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If you like stories about grand heroes who stand up for the downtrodden, who fight for a righteous cause, then Legend is a shining beacon of this sort of fantasy. Gemmell was a prolific writer and a good one at that. His books are always fascinated with the concept of heroism and the individual sacrifice required to be a hero. Indeed, the concept of 'the stoic hero' always play a key theme in pretty much every single one his (many) novels.Expect bloody battles, glorious last stands, magic, love, valor, sacrifice, honor, horror, and all that good stuff that makes you weep with joy. Come read about men who refuse to sacrifice their values no matter what the cost. This is not a tale about doing evil for the greater good, but doing good always no matter the cost. It's the fantasy fiction version of Band of Brothers, Saving Private Ryan, Fury and any and every one of those movies about war, death, and courage and heroism where a band of men (and women) face insurmountable odds and certain death, but refuse to. Gemmell absolutely delights in telling the story of a broken man (often a man past his prime who just wants peace) who tries to find meaning through sacrifice.With 'modern' fantasy celebrating tales where heroes are villains and villains are heroes, where the idea that the villain and hero are simply two sides of the same coin, the works of Gemmell stand out as a pillar that repudiates this idea. Gemmell's works are very much dichotomous. Words created of black and white rather than shades of the same colors. The Hero, then, is a hero in the true sense and villains are villainous.Gemmell does not try and wow you with lyrical words, twisted political plots, or complicated narrative structure, but rather, he spends his energy writing action packed, emotionally enthralling heroic tales.Gemmell is more of a storyteller than a writer and it shows in his rather simple, mostly utilitarian prose. His early works (like Legend) are rough around the edges, stylistically, but the passion and the heart of the story shine even beneath the roughness. His later works, however, like his Troy series, show a drastic improvement in his ability as a writer of prose with the final book in the trilogy (finished by his wife after he died), the best of the bunch with a far more refined writing style that Gemmell lacked.While 'Legend' is standing in for all of Gemmell's Drenai books, I feel his best work was in fact his final work before he passed away, his magnificently written Troy Trilogy (starts with Lord of the Silver Bow), which cleverly re-invents the Greek story of Troy.In this version of the Best Fantasy Books list, I've finally added Gemmell to the top list, in no small part due to his enormous contribution to the genre, specifically, to Heroic fantasy. There are perhaps more clever, better written books out there -- even among the author's own body of work --  but Gemmell was a pioneer. And by the end of his career he really was a master of his specific craft.So come all ye who are weary of anti-heroes and dastardly heroes. Legend is your salvation.

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Troy Trilogy

The Troy books are David Gemmell's best works and his last writing before he passed away (his wife had to finish the series since Gemmell died before finishing it).

Talion: Revenent

Talion: Revenent. One of the closest books in terms of style and theme to Legend, Talion is a coming of age story that explores the idea of a hero and the cost of being a hero. it's thrilling, visceral, and action packed from start to finish. One of the best heroic tales I've read -- one that grabs you from the beginning and doesn't let go the whole way through.


Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. A band of heroes take on a dark lord to save the land and the people from endless tyranny. Sounds like a Gemmell novel? Well, it is, and features some of the best battle scenes in the genre and one of the most interesting magic systems.


Dawnthief by James Barclay was highly influenced by Gemmell's style of heroic fantasy. If you want Gemmell's style of heroic fantasy with lots of action, bands of heroes against uncountable odds, heroes who kick ass, brutality and violence, then give him a read. You won't be disappointed.

The Lightbringer 

Lightbringer by Brent Weeks is written in the same tradition as David Gemmell, but with more of a modern update on it. Similar themes, gob stopping amount of action, good characterization while still focusing on characters who are for the most part black and white. You could also try his first series, The Night Angel Trilogy which is not as good of a read and far more simpler in style and form, but probably closer to a pure Gemmell book than the Lightbringer. 

The Red Knight

The Red Knight by Miles Cameron. Heroic fantasy with lots and lot of action, powerful heroes, even more powerful villains, deadly magic, and people to save. If you like the raw action and greater than life heroes of Legend, you'll probably like this one.

Prince of Thorns / Prince of Fools 

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. On the polar opposite end of Gemmell, you have an author like Mark Lawrence who writes about anti-heroes. These characters are pretty much the opposites type of Hero that Gemmell writes about. They are bad people doing mostly bad things for a mix of good, bad, and selfish reasons. 

