some part of it. That synopsis might sound trite or cliched, but no more than is deserved.

These characters are taken whole cloth from other Gemmell novels and given new names. The quietly noble archer, the gruff, coarse strong man and the silent but expert par excellence swordsman — didn’t I meet these same characters in Quest for Lost Heroes? Different names but same guys. I won’t mention the young innocent who matures through his interaction with these heroes, as that is such a staple of fantasy fiction, Wizards of the Coast is warning new writers to steer clear from that particular character paradigm (as well as Drow, but the less said about that the better).

Okay, so the characters are warmed up leftovers. That’s okay, Gemmell’s story-telling skills are enough to keep this interesting, if I hadn’t just read the exact same story before beginning this book. Except, of course, Winter Warriors was published before Hero in the Shadows, so really, it’s the latter book that copies the former. In my case, I read Hero in the Shadows first. The wizard of that book (the kindly wizard everyone loves) is basically the same as the wizard in Winter Warriors. So we’ve got a character and the plot of one book mixed with the characters of another.

Now, if any other writer had done this, I probably would have tossed the book without bothering to finish it. As it was, I interrupted Winter Warriors to read a work of non-fiction and then, when finished, returned to complete it. I don’t often start one book when I’m not finished the first. Usually, I don’t even bother to return to a book that I can interrupt in such a way. This, however, is a David Gemmell book, so I did return.

Mr. Gemmell writes entertaining action-fantasy. Winter Warriors, taken on that level, is an entertaining book. It is not unique, it breaks no new ground, and it will not stay lodged in your memory, forcing you to get every person you know to read it. This is an entertaining read, a good way to kill a few hours. As the summer approaches, and people start reaching for books to read on the beach, porch, campsite, what-have-you, this is the kind of book you might want to consider. I mean, it’d go good with a beer and a burger — this isn’t a red wine and steak of a novel.

In the end, I think I can give this book a lukewarm recommendation. It’s entertaining, but there are many books I’d recommend before it. For fans of Mr. Gemmell, I’m sure it will more than satisfy. If you are looking for something different, something you haven’t seen before, you’ll want to give this book a pass.

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