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Literature / Stones of Power
aka: The Last Guardian

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The Stones of Power series by David Gemmell consists of seven books set in three widely-separated time periods: two in Ancient Greece; two in Dark Age Europe, featuring the people who became mythologised as King Arthur and his knights; and three featuring The Gunslinger Jon Shannow in a Wild West-style post-apocalypse wasteland.

There's also Time Travel involved, mixing in a couple of other time periods, including The Present Day and the golden age of Atlantis (where all the trouble started); there's even a character for whom the events of the Jon Shannow novels occur before those of the Arthurian ones.

What ties all the stories together is the Sipstrassi, or Stones of Power, magical rocks that can be used to perform a wide variety of amazing things, for good or ill. They originated in Atlantis, and after its fall spread out across the world.

Ancient Greece

  1. Lion of Macedon (1990)
  2. Dark Prince (1991)

Dark Ages Britain

  1. Ghost King (1988)
  2. Last Sword of Power (1988)

Jon Shannow

  1. Wolf in Shadow (1987)
  2. The Last Guardian (1989)
  3. Bloodstone (1994)

These novels provide examples of:

  • After the End: The Jon Shannow novels are set after a cataclysm that brought down civilization, broke mountains, and changed the shape of the oceans.
  • And I Must Scream: The ending of Dark Prince leaves the Dark God Kadmilos trapped inside of Alexander the Great's dead body, which is embalmed and encased in unbreakable crystal. Kadmilos can't move or speak and the only way to break his link to the body would be if it rotted away or was burned to ashes. Plus, he gets to experience the Egyptian embalming process firsthand.
  • As the Good Book Says...: Jon Shannow certainly knows his scripture.
  • Badass Preacher: In the Jon Shannow novels.
  • The Drifter: Jon Shannow. Quite a few others, too.
  • Connected All Along: It is revealed pretty late in Wolf in Shadow that outlaw gang leader Daniel Cade is Jon Shannow's brother.
  • Exact Words: Sarento should've been a touch more specific when asking Shannow to transport him back to Earth in the 20th Century.
  • Expendable Alternate Universe: This becomes a major plot point in Bloodstone, where in one alternate universe fallen friend Sam Archer becomes a tough resistance leader and the Big Bad from Wolf in Shadow ... gets a lot Bigger.
  • Exposition of Immortality: Dark Prince has an epilogue in which the Greek philosopher Aristotle is strongly implied to also be Leonardo da Vinci, maintaining his long life with the use of Sipstrassi. The time is given as "unknown", but when Parmenion asks about what happened to Alexander, we're told he died seventeen hundred years ago.
  • Fastest Gun in the West: Jon Shannow. Note, however, that while incredibly fast, Shannow meets several men who are faster. When these men fight him, they die anyway—they may be faster, but he's far more badass (and businesslike; one man rides up to him, tells Shannow his death has been ordered, and asks if he has anything to say. Shannow shoots him, then says no). It's also notable that Shannow has a way of drawing that whilst not strictly as fast as some of his enemies, is smooth, calm, unhurried and easy to overlook; he basically draws without his opponents noticing.

  • God Guise: Over the course of the series, several characters gain effective immortality and a variety of other powers from the Sipstrassi and set themselves up as gods; this is generally not a good thing. The Big Bad of The Last Sword of Power is one example.
  • The Gunslinger: Jon Shannow.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Possibly played straight, possibly averted at the end of the Jon Shannow trilogy. Shannow transports Sarento to the twentieth century, just like he wanted. It's just that Shannow took him to ground zero during the first atomic bomb test. It's not entirely clear whether or not Shannow actually dies.
  • Historical Domain Character: Alexander the Great, among quite a few others.
  • Historical Fantasy
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted in Wolf in Shadow. Batik, a Hellborn refugee, describes himself as "not religious" and comes across as having his head screwed on tighter—and generally being much more sensible and overall happier with life—than Bible-following Shannow.
  • I Am a Humanitarian: Jon Shannow is unlucky enough to come across two cases of this in quick succession in Wolf in Shadow. First he fights off a tribe of cannibals who file their teeth to points. Then later on, when he's going through the saddlebags of a Hellborn he's just killed, he finds some tasty-looking cuts of preserved meat. He's seconds away from having a bite when someone else tells him that the meat comes from child sacrifices. The Daggers and Beast Men from The Last Guardian also find humans rather tasty.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Jon Shannow's silent raid on a Hellborn camp suddenly goes awfully noisy when one of his allies (who, to be fair, had never handled a gun before) tries to cock a stolen pistol while simultaneously squeezing the trigger.
  • Julius Beethoven da Vinci: The end of Dark Prince all but overtly states that Aristotle went on to become Leonardo da Vinci.
  • The Legions of Hell: The Hellborn in Wolf in Shadow. Even though they are humans, they are Satan-worshippers and explicitly model themselves after this trope.
  • Lost Roman Legion: The fate of the Ninth is a plot point in Ghost King.
  • Low Culture, High Tech: The Hellborn from the John Shannow series ride horses, practice human sacrifice, wear goats' horns on their helmets...and pack high-quality firearms.
  • Mana: Each Sipstrassi stone holds a finite amount of power, indicated by patterns on its surface that fade as the power is used up.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Abaddon, the Satanist Big Bad in Wolf In Shadow.
  • Mook Horror Show: There are passages written from the perspective of an increasingly terrified villain whose story ends with the protagonist killing them, featuring Jon Shannow among others.
  • No Cure for Evil: If you feed a Sipstrassi stone with blood, it can no longer create food or heal injuries.
  • Oh, Crap!: The Big Bad of Bloodstone, when he realizes how Jon has outwitted him.
  • Old Master: The Lance-Lord (kind of), and quite a few others.
  • Outlaw: The Jon Shannow books have a lot of them, like Daniel Cade. They're usually the main antagonists of the book until the real Big Bad shows up.
  • Red Baron: Jon Shannow, the Jerusalem Man.
  • Religion of Evil: The Hellborn.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Jon Shannow acquires a couple of magazine-loaded pistols, but prefers to rely on his cap-and-ball revolvers.
  • Saharan Shipwreck: One sign of how much the world has been changed in Wolf in Shadow is that Jon Shannow comes across the wreck of the Titanic in the middle of the desert.
  • Shed the Family Name: It's revealed in the first Jon Shannow novel that he changed his surname to distance himself from his brother, the notorious outlaw Daniel Cade.
  • Stable Time Loop: In one of the Jon Shannow novels.
  • Swiss-Army Superpower: The Stones of Power. In the Jon Shannow trilogy alone they are used for healing, immortality, mind control, invisibility, transmutation, travel between dimensions and through time, force fields, telekinesis, genetic modification, seeing down to microscopic scales, and recreating the final voyage of the Titanic for a dinner party.
  • Tap on the Head: Subverted, surprisingly from a writer whose characters regularly battle through severe wounds through willpower this happens unexpectedly to Jon Shannow—a strong hit to the side of the head with a club puts him out of commission for months and requires a lot of physical therapy to get over.
  • This Is My Boomstick:
    • Happens a few times in the Jon Shannow novels, sort of. In the post-apocalyptic setting, people still know what guns are, but current levels of technology can get no further than primitive revolvers. So in the first book, the few people who preserve or reverse-engineer guns from before the Fall (ranging from semi-automatic pistols and rifles to machine guns) are at a decided advantage in combat.
    • Occurs in a more traditional fashion in the third book. Jon Shannow briefly travels in time to twentieth-century America, and returns armed with twin Desert Eagles, Uzis and a pump-action shotgun. The first forty or so enemies he runs into after that don't know what hit them.
  • Time Travel: In the Stones of Power novels, this is one of the powers that the Stones can impart. Consequences include a Stable Time Loop or two, and a character for whom the Arthurian historical duology takes place after the After the End trilogy.
  • Weird West: The Jon Shannow trilogy features an After the End setting where most of humanity has access to civil war era technology, but which also has half-beast mutants, devil worshiping sorcerers and gun wielding lizardmen from the past of another dimension invaded by Atlantis.
  • You Can Barely Stand: Many of his most prominent heroes continue to kick ass literally until the moment of death, and certainly some time after the moment of mere fatal wounding. These include Jon Shannow and Clem Steiner from Bloodstone.

Alternative Title(s): Lion Of Macedon, Jon Shannow, Dark Prince, Bloodstone, Ghost King, The Last Sword Of Power, Wolf In Shadow, The Last Guardian, The Last Guardian 1989