Book name: White Wolf
Author: David Gemmell
Format: ebook, print, audiobook
Publication Date: 2003
White Wolf is the first 'Book of the Damned', the sequel being published in 2004. The hero is Skilgannon the Damned. A new character kicks off the narrative, but David Gemmell’s fantasy world is entirely familiar, and even better Druss the Legend is here with us.
Skilgannon has earnt the hatred of Jianna, the Witch Queen, and her assassins are searching for him. He initially fled to a monastery, where he lived for three years as an anonymous monk.
He then vanished from the pages of history until a local mob began attacking the religious community. He leaves the monastery and travels to the east to the besieged city of Mellicane.
With him is Rabalyn, an orphan whose aunt was killed when their house was torched by a local councillor to avenge the death of his son, and another priest. The journey forms much of the early part of the novel, with the party being regularly attacked en route to Mellicane.
Druss the Legend, a much-loved figure from David Gemmell’s fiction, is also travelling east.
He and Skilgannon join forces and help parties of refugees to head for safety.
Much of White Wolf is presented as flashbacks, helping us to understand more of Skilgannon’s psychological journey to hide himself in a monastery.
This goes as far back as his efforts to rescue Jianna when she was still a princess and her life was at risk.
Although Skilgannon went on to marry someone else, he lost his heart to the future queen then and has never moved on entirely. She now wants him dead, and they are enemies, but the flashbacks show us that Skilgannon’s feelings towards her are very complex.
I loved the way that the flashbacks in White Wolf dovetailed naturally into the journey.
David Gemmell’s insights into his characters’ emotions and motivations are always highly developed.
It was a great choice here to present the preceding decades of hostility and struggle when introducing Skilgannon.
David Gemmell’s fantasy fiction often has quite a strong focus on love and romance, and this is one of the reasons I love his writing.
There are always brave heroes and massive battles to fill the pages, but he also varies the tone to strike a more intimate feel.
David Gemmell died in 2006, so the sequel The Swords of Night and Day was the second and final book in the Books of the Damned series.
This is such a shame, and his early death was a true loss to British fantasy. Skilgannon had the potential to become as loved as Druss the Legend. I loved White Wolf and would thoroughly recommend it.
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