Review – Ghost King

Cover of Ghost King by David GemmellGhost King, David Gemmell

Okay, generally I find Gemmell’s books to be fairly fun; standard fantasy, with enough interesting characters, twists or references to keep me interested. And you’d think this one would be especially so, since it’s basically about King Arthur (albeit as a young boy). Maybe it’s the fact that this was one of the earliest of Gemmell’s books (as far as I can tell from publication dates), but it really, really didn’t work for me. There was that same moreishness about it in some ways, but I kept getting distracted by the tone, which bounced all over the place. Serious teenage crushes to slightly ridiculed slave/master relationships in a single bound… It’s great that there’s a disabled protagonist. It’s great that in that sex scene between him and the slave, she feels that she has control over the situation.

It’s less great that one encounter with the maimed comic relief hero is enough to cure her of her fears and trauma about rape, but that’s a personal bugbear of mine. One good experience doesn’t cancel out one bad experience, people! It’s something like a one-to-five ratio, more like!

Anyway, maybe it was that irreverent tone that got to me. The liberal mixing of mythologies (a guy was a proto-Arthur figure, he was also Ares, there might be a link intended with Cú Chulainn, throw in some Babylonian mythology too, and a dollop of Gemmell’s own mythology as well…) really didn’t work: it’s not that I’m fundamentally opposed to it (hell, if you dig into it, that’s exactly what J.R.R. Tolkien did), but it didn’t work. It felt thrown together.

I’m not gonna read the sequel; it’s due back at the library anyway, and may the next borrower have more joy of it.

Rating: 1/5

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