Parmenion, Helikaon, Kalliades, Connovar, Bane...all of David Gemmell's characters live long in the memory weeks, months and even years after I have followed them in their quest through troubled lives and epic sagas. I never totally love them, I never quite dislike them but I always empathise with them and want to stick by their side right to the end. Then, when the end comes I feel like I've lost a good friend.
Why? Because Gemmell spiced each of his characters with something that simply 'clicks' with the human psyche. His characters don't just develop; they evolve, and rarely as they might want to. It is the choices that they make at the most intense and troubled times that truly shape their character. As any person knows all too intimately, nobody makes the right choice every time. Nobody is perfect and any reader can to empathise with that.
There are many fine authors out there who have crafted strong and memorable characters and some may well have been inspired by Gemmell's work. Indeed it is the tales of the Rigante, the Trojans, the Macedonians and the Britons that have inspired me to write of the Byzantine boy Apion in 'Strategos: Born in the Borderlands'.
Apion's life is riven in the most brutal fashion, his parents slain in a Seljuk night raid before his eyes. Orphaned, he struggles to survive in the volatile borderlands between the Byzantine and Seljuk Empires in an age where war is imminent. Then, when an old Seljuk farmer takes him under his wing, Apion is presented with a choice: to let go of his dark past and seek a happy future, or to track down the truth, knowing that it will bring conflict and pain on those he loves most.
That is where the journey begins; he will face choices in his life that will define not only his own destiny, but that of the Byzantine Empire itself...