The Heroes

Abercrombie's best work and his specific treatment of the idea of a hero -- filtered through his patented style of fantasy subversion. You could also give his First Law trilogy a read s well here -- it's heroic fantasy, but subverted.

A Land Fit For Heroes

Starts with The Steel Remains. Heroic fantasy in the tradition of Sword and Sorcery, but with just about every subversion under the sun written into this intoxicating trilogy. Expect lots and lots of brutality, bloodshed, and raw action perpetuated by a cast of very troubled heroes.

Booklists having this book

Top 25 Best Fantasy Books

This is a list of books that are the crème de la crème of the fantasy genre. I've carefully chosen the top 25 fantasy books from hundreds of series and thousands of books. In my 20 or so years of... Read more

Other books by David Gemmell


Gemmell specializes in heroic fantasy. His best book is widely regarded as Legend. Legend doesn’t try to be anything but what it is: a heroic adventure with lots of blood,... Read more

The King Beyond The Gate

"The King Beyond the Gate" by David Gemmell is the second book in the Drenai Saga, which follows the story of Druss the Legend, a skilled warrior and leader who... Read more


"Waylander" by David Gemmell is a gripping fantasy novel that tells the story of a legendary assassin named Waylander, who is hired to retrieve the stolen Armour of Bronze, a... Read more

Knights Of Dark Renown

"Knights of Dark Renown" by David Gemmell is a thrilling and intense fantasy novel that follows a group of infamous knights as they journey to a cursed castle to face... Read more

Quest For Lost Heroes

"Quest for Lost Heroes" by David Gemmell is an epic and exciting fantasy novel that follows a group of warriors as they embark on a perilous journey to rescue their... Read more

Waylander Ii: In The Realm Of The Wolf

"Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf" by David Gemmell is a thrilling and action-packed fantasy novel that follows the adventures of the infamous assassin Waylander as he journeys... Read more

The First Chronicles Of Druss The Legend

"The First Chronicles of Druss the Legend" by David Gemmell is a gripping and exciting fantasy novel that tells the origin story of one of Gemmell's most iconic characters, the... Read more

The Legend Of Deathwalker

"The Legend of Deathwalker" by David Gemmell is a thrilling and action-packed fantasy novel that follows the legendary warrior Druss on a journey to avenge the death of his friend,... Read more

Winter Warriors

"Winter Warriors" by David Gemmell is a gripping and action-packed fantasy novel that follows a group of warriors as they defend a fortress against a horde of powerful and relentless... Read more

Hero In The Shadows

"Hero in the Shadows" by David Gemmell is a thrilling and action-packed fantasy novel that follows the infamous assassin Waylander as he is forced out of retirement and drawn into... Read more

The Swords Of Night And Day

"The Swords of Night and Day" is the final book in the "Drenai" series by David Gemmell, and it follows the character of Skilgannon the Damned as he embarks on... Read more


If you like stories about grand heroes who stand up for the downtrodden, who fight for a righteous cause, then Legend is a shining beacon of this sort of fantasy.... Read more

Troy Trilogy

The best of Gemmell's work -- and the last of his work too. Troy is a retelling of the Greek tale of Troy, but done told in such a refreshing... Read more

Shield Of Thunder

"Shield of Thunder" by David Gemmell is a thrilling historical fantasy novel that continues the story of the ancient Greek hero Odysseus and his quest to unite the Greek city-states... Read more

Fall Of Kings

"Fall of Kings" by David Gemmell is the final book in the "Troy" series, which explores the epic story of the Trojan War. The book picks up where the previous... Read more


Drawing heavily on the culture of the ancient Norsemen, Gemmell takes familiar archetypes and crafts them into a well-told tale of sacrifice and dying well. Druss and his once-possessed axe... Read more

In The Realm Of The Wolf

"In the Realm of the Wolf" by David Gemmell is a thrilling fantasy novel that follows the adventures of Waylander the Slayer, a legendary assassin and hero, as he embarks... Read more

White Wolf

"White Wolf" by David Gemmell is a fast-paced and thrilling fantasy novel that follows the story of Skilgannon the Damned, a legendary warrior who is forced out of retirement to... Read more

Waylander & Waylander Ii

David Gemmell's Drenai Saga burst onto the heroic fantasy scene in 1984 and bears no relation to the Draenei from World of Warcraft. His lasting impact on the fantasy world... Read more