He was known as Druss. The Deathwalker. Though the blood of merciless butchers coursed through his veins, he had found a fragile peace through his love for beautiful, mystical Rowena.
Then came the day when Druss returned to their village and found everyone dead–massacred by slavers who had stolen the women to sell for gold. Rowena was among the missing. Armed with only his powerful double-bladed axe, Snaga, Druss went after Rowena.
His journey would carry him from the highest thrones of power to the deepest dungeons of depravity. Along the way, he would battle savage monsters and descend into terrifying lands of black magic and demons.
Yet one thing was certain. Druss would have victory… or death.
This book was written well before our little niche genre was defined, but it is one of the fantasy classics which fits best.
The story follows Druss, starting from his time as a young and troubled woodsman. He’s moved around a lot, as his family has a violent background that his father is trying to escape from. When Rowena is captured by slavers, Druss has no choice but to turn to his family’s violent past, and take Snaga in hand.
Thus begins a long search for her. Druss quickly finds that he is not enough to find his wife, and makes a reluctant friendship with Sieben the Poet. His journey takes
him far and wide, across oceans, into foreign countries and against physical and supernatural enemies. Progression in this story takes several forms. First, Druss’ skill with the axe and as a warrior grows steadily. He has training arcs outside his axework, including wrestling and boxing for a small tournament-like section of the book. And then there is the character side of things. Mastering his temper, adopting his code, learning how to socialise and lean on others.
It’s a well-rounded book, and is only the tip of the iceberg for Gemmell’s Drenai series. Druss appears centrally in several stories (all the chronicles, plus Legend), and makes appearances in stories focused on other main characters (such as White Wolf). I’ve read them all, and if you enjoy action-packed stories centered on powerful warriors, you’ll certainly enjoy all of Gemmell’s books.