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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

“Kell’s Legend” by Andy Remic (Reviewed by Mihir Wanchoo)


Official Andy Remic Website
Order "Kell's Legend" HERE

BOOK & AUTHOR INFO: This is Andy Remic's 6th novel after three previous near future military tech-thrillers and two far future hardcore mil-sf novels. This is also his first fantasy effort. The book is being published by Angry Robot & is released in UK under this imprint in paperback form. The novel has a prologue & fifteen chapters. There is also the entire poem of Kell's Legend given in the end. Each chapter features various characters & the story is narrated in third person. This is book one of the Clockwork Vampire chronicles.

BOOK OVERVIEW & ANALYSIS: The book title and cover will make all David Gemmell fans nostalgic as well as curious. My interest was also piqued when Andy Remic's book was announced by Angry Robot & I jumped at the opportunity to be able to read it. Andy has dedicated this book to David Gemmell whom he considers one of the finest fantasy writers [an assumption which I heartily agree with].

Most David Gemmell fans will instantaneously draw similarities in Andy Remic's fantasy debut & with David Gemmell's Drenai books. The 1st similarity would be with the title, next the titular character as depicted on the cover & in the book is rather cut close to the character of Druss. However if one can look past these connections Kell's Legend turns out to be an enjoyable, fast paced & visceral read.

The primary characters that are featured as POVs are:

Kell, grizzled war veteran & fabled hero, who is forced to reexamine his past as he deals with the invasion of his homeland & other events in the book.

Nienna, Kell's granddaughter who along with her friend Katarina flees her college in rather unfortunate circumstances

Saark, fabled sword master, disgraced hero & who is currently living out life as a thief & gigolo. He then meets Kell & agrees to his plan for his own purpose.

Anukis, a Vachine who is deemed impure by her peers due to her ability to drink pure blood & not the blood oil which sustains all other vachines.

Kat, Nienna's friend who escapes along with her & is forced to re-evaluate the past, as concerning Kell.

There are other POVs as well which are present in the novel however to reveal their names would be a bit too spoilerish. These characters however are few in between the major characters mentioned above.

Andy Remic has to be credited for creating a steampunk-like world within a fantasy setting. His concept of the race of Vachines is a combination of Vampire & clockwork machines, while their nourishment is via a substance called "blood oil". This brings a new twist on familiar tropes. The Vachines are shown to be of a higher technological setting than the other races appearing here.

The main character of Kell is a rather darker shade of Druss, with roughly the same amount of strength & formidable will but with a murkier past. He even has a butterfly bladed axe (which is homage to Druss's axe Snaga) however with the difference that this axe is black to Snaga's polished steel & also has a voice which speaks rather too clearly for Kell's comfort. The author has not clarified much about his origins and this rather heightens the intrigue in the tale as you read snippets of information about him and his past deeds which will leave you wanting more.

The character of Saark is somewhat secondary as we are given a slice of his past but nothing concrete can be processed from it. He might feature prominently in future books as his past comes back to haunt him. Anukis is from a rather prestigious lineage but faces a lot of abuse & humiliation due to her nature & heritage. Nienna & Katarina are forced to go alongwith Kell as they escape the invasion and they have to face a lot of tests in order to survive and along the way they also become acquainted with the unspoken part of the epic poem about Kell.

This novel if approached as substitute for David Gemmell's book will lead to great disappointment. Instead of this approach readers might like to look upon this book as, Remic building his own tale using a template created by David Gemmell. He has even peppered it with several of David's trademarks like the words "Laddie, old horse" etc. & with nicknames like "Black Axeman of Draanach" to get a Gemmellian flavor; however this tale is entirely his own.

There are a few negatives in this book. The dialogue seemed clunky in lots of places & the prose could have been better. The world-building is done to benefit the story & is not deep enough to satisfy world-building junkies, however works within the premise of the story. Alas no map is provided & this can be distracting in course of the story as the characters move from place to place & with a map being provided, the travels of the characters & of various situations which are geographically linked would have been clearer.

The novel is extremely fast paced & will keep the readers on their toes with constant action & mini-cliffhanger chapters. The action sequences & chapter endings reminded me a lot of Matthew Reilly & his books so if you are a fan, you are definitely going to enjoy this book as well. The body count is high as Remic often brutalizes his characters, even the primary ones. The action & gore is also very visceral and stakes in this tale are often kept high & bloody [Joe Abercrombie, you have a competitor now & a British one to boot!].

In the end I would like to reiterate, though this tale will remind you a lot about DG & his books, keep in mind it is Andy Remic who is writing it & based on this foundation he's extrapolating his own story. To compare it, would rob you of the vivid pleasure found in this story. This is an epic tale with lots of violence & Gemmellian characters. It remains to be seen how Mr. Remic develops this saga forward as the last few chapters do leave the readers with trepidation for almost all the POV characters. However it will be fun to read about Kell, his past & his family in the future. Andy Remic you got me hooked old horse! I'm eagerly awaiting the 2nd chronicle of the Clockwork Vampire series.

5 comments:

PeterWilliam said...

Thanks, Mihir. I'd seen this book elsewhere, but am unwilling to toss cash at books without one trusted, positive review. I'll be looking to pick it up now.

The Reader said...

Hi Peter

I hope you enjoy this book as well. Do let me know what you think of it once you are done.

Mihir

Harry Markov: daydream said...

Chackpot. I have my copy at home and now I am just waiting to grab it. :)

ConUladh said...

Just bought it for less than $4 as an ebook which is a pleasant surprise for a recent release

CroakerBC said...

I saw this book but didn't pay it attention, because of the cover. I thought it was just another run-of-the-mill generic fantasy book. Now, thanks to your review, I can't wait to sink my teeth in it. You could have simply written this one phrase "Joe Abercrombie, you have a competitor now & a British one to boot!" in your post and I still would have been sold. Hmm, come to think of it, that would be a good blurb for the book's cover.

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