When it comes to fantasy fiction I'm extremely picky. Too many times the presence of elves, wizards and orcs has been an excuse for terrible dialogue and lame plots. I prefer 'realistic' fantasy where the characters and story grapple with situations and conflicts that ring true. And where they get to carry a big axe.
My absolute favourite will always be David Gemmell from his tales of the Drenai and Sipstrassi to his retelling of the Trojan legend. Charactors like Druss, Waylander and Jon Shannow, the Jerusalem Man are guaranteed to make me happy as they battle demons and monsters both internal and external. I always turn to them when I need a quick fix of heroes and villians battling in a last stand, do or die conflict. For those of you who have read them I know that a lot of the plots are similar but I don't care. It was a very great shame when he passed away.
Well now on the recommendation of Jay and Kerry I finally got round to reading the first in George R R Martin's Songs of Ice and Fire. Why did I wait so long? I picked up Game of Thrones after abandoning David Peace (maybe I'll come back to him) and was hooked after the first chapter. Set in the mythical Seven Kingdoms (and beyond) the series follows the savage dynastic stuggles from the viewpoints of several of the different characters as they fight for the kingdom and their lives. The characters are recognisably human (mostly) and their struggles reflect a medieval world somewhat like The Wars of the Roses. Eddard Stark certainly has something of Richard III about him, The Lannisters are perhaps Lancastrian and (slightly end of period) Robert Baratheon is definitely Henry VIII. The author is a big medieval historian and has been known to use Osprey books in his research.
Game of Thrones was great, dark and a bit sick in places with even major characters not safe from horrible death. I'm now well into A Clash of Kings and enjoying every realistic fantastical minute.
Although there is no way he could fight in this helmet.