Quest for Lost Heroes, by David Gemmell

quest-for-lost-heroes-by-david-gemmell coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Ballantine
Published: 1995
Reviewer Rating: two stars
Book Review by Fraser Ronald

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I’ve been very effusive of my praise for David Gemmell’s ‘Rigante’ books. I’ve finished another of Mr. Gemmell’s books, this time Quest for Lost Heroes. Now, I don’t know much about the Drenai milieu in which this book is set, but it is part of the world inhabited by Gemmell’s famous character, Waylander.

This book was entertaining, but I’m afraid I can’t really recommend it. Perhaps if you are a fan of Mr. Gemmell, you will enjoy this book. I found it passable, but not of great interest. The characters were not terribly compelling and the plot pedestrian. I know that Mr. Gemmell is more than a capable writer, he has proven his ability on many occasions, however, I found this novel mildly entertaining, but little more than that.

This story has a young man, the survivor of a raid, draw a group of all-but-forgotten heroes into his attempt to rescue the girl he was infatuated with from the raiders. This is intertwined with a power struggle among the Nadir, a pseudo-Mongolian group of nomads and slavers. The young man matures, some of the heroes paid the ultimate price, and I put down the book and quickly forgot about it.

That’s the problem. The book was gripping enough while I read it, though never to the point of missing subway stops–as happened on more than one occasion with Mr. Gemmell’s ‘Rigante’ books, among others–but it made no impact, garnered no thoughts or emotional reaction. Many episodes of the Simpsons or even South Park have left me with deeper thoughts than this novel, and that’s too bad. I don’t necessarily think that books must always invoke epiphanies, but I like a book to invoke something, a feeling or thought. I want a book to leave me wanting more. This book entertained me while I read it, but left no impression.

The characters are all too familiar. Now, I’ve always believed that great characters can save an otherwise pedestrian books. These characters, while interesting, were very stereotypical. I don’t know if Mr. Gemmell was trying to play with paradigms, but the characters were unoriginal an undistinguished. His characters in the Rigante novels that I’ve read always skated close to stereotypes, but were always redeemed by Mr. Gemmell’s characterization. It seems that sure hand I noted in the Rigante books was absent here. In all honesty, I can’t even remember any of their names, and would need to consult the book in order to list them. I can still recall all the main characters from the Rigante books. That alone tells me something is missing from the Quest for Lost Heroes.

The plot also did little to help my interest. We have an innocent who goes on a quest with great heroes and becomes an adult. There is also a subplot regarding a political and spiritual crisis among the Nadir, but that plot also failed to catch my attention.

Strong characters or a strong plot can save a book. This book, unfortunately, had neither. While entertaining, I wouldn’t recommend this book unless the reader had already read all the other books I’ve recommended. This isn’t the worse book I’ve read–by far–but it certainly isn’t one of the best.

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