Midnight Falcon by David Gemmell

ARTWORK by chic2view from 123RF.com

(mild spoilers)

By way of introductory remarks, let me state I did not intend to write two reviews today. I find myself compelled to do so by just how bloody good Midnight Falcon is. I have to shout about just how magnificently David Gemmell turned a ripping yarn into something so much more besides while not diminishing its blood and thunder heroic fantasy status one iota. He was always an author with something beyond the action and adventure for those wished to find it, but the Rigante series was his crowning achievement, and its second book as good as any in it.

Plus this does have forest spirits in, so perfect for today’s Wyrd & Wonder. Which I’ve already done. But hey, two for the price of one!.

Anyway. Elsewhere, I have been recently engaged in a conversation regarding the literature tag. Most of us have come to the agreement that, in some wording or another, the idea of literature as something separate to just all books should be regarded as the idea of having some impact greater than the simple pleasure of reading. By that light, I would propose that Midnight Falcon should be considered literature, even if it’s form is very much of the fantasy genre.

The story focuses mostly around the child Bane, and to a lesser extent his friend Banouin, although many other characters are given points of view to create a deeper, more powerful story. I shall dance around details to avoid spoiling Sword in the Storm too much, but suffice to say they don’t have happy childhoods. This results in them leaving their home in the Rigante lands and heading to the great city of Stone (think Celtic Britain and Rome and you’re pretty much there).

It also results in them becoming rather extreme personalities. Bane swings between jovial charm and murderous rage, either concealing his pain or turning it loose on those he believes deserving it. Banouin by contrast becomes a rather placid introvert, offering neither harm nor help, seeking a scholar and mystic’s power and status to help himself. They are rather diametrically opposed, with predictable results.

Midnight Falcon is all about results. It’s about how a reckless moment will lead to others, as the hurt make their own mistakes and continue the cycle. It’s about how moments of selflessness can have the same power too, and sometimes free us from that cycle. And it’s about how sometimes those reckless moments lead us to our greatest rewards against all logic, and how sometimes selflessness preserves the brutal and destroys the kind. We just don’t know, Gemmell seems to be saying. All we can do is stand tall for what we believe, fight as hard as we can and hope fate will be kind. That’s as true besides a raging river as in a gladiator’s arena, when with family and when with enemies.

Actually, that’s not all. We can recognise those around us for what they truly are; neither idolising them or demonising them, neither refusing love when it is offered nor mistaking its existence when it’s not. None of us have perfect track records when it comes to that, and nor do Gemmell’s characters. It’s part of their immense charm, their combination of larger than life status and plausibility. He has them dwell on their own actions frequently, sometimes full of self-justification and sometimes full of regret.

And tell no lie, sometimes seeing them come face to face with their regrets and understanding of everything that could have been left my eyes heavy and my heart full.

It’s also all about action and wonder. We see the cast deal with the capricious forest deities of the Seidh and fight gladiatorial duels, confront ghosts and outlaws, tell the future and fight wars. There’s a good few zingers here too:

“She says that the blood of a bastard is thin, and that, at heart, all bastards are treacherous and mean-spirited.”
“Ah well, I bow to her judgement,” said Vorna coldly. “She knows more about mean-spiritedness than any person I have ever met.”

I’m not sure the story will surprise too many people reading it with a clear mind, but Gemmell has a gift for immersing you deep in his world and when it does, it twists and turns. His prose is fluid and simple, adjective heavy but without slowing things down, a little mannered to evoke the feeling of ancient days. It is in many ways an unabashed historical fantasy of daring action with no pretensions of being anything else. It seeks to entertain at every turn.

But it is more. It leaves an imprint on the mind, a sense that the world will never be viewed quite the same. Is that not the mark of greatness in a book? Here, I find David Gemmell guilty of literature, and Midnight Falcon an incredible statement of everything fantasy can offer.

2 thoughts on “Midnight Falcon by David Gemmell

  1. Pingback: Quest Log the Last

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