Review: Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf

Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf
Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf by David Gemmell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You can take the wolf from the hunt, but never the hunt from the wolf.

The hunters are come. The price on their prey’s head is far too rich a sum to ignore. A princely sum for a single death – well worth it for the man who killed the King, all those years ago.

But what is the true cost of trapping such a prey?

The hunted waits. The price on his head warrants answers. A sum for the Prince of Assassins, and his answers demand payment in kind.

Hunters, mercenaries, a dark brotherhood, demons – all want for his death. Though he is but a mortal man, the Assassin is caught in a web of destiny, one which will shape the world for years to come. The rise and fall of nations rest on his shoulders, and more fittingly, the aim of his crossbow.

You know what they say about cornered beasts…

…The wolf returns to the hunt.

The Good: Waylander (yes, he is a ‘pro’ in his own right); solid, simple plot that is highly engaging and enjoyable; doesn’t lead the reader by the hand and lets you judge the characters for yourself; doesn’t suffer from ‘difficult second book syndrome’ (though not truly Gemmell’s second novel, it is the second outing in Waylander’s series).

The Bad: Not for the epic-fantasy diehards wanting full blown ‘out-of-this-world-worldbuilding’ or complex magic systems. To me, in all honesty, the first book was better, but it set the bar so high that would be a difficult podium to steal.

The Ugly Truth: A second outing for Gemmell’s Waylander, and the story is a fantastic continuation to the first, however it is strong to enough to stand on its own two feet for those that haven’t read ‘Waylander’. For fans of low fantasy, 50 shades of anti-hero grey whilst acknowledging a black and white moral code. Ooo, has a dog, too!

David Gemmell’s ‘Waylander II: In the Realm of the Wolf’ is a return to the land of the Drenai, a sequel to his earlier title ‘Waylander’. The stage has already been set in the titular novel, but this second act breathes fresh life into old favourites and furthers the Drenai universe for future outings.

Waylander returns in all his violent triumph. Cold-blooded, calculated, and lethal above all else. Set years after his initial appearance, the assassin has returned to his given name, Dakeyras, and settled down to a quiet life. After the events of the first book, he wed Danyal, and raised the girls Krylla and Muriel as his daughters. In a cruel twist of fate, Danyal died in a tragic accident. Krylla has wed and moved away. Muriel alone is left, but what sort of child can an assassin raise?

Dakeyras has been lost to grief. But, when he hears of the price on his head, Waylander returns. At first, it seems that he waits for his hunters to find him, ready for the final showdown, to die in the only way he knows how – fighting. When answers come to light, the hunted becomes the hunter. Death has always been his answer, and this time its personal.

As well as the return of familiar faces (Karnak the war hero, and Dardalion the Priest), we are introduced to an endearing host of fresh personalities. Angel, the weathered and weary gladiator, carrying scars that mark his years of carving out a bitter hardship in life. Senta, the conceited swordsman who hides a heart beneath a roguish smile. And Muriel, the lost little girl raised by a killer, now a grown woman who hides more than just herself in the shadows.

As ever, Gemmell writers with a pace for purpose rather than eloquence. The story drags the reader along at crossbow-point, held by the throat. The action is visceral, sharp.

Gemmell is a master of the ‘greater story’ of the Drenai. As with ‘Waylander’ – in which he tilts the hat to his debut ‘Legend’ by name-dropping – in ‘Waylander II’ Gemmell continues to interweave plotlines, going so far as to highlight ‘Tenaka Khan – The King Beyond the Gate’ the protagonist from, funnily enough, ‘The King Beyond The Gate’. That, and a few tongue-in-cheek references to the questionable purpose of Dros Delnoch standing against the Nadir foe…it’ll never happen…will it?

Where ‘Waylander’ was a story of redemption, ‘Waylander II’ is a story of acceptance. Accept what has happened, how it happened, and what or who it made you. But what will or can happen can be influenced and changed – that in itself is a truth that must be accepted. Embrace life.
…or as Waylander does, take it.

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