Stormrider, by David Gemmell

stormrider-by-david-gemmell coverGenre: Fantasy
Publisher: Ballantine
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: four stars
Book Review by Lynn Nicole Louis

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Stormrider is the fourth book in Gemmell’s Rigante series (and I think there’s also one that has yet to make it across the Atlantic). It, along with Ravenheart, continues the story of the Rigante some 800 years after the conclusion of the previous novel, Midnight Falcon. Although it can stand alone, Stormrider is the conclusion of the story that began in book three, Ravenheart.

Gaise Macon is a young nobleman of undetermined parentage because of his mother’s infidelity with a local clansman. A General in the King’s army, he’s been striving all his life to win the approval of his father (or at least the man who raised him) the cruel Lord Moidart. What is initially a struggle against rebel forces suddenly becomes much more critical as Macon’s nemesis, Winter Kay, acting on a prophecy, turns against Macon in an attempt to kill him. Macon and his father abruptly find themselves branded as enemies by the forces they’ve been fighting alongside and are forced to align with rebels and local clansmen. There’s much more to Winter Kay than simple ambition, however, as a secret relic the knight possesses begins to exert more and more influence over him. Macon ultimately finds himself to be the linchpin in a battle that could save or condemn humanity.

Gemmell’s strong style and fast-paced books are definitely more appealing to fans of ‘action’ fantasy as opposed to fans of fantasy like Lord of the Rings or Wheel of Time. The majority of major characters in his books are men, and in this case it’s even more true. In Stormrider women are no more than motivating factors for male behavior, usually by way of the death of an unrequited love that drives one of the male characters on a revenge spree. It’s unfortunate the female characters are so shallowly developed. The book’s an enjoyable read, but it could have been more appealing and more enjoyable with some stronger female characters.

Despite the level of violence in the narrative, Gemmell actually puts forth a fairly apparent antiwar and pro-ecology platform, that, fortunately, never interferes with the story (though it does come across as heavy-handed sometimes). I also like how he plays with the concept of history, that circumstances can redeem even the most condemned. History, after all, is written by the victor.

Gemmell characters are drawn with a broad stroke, but they typify the myth of the hero–they posses strength, courage and hardiness as well as a willingness to sacrifice all for the greater good. They are good at heart and true to themselves and the world around them. Don’t confuse this with nobility, however. The characters are common men, drinkers and brawlers, seemingly selfish and boorish, but who never fail to rise to the occasion when required.

I’ve talked before about Gemmell’s books and this one stays true to the type. I like the anti-war, pro-environment, redemption message, but don’t get the impression that this is a book that inspires deep thought or introspection. It’s fast-paced, male-oriented, action fantasy to the core.

If you’ve read any of Gemmell’s other books and liked them, you’ll like this too. If you’re a fan of action-style fantasy (a la Cook’s The Black Company or Duncan’s King’s Blades) and haven’t tried Gemmell before, you ought to. Although this book can easily stand alone, I recommend reading Ravenheart first as a minimum (and Sword in the Storm and Midnight Falcon too if you’re prepared for a four book commitment). I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

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