Orbit, 2002 (2002)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
had to read this novel when I saw the recommendation from David Gemmell on its cover. Having done so, I can understand why he liked it as its antihero Ballas is an extreme version of one of his own characters - bloated with drink, lice-ridden, ale gut sagging over his belt, his nose broken often and resembling a boar's snout, dried vomit on his shirt. He's a thief and kills easily, but a strong fighter with a remarkable ability to take damage and to extricate himself from seemingly impossible situations. He rewards charity with violence - overall not a likeable character, but one with an interesting past that is only revealed late in the story.
fter stealing a black iron disc with a blue gemstone at its center, circled by four blood red stones, Ballas has a vision of a
, one of the supposedly extinct '
' obliterated during the Red War. Arrested by church Wardens, he is sentenced to the Oak, but escapes to be relentlessly pursued by all the resources of a religion with a tight control on its population. Ballas ruthlessly uses everyone that he meets to keep his freedom, leaving a wide trail of blood behind him. He decides that he must leave Druine and pursues clues that will take him to refuge in the legendary Belthirran, the '
Land Beyond the Mountains
', which sings to him.
ince cowardly eel-catcher Lugen Crask has some of the answers, Ballas hauls Crask and his competent daughter Heresh along with him. The church issues a '
Decree of Annihilation
' against them, and its own
tracks them with magic, resulting in many close calls including an exciting chase through a sewer. Ballan does reach his goal (at a high cost to others as always). He is surprised at what he discovers there, but fights to the end, accepting that he has become a '
bringer of death
fantasy in a well-realized world; and if you enjoy Gemmell's seedier heroes, you'll love Ballas.
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