My relationship with the work of David Gemmell is clear and straight forward. A consistent writer in terms of story, content, and style, I do not need to research a Gemmell novel before reading it. I know it will be heroic story set in a relatively generic fantasy setting with focus on action and decision in times of war and strife. I also know the work will not tax my intellect; more beach or late night reading requiring little active participation. Thus it was that his Greek duology—Lion of Macedon (1990) and Dark Prince (1991) threw me for a loop—a small loop, but a loop.
The small loop is setting; instead of a D&D-type fantasy land, we get an ancient Greece strongly analogous to real world history. Opening in Sparta around 380 B.C., Lion of Macedon takes the life of the half Spartan, half Macedonian general Parmenion and spins it into a fantastical biography, concluding in the second volume, Dark Prince, that intertwines the life of Alexander the Great’s with Parmenion’s. The story’s key points remain true to history (at least as far as I can tell), but into the insterstices are inserted elements of fantasy that utilize Greek myth. Lion of Macedon largely the real world setup and Dark Prince the fantastical offshoot that synthesizes the two upon its conclusion, the duology is an imaginative revisioning of Permenion’s life.