Meet Two New Legends Of British Fantasy


From David Gemmell’s Legend to Joe Abercrombie’s First Law trilogy, homegrown heroic fantasy has produced some of the genre’s most memorable series. Here are two exciting new talents that should be on you must-read list…

The British created epic fantasy with a little place called Middle-earth. Ever since homegrown talent has been producing some of the greatest fantasy series ever written. David Gemmell was the out-and-out UK champion of herioc fantasy for the turn of the millennium, and since then an exciting new generation of authors such as Joe Abercrombie, John Gwynne and Adrian Tchaikovsky have been redefining and re-energising the genre. Two new names destined to become fantasy legends are Anthony Ryan and Angus Watson, both of whom have books out imminently.

Let’s look at Anthony Ryan first. When Blood Song was published last year, the chorus of approval was deafening, but harmonious. Critics loved it. Fans loved it even more. Amazon loved it so much it awarded it "UK Science Fiction And Fantasy Book Of The Year 2013”.

No wonder, then, Blood Song, the first in the Raven’s Shadow trilogy , was the bestselling epic fantasy debut of 2013.

Whatever way you look at it, Anthony Ryan is clearly a new name in fantasy to take notice of, and book two, Tower Lord , has become one of the most eagerly awaited sequels of 2014. It goes on sale on 3 July.

So what’s the fuss all about? Why has Raven’s Shadow become such an instant hit?

Pacy, populated with vivid characters and based in a meticulously crafted world, Blood Song introduced us to The Sixth Order, a kind of epic fantasy version of MI5, with swords. A coming of age tale, it was written from the viewpoint of Vaelin Al Sorna, the Order's newest recruit. Under their brutal training regime, he learns how to forge a blade, survive the wilds and kill a man quickly and quietly - all in the name of protecting the Realm and the Faith. But he chose a bad time to join as war is coming and truths he has based his life on take an almighty battering.

Blood Song , which has been compared to the work of Patrick Rothfuss (which Ryan says he finds flattering while admitting, “I’ve never read him!”) was six years in the writing. Ryan mainly blames that on having to hold down a full-time job as well as studying for a history degree at the same time. He originally self-published Blood Song but leapt at the chance to have it professionally published by Orbit, which gave him the opportunity to give up the day job and write full time. That’s why the wait for book two, Tower Lord , has been considerably and thankfully a lot less than six years.

In Tower Lord , after five years in an Alpiran dungeon, Vaelin just wants to go home. However, Reva intends to welcome him back with a knife between the ribs. He destroyed her family and ruined her life. Nothing will stop her from exacting bloody vengeance - not even the threat of invasion from the greatest enemy the Realm has ever faced. But wars have a way of changing destinies, allegiances and beliefs.

The Legendary Influence Of David Gemmell

In many ways, David Gemmell is the Godfather of British Fantasy (he even has an award named after him, which not even Tolkien can boast) and Ryan is reinventing his legacy for a new generation.

Gemmell is best known for the Drenai series, starring his most enduring creation Druss The Legend, which kicked off in 1984 with the book Legend . A plot synopsis gives little hint of why Gemmelll is so respected: a legendary warrior (Druss) with his mighty axe (Snaga) defends an undermanned, crumbling fortress (Dros Delnoch) from the mass forces of an invading empire (the Nadir). It all sounds a bit fantasy-by-numbers. What this doesn’t reveal is how Gemmell creates complex, intriguing, colourful characters with a few deft lines of prose; how he intelligently explores moral dilemmas without sermonising; how he understands the art of war without glamourising it; how he makes fantasy settings feel tangible and realistic; and how he tells such rattlingly good adventures with so much more depth that just a rattling adventure. He does, indeed, bring legends to life, but a it’ll be a life that’s as full of conflict and self-doubt and regret and struggle. And some joy and ale.

And There’s More…

Another new author carrying on the Gemmell tradition – and not just because his debut novel features an axe on the cover – is Angus Watson. Age Of Iron, the first in a trilogy, isn’t your average fantasy epic, though. Journalist Watson has a different take on the genre. A blackly comic adventure that’ll appeal to fans of Gemmell and Joe Abercrombie, Age Of Iron mixes magic with history and lots of battles, as a work-shy mercenary, a rescued child and a vengeful warrior amazon must against a thousand-strong army.

Age Of Iron is published in September. Angus Watson is definitely a British fantasy author to watch, and you should follow him on Twitter ( @GusWatson ) because he’s very amusing and he’s wearing a wonderfully silly hat in his avatar.

British fantasy is still leading the way when it comes to creating fantasy worlds filled with magic, warriors and epic battles, and new authors are finding new ways to breath new life into the genre. There’s magic to be found in these pages, and you need to the be among the first to discover it.

And to help you in that quest Orbit is giving away five hardback copies of Tower Lord. Enter here:

Dave Golder
Freelance Writer

Dave is a TV and film journalist who specializes in the science fiction and fantasy genres. He's written books about film posters and post-apocalypses, alongside writing for SFX Magazine for many years.