Knights of Dark Renown is a heroic fantasy novel by David Gemmell, first published in 1989. Though a standalone novel, its story is set in the same world as that of Gemmell’s Drenai Series, though occurring more than 1800 years before Waylander, the first story set in the Drenai lands proper.
In the lands of the Gabala the king's power has darkened, turning to oppression. Declaring anyone with even a trace of foreign blood to be the cause of all the realm's ills he has ordered his new Red Knights to carry out a campaign to ‘purify’ the people. Once, the realm's knights would have stood against this injustice but years ago the last order of Knights of the Gabala rode through the Black Gate into a foreign land to combat a great evil and never returned, leaving no-one to champion the common man. The Red Knights, named for the blood colour of their armour, are a stark change to the silver that once protected the land.
The people's hope now rests on an escaped prisoner from Duchy of Mactha's dungeons. Word is spreading that this man will lead a rebel force against the king, that he is gathering an army in the Forest of the Ocean. Hopeful rebels and fearful refugees journey from all over the Nine Duchies to reach the forest to join his army or seek his protection. All who reach the forest soon learn though, that he is just another outlaw like them, just another persecuted man hiding in a bandit-filled forest; but the king's army is coming for them all nonetheless.
If the desperate men, women and children are to survive then the Knights of the Gabala must be forged anew to protect them; but there aren’t nine well-trained noblemen in the forest ready to take up this duty. The ranks of the new order must instead be filled by the people of the forest themselves: Murderers and thieves, traitors and criminals, one a cripple, another even a poet, nine unlikely heroes come together as the Knights of Dark Renown. Each must now decide how far they are prepared to go to live up to their new oath. Each must decide what they are prepared to give in defence of those they have now sworn to protect.