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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Winter Warriors by David Gemmell

Winter Warriors takes place 300 years after the events in Legend. Druss and his life are just that, legends. The Drenai Empire had been invaded by the Ventrians and had emerged triumphant. The Drenai Emperor, Skanda, defeated the Ventrian armies and then magnanimously accepted their oaths of fealty.

Now the Emperor has said his eyes toward conquest. His armies have been at war for over 30 years and he decides to let his oldest soldiers retire. He gives them a pension and sends them back to Drenan under the command of General Banelion, the White Wolf.

The story revolves around three main heroes: Nogusta, Kebra and Bison. They are in their fifties and sixties and have known nothing but war for years. Their loyalty and dedication are not at question, only their ability.

At the same time, the demon lord Anharat has been released from his prison in the void and has possessed the sorcerer Kalizkan. With his help the Ventrian prince Malikada betrays the Emperor and destroys the Drenai army. But the Demon Lord betrays Malikada and possesses his form.

Anharat and his kind are the Windborn, an ancient race of ethereal beings that were born with the dawn of time. Anharat and his brother Emsharas learned to take human form and walk the earth among humans. They touched the Earth and took form from where they stood. Those that took form from the living forests became Dryads, from the river came the nymphs. Some became the shape shifters. Those that came to earth among burial grounds or battlegrounds became vampires and other evil fairy creatures. These evil creatures corrupted the good magical beings and started a centuries long war with humans.

Anaharat chose to end the war, siding with humans, he cast a spell to cast the Windborn into the void, a place where there is not form, a place of eternal torment. Nogusta is his last descendant. In his possession is a charm fashioned by Emsharas and passed down through thousands of years. It is the last hope for humans to defeat the returning hordes.

The Spell of Three Kings is required to open the gates and release the demons. Two kings have fallen, the last is the unborn son of the Drenai Emperor. The queen and her companions flee the possessed city of Usa. They are rescued by Nogusta and his friends. What follows is a life or death running battle with the ten Krayakin, the most deadly warriors known.

The last hope for the survival of mankind rests with Nogusta and a handful of old men, warriors all. Can the legacy of Anaharat save the world once more from the Windborn or will the Demons return to feast on humanity?

Gemmel has yet again crafted a wonderful tale. His use of flawed heroes, past their prime but still game for a fight comes across well. The story is wonderfully done with the action and drama I have come to expect of his work. Unlike his other Drenai stories, this one is self contained and has no ties to the rest of the series. It is a fun read and I recommend it (like I recommend all of his work).

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