Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead.
Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more…
This omnibus edition comprises The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rosethe first three novels in Glen Cook's bestselling fantasy series.
About the Author
Glen Cook lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Date of Birth:July 9, 1944
Place of Birth:New York City, New York
Read an Excerpt
Chronicles of the Black Company
By Glen Cook
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2007 Glen Cook
All rights reserved.
There were prodigies and portents enough, One-Eye says. We must blame ourselves for misinterpreting them. One-Eye's handicap in no way impairs his marvelous hindsight.
Lightning from a clear sky smote the Necropolitan Hill. One bolt struck the bronze plaque sealing the tomb of the forvalaka, obliterating half the spell of confinement. It rained stones. Statues bled. Priests at several temples reported sacrificial victims without hearts or livers. One victim escaped after its bowels were opened and was not recaptured. At the Fork Barracks, where the Urban Cohorts were billeted, the image of Teux turned completely around. For nine evenings running, ten black vultures circled the Bastion. Then one evicted the eagle which lived atop the Paper Tower.
Astrologers refused readings, fearing for their lives. A mad soothsayer wandered the streets proclaiming the imminent end of the world. At the Bastion, the eagle not only departed, the ivy on the outer ramparts withered and gave way to a creeper which appeared black in all but the most intense sunlight.
But that happens every year. Fools can make an omen of anything in retrospect.
We should have been better prepared. We did have four modestly accomplished wizards to stand sentinel against predatory tomorrows—though never by any means as sophisticated as divining through sheeps' entrails.
Still, the best augurs are those who divine from the portents of the past. They compile phenomenal records.
Beryl totters perpetually, ready to stumble over a precipice into chaos. The Queen of the Jewel Cities was old and decadent and mad, filled with the stench of degeneracy and moral dryrot. Only a fool would be surprised by anything found creeping its night streets.
* * *
I had every shutter thrown wide, praying for a breath off the harbor, rotting fish and all. There wasn't enough breeze to stir a cobweb. I mopped my face and grimaced at my first patient. "Crabs again, Curly?"
He grinned feebly. His face was pale. "It's my stomach, Croaker." His pate looks like a polished ostrich egg. Thus the name. I checked the watch schedule and duty roster. Nothing there he would want to avoid. "It's bad, Croaker. Really."
"Uhm." I assumed my professional demeanor, sure what it was. His skin was clammy, despite the heat. "Eaten outside the commissary lately, Curly?" A fly landed on his head, strutted like a conqueror. He didn't notice.
"Yeah. Three, four times."
"Uhm." I mixed a nasty, milky concoction. "Drink this. All of it."
His whole face puckered at the first taste. "Look, Croaker, I...."
The smell of the stuff revolted me. "Drink, friend. Two men died before I came up with that. Then Pokey took it and lived." Word was out about that.
"You mean it's poison? The damned Blues slipped me something?"
"Take it easy. You'll be okay. Yeah. It looks that way." I'd had to open up Walleye and Wild Bruce to learn the truth. It was a subtle poison. "Get over there on the cot where the breeze will hit you—if the son of a bitch ever comes up. And lie still. Let the stuff work." I settled him down.
"Tell me what you ate outside." I collected a pen and a chart tacked onto a board. I had done the same with Pokey, and with Wild Bruce before he died, and had had Walleye's platoon sergeant backtrack his movements. I was sure the poison had come from one of several nearby dives frequented by the Bastion garrison.
Curly produced one across-the-board match. "Bingo! We've got the bastards now."
"Who?" He was ready to go settle up himself.
"You rest. I'll see the Captain." I patted his shoulder, checked the next room. Curly was it for morning sick call.
I took the long route, along Trejan's Wall, which overlooks Beryl's harbor. Halfway over I paused, stared north, past the mole and lighthouse and Fortress Island, at the Sea of Torments. Particolored sails speckled the dingy grey-brown water as coastal dhows scooted out along the spiderweb of routes linking the Jewel Cities. The upper air was still and heavy and hazy. The horizon could not be discerned. But down on the water the air was in motion. There was always a breeze out around the Island, though it avoided the shore as if fearing leprosy. Closer at hand, the wheeling gulls were as surly and lackadaisical as the day promised to make most men.
Another summer in service to the Syndic of Beryl, sweating and grimy, thanklessly shielding him from political rivals and his undisciplined native troops. Another summer busting our butts for Curly's reward. The pay was good, but not in coin of the soul. Our forebrethren would be embarrassed to see us so diminished.
Beryl is misery curdled, but also ancient and intriguing. Its history is a bottomless well filled with murky water. I amuse myself plumbing its shadowy depths, trying to isolate fact from fiction, legend, and myth. No easy task, for the city's earlier historians wrote with an eye to pleasing the powers of their day.
The most interesting period, for me, is the ancient kingdom, which is the least satisfactorily chronicled. It was then, in the reign of Niam, that the forvalaka came, were overcome after a decade of terror, and were confined in their dark tomb atop the Necropolitan Hill. Echoes of that terror persist in folklore and matronly admonitions to unruly children. No one recalls what the forvalaka were, now.
I resumed walking, despairing of beating the heat. The sentries, in their shaded kiosks, wore towels draped around their necks.
A breeze startled me. I faced the harbor. A ship was rounding the Island, a great lumbering beast that dwarfed the dhows and feluccas. A silver skull bulged in the center of its full-bellied black sail. That skull's red eyes glowed. Fires flickered behind its broken teeth. A glittering silver band encircled the skull.
"What the hell is that?" a sentry asked.
"I don't know, Whitey." The ship's size impressed me more than did its flashy sail. The four minor wizards we had with the Company could match that showmanship. But I'd never seen a galley sporting five banks of oars.
I recalled my mission.
I knocked on the Captain's door. He did not respond. I invited myself inside, found him snoring in his big wooden chair. "Yo!" I hollered. "Fire! Riots in the Groan! Dancing at the Gate of Dawn!" Dancing was an old time general who nearly destroyed Beryl. People still shudder at his name.
The Captain was cool. He didn't crack an eyelid or smile. "You're presumptuous, Croaker. When are you going to learn to go through channels?" Channels meant bug the Lieutenant first. Don't interrupt his nap unless the Blues were storming the Bastion.
I explained about Curly and my chart.
He swung his feet off the desk. "Sounds like work for Mercy." His voice had a hard edge. The Black Company does not suffer malicious attacks upon its men.
* * *
Mercy was our nastiest platoon leader. He thought a dozen men would suffice, but let Silent and me tag along. I could patch the wounded. Silent would be useful if the Blues played rough. Silent held us up half a day while he made a quick trip to the woods.
"What the hell you up to?" I asked when he got back, lugging a ratty-looking sack.
He just grinned. Silent he is and silent he stays.
The place was called Mole Tavern. It was a comfortable hangout. I had passed many an evening there. Mercy assigned three men to the back door, and a pair each to the two windows. He sent another two to the roof. Every building in Beryl has a roof hatch. People sleep up top during the summer.
He led the rest of us through the Mole's front door.
Mercy was a smallish, cocky fellow, fond of the dramatic gesture. His entry should have been preceded by fanfares.
The crowd froze, stared at our shields and bared blades, at snatches of grim faces barely visible through gaps in our face guards. "Verus!" Mercy shouted. "Get your butt out here!"
The grandfather of the managing family appeared. He sidled toward us like a mutt expecting a kick. The customers began buzzing. "Silence!" Mercy thundered. He could get a big roar out of his small body.
"How may we help you, honored sirs?" the old man asked.
"You can get your sons and grandsons out here, Blue."
Chairs squeaked. A soldier slammed his blade into a tabletop.
"Sit still," Mercy said. "You're just having lunch, fine. You'll be loose in an hour."
The old man began shaking. "I don't understand, sir. What have we done?"
Mercy grinned evilly. "He plays the innocent well. It's murder, Verus. Two charges of murder by poisoning. Two of attempted murder by poisoning. The magistrates decreed the punishment of slaves." He was having fun.
Mercy wasn't one of my favorite people. He never stopped being the boy who pulled wings off flies.
The punishment of slaves meant being left up for scavenger birds after public crucifixion. In Beryl only criminals are buried uncremated, or not buried at all.
An uproar rose in the kitchen. Somebody was trying to get out the back door. Our men were objecting.
The public room exploded. A wave of dagger-brandishing humanity hit us.
They forced us back to the door. Those who were not guilty obviously feared they would be condemned with those who were. Beryl's justice is fast, crude, and harsh, and seldom gives a defendant opportunity to clear himself.
A dagger slipped past a shield. One of our men went down. I am not much as a fighter, but I stepped into his place. Mercy said something snide that I did not catch. "That's your chance at heaven wasted," I countered. "You're out of the Annals forever."
"Crap. You don't leave out anything."
A dozen citizens went down. Blood pooled in low places on the floor. Spectators gathered outside. Soon some adventurer would hit us from behind.
A dagger nicked Mercy. He lost patience. "Silent!"
Silent was on the job already, but he was Silent. That meant no sound, and very little flash or fury.
Mole patrons began slapping their faces and pawing the air, forsaking us. They hopped and danced, grabbed their backs and behinds, squealed and howled piteously. Several collapsed.
"What the hell did you do?" I asked.
Silent grinned, exposing sharp teeth. He passed a dusky paw across my eyes. I saw the Mole from a slightly altered perspective.
The bag he had lugged in from out of town proved to be one of those hornets' nests you can, if you're unlucky, run into in the woods south of Beryl. Its tenants were the bumblebee-looking monsters peasants call bald-faced hornets. They have a foul temper unrivalled anywhere in Nature. They cowed the Mole crowd fast, without bothering our lads.
"Fine work, Silent," Mercy said, after having vented his fury on several hapless patrons. He herded the survivors into the street.
I examined our injured brother while the unharmed soldiers finished the wounded. Saving the Syndic the cost of a trial and a hangman, Mercy called that. Silent looked on, still grinning. He's not nice either, though he seldom participates directly.
* * *
We took more prisoners than expected. "Was a bunch of them." Mercy's eyes twinkled. "Thanks, Silent." The line stretched a block.
Fate is a fickle bitch. She'd led us to Mole Tavern at a critical moment. Poking around, our witch man had unearthed a prize, a crowd concealed in a hideout beneath the wine cellar. Among them were some of the best known Blues.
Mercy chattered, wondering aloud how large a reward our informant deserved. No such informant existed. The yammer was meant to save our tame wizards from becoming prime targets. Our enemies would scurry around looking for phantom spies.
"Move them out," Mercy ordered. Still grinning, he eyed the sullen crowd. "Think they'll try something?" They did not. His supreme confidence cowed anyone who had ideas.
We wound through mazelike streets half as old as the world, our prisoners shuffling listlessly. I gawked. My comrades are indifferent to the past, but I cannot help being awed—and occasionally intimidated—by how time-deep Beryl's history runs.
Mercy called an unexpected halt. We had come to the Avenue of the Syndics, which winds from the Customs House uptown to the Bastion's main gate. There was a procession on the Avenue. Though we reached the intersection first, Mercy yielded the right-of-way.
The procession consisted of a hundred armed men. They looked tougher than anyone in Beryl but us. At their head rode a dark figure on the biggest black stallion I've ever seen. The rider was small, effeminately slim, and clad in worn black leather. He wore a black morion which concealed his head entirely. Black gloves concealed his hands. He seemed to be unarmed.
"Damn me," Mercy whispered.
I was disturbed. That rider chilled me. Something primitive deep inside me wanted to run. But curiosity plagued me more. Who was he? Had he come off that strange ship in the harbor? Why was he here?
The eyeless gaze of the rider swept across us indifferently, as though passing over a flock of sheep. Then it jerked back, fixing on Silent.
Silent met stare for stare, and showed no fear. And still he seemed somehow diminished.
The column passed on, hardened, disciplined. Shaken, Mercy got our mob moving again. We entered the Bastion only yards behind the strangers.
* * *
We had arrested most of the more conservative Blue leadership. When word of the raid spread, the volatile types decided to flex their muscles. They sparked something monstrous.
The perpetually abrasive weather does things to men's reason. The Beryl mob is savage. Riots occur almost without provocation. When things go bad the dead number in the thousands. This was one of the worst times.
The army is half the problem. A parade of weak, short-term Syndics let discipline lapse. The troops are beyond control now. Generally, though, they will act against rioters. They see riot suppression as license to loot.
The worst happened. Several cohorts from the Fork Barracks demanded a special donative before they would respond to a directive to restore order. The Syndic refused to pay.
The cohorts mutinied.
Mercy's platoon hastily established a strongpoint near the Rubbish Gate and held off all three cohorts. Most of our men were killed, but none ran. Mercy himself lost an eye, a finger, was wounded in shoulder and hip, and had more than a hundred holes in his shield when help arrived. He came to me more dead than alive.
In the end, the mutineers scattered rather than face the rest of the Black Company.
The riots were the worst in memory. We lost almost a hundred brethren trying to suppress them. We could ill afford the loss of one. In the Groan the streets were carpeted with corpses. The rats grew fat. Clouds of vultures and ravens migrated from the countryside.
The Captain ordered the Company into the Bastion. "Let it run its course," he said. "We've done enough." His disposition had gone beyond sour, disgusted. "Our commission doesn't require us to commit suicide."
Somebody made a crack about us falling on our swords.
"Seems to be what the Syndic expects."
Beryl had ground our spirits down, but had left none so disillusioned as the Captain. He blamed himself for our losses. He did, in fact, try to resign.
Excerpted from Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook. Copyright © 2007 Glen Cook. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
The Black Company,
2. Tally Roadside,
3. Juniper: The Iron Lily,
4. Tally Ambush,
5. Juniper: Marron Shed,
6. Tally Mix-Up,
7. Juniper: Krage,
8. Tally: Close-Up,
9. Juniper: Death Pays,
10. Tally Turnaround,
11. Juniper: Night Work,
12. The Barrowland,
13. Juniper: The Enclosure,
14. Juniper: Duretile,
15. Juniper: Death of a Gangster,
16. Juniper: Nasty Surprise,
17. Juniper: Travel Plans,
18. Juniper: Blowing Smoke,
19. Juniper: Fear,
20. Juniper: Shadow Talk,
22. Juniper: Running Scared,
23. Juniper: Interrogation,
24. Juniper: Shadow Dancing,
25. Juniper: Lovers,
26. Juniper: Lovers' Parting,
27. Juniper: Banished,
28. Juniper: Lisa,
29. Juniper: Payoff,
30. Juniper: More Trouble,
31. Juniper: The Return,
32. Juniper: Visitors,
33. Juniper: The Encounter,
34. Juniper: Flight,
35. Juniper: Bad News,
36. Juniper: Fireworks,
37. Juniper: The Calm,
38. Juniper: The Storm,
39. On The Run,
40. Meadenvil: Pathfinding,
41. Meadenvil: The Ship,
42. Meadenvil: The Refugee,
43. Meadenvil: Warm Trail,
44. Meadenvil: The Clearing,
45. Meadenvil: Hot Trail,
46. Meadenvil: Trouble,
47. The Inn: On The Run,
48. The Inn: Ambush,
49. On The Move,
The White Rose,
1. The Plain of Fear,
2. The Plain of Fear,
3. Story From Yesteryear,
4. The Near Past: Corbie,
5. The Plain of Fear,
6. The Plain of Fear,
7. The Second Letter,
8. The Barrowland,
9. The Plain of Fear,
10. Bomanz's Story,
11. The Barrowland,
12. The Plain of Fear,
13. The Plain of Fear,
14. The Story of Bomanz,
15. The Barrowland,
16. The Plain of Fear,
19. Bomanz's Tale,
20. The Barrowland,
21. The Plain of Fear,
22. The Plain of Fear,
23. The Plain of Fear,
24. The Wide World,
25. The Barrowland,
26. On the Road,
28. To the Barrowland,
29. The Barrowland, Back When,
30. A Barrowland Night,
31. Night in the Barrowland,
32. Imprisoned in the Barrowland,
33. Missing Man,
34. Bomanz's Story,
35. The Barrowland, from Bad to Worse,
36. Hard Times,
37. The Forest and Beyond,
38. The Fortress at Deal,
39. A Guest at Charm,
40. Making Up My Mind,
41. A Town Called Horse,
44. The Quickening,
45. Bargain Struck,
46. Son of the Tree,
47. Shadows In Shadowland,
48. Flight West,
49. The Invisible Maze,
51. The Sign,
52. No Surprise,
53. The Recovery,
54. An Evening At Home,
55. Opening Rounds,
56. Time Fading,
57. The Last Day,
58. End of the Game,
59. Last Vote,
Tor Books by Glen Cook,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Exciting, engaging, gritty, and funny. I really enjoyed the camaraderie of the Company, the villainous employers, the magic that is flash and bang, and subtlety, it seems more real and natural. Magic is something powerful and rare and strange here, like in GRRM's Song of Ice and Fire series, or the Lord of the Rings. Not overused. I've already got the next volume bought. Definitely recommended for fans of adult fantasy (not erotica haha), or war fiction. Sidenote: don't be off-put by the strange names. Most people in this world go by a moniker, knowing someone's real name gives you power over them. Or in the Company's case, they give up their old name and associations to become part of the Company, and their past is dead.
An interesting look at what Vietnam would be like with spells and flying whales instead of mortars and helicopters. I joke, but I do not intend to mislead, the moral ambiguity found in the story coupled with a lot of the tactics used by the Company is reminiscent of what many think Vietnam was like. Lots of misdirection and ambushes while minimizing full blown conflict. The characters aren't heroes by any stretch of the imagination, the narrator, Croaker, passes no judgment on his evil overlord, The Lady, let alone the acts of rape and pillaging that members of the Company take while in the conflict. Its refreshing to find a fantasy book that has humans as characters instead of moral extremes of angelic do-gooder and soulless villain.
I found this book In a library in the mall it didn't really catch my attention at first but i thought eh why not try something different. I'm glad i did because this book was an awsome read it kept my attention through most of the book there were only a few parts that i had to force through but each time i was glad i did. 2 thumbs up good job
This book will make boys into men, girls into women, and holy practitioners of faith into gibbering lunatics. Your epicness will increase 400% by simply holding this book. If you rest it you will become a demigod.
I was first introduced to Croaker, the Lady, One-Eye, Goblin, and the rest of the Black Company back in high school, and in the more than 30 years since, I've never found a series of books that even comes close. Glen Cook is a master story-teller with a true gift for creating believable characters, dialog that just rings true, and a richly detailed and history-filled world! I've read the entire series at least 3 times, and every time, it's like reading it for the first time!
Gritty is an understatement; this story dumps you head first into the blood, snot, stink and filth of battle and war. It's action understated, subtle magic, and all out sensual. Read it slow, follow the story; you can't breeze through these books for entertainment, you'll not enjoy them. One of my top rated series of all times, easily. In my opinion the subtletly of the plot, the realism, the characterization and even the choppy writing make the 1st 3 Black Company books some of the most enjoyable and fantasitic books in the Fantasy field. Head and shoulders above most of the trash we're buried in now; worlds past the