Kell's Legend [Book 1 of the Clockwork Vampires] by Andy RemicISBN: 9780857660169 | Cover Price $7.99 | 444 pp.
Overall Rating: 8 out of 10 | Excellent Dark Fantasy
Overview: Kell is retired from the hero game, long retired. Not that he was ever really a hero to begin with. His deed's and his axe may be legend but that man wasn't a good man and he's not that man any more.
Now Kell is living a quiet life, secretly paying his granddaughter's way through University and sneaking visits with her when he can. He believes that she's the only real good thing he's done in his life and he means to make sure she grows up right.
Then, the Iron Army comes - sacking the city with sorcery and albino soldiers. The city has no defense against the ice-smoke that freezes men in their tracks. But Kell can still fight, his blood-bond axe Ilanna rendering him immune to the sorcery. He grabs his niece, Niena, her friend, Kat, and picks up a sidekick along the way - and heads out to warn the king of the invasion.
Review: Andy Remic has paid obvious homage to David Gemmell's work with this series. Gemmell's Legend tells the story of Druss, Captain of the Axe, whose deeds are Legend but who got old, turned his back on his own legend and retreats to solitude until barbarian hordes invade, forcing him back into the role of the hero.
Remic's story is not a mere retelling of Gemmell's, however. Kell is his own character and Remic's world is vastly different. While the core idea behind the story may be homage to Gemmell, the meat of this story is all Remic.
I will never use the terms "non-stop thrill ride" or "roller-coaster" in a review but you get the idea. This novel is non-stop action with a high body count. Kell is a well-crafted character and his reluctant sidekick, Saark provides some levity to the quest.
The idea of the aged hero coming out of retirement may have been perfected in Gemmell's Legend but it's been done many times in fantasy novels, science fiction, and television. The beauty of this plot element is that, done well, it gives us a hero that my generation can relate to - someone that knows the aches and pains that come with age but still possesses the iron core that made him a hero in the first place.
Remic did it well. Kell is a believable hero, a believable grandfather - cranky and sore in the morning, hardened to the world and the nature of man. His blood-bond axe, Ilanna, gives him the power to fight again like a young man, but it's still the mind of the old guiding that hand.
Remic's world at first seems to be a traditional fantasy setting - in the realm where Kell resides. Over the Black Pike Mountains though, the Vachine reside. Vampire machines, bred and constructed from the remnants of the vampire race - now living as a hybrid race, part vampire, part clockwork, subsisting on blood-oil, a refined product fueled with dark magic and blood.
Vachine General Graal leads the invasion into the human lands - seeking blood for the refineries and leading an army of albino warriors, slave-race to the vachine - and followed by Harvesters, a virtually unkillable being that harvests the blood for the vachine refineries.
Conclusion: If you like epic fantasy and don't mind (or enjoy) a high gore level, this is a solid start to a series that is well worth the read. Remic tells a great story, packed to the margins with action. 'Ware the cliffhanger ending if you only purchase the first book. I'd have liked to see more of the Vachine but otherwise, I have few complaints about this novel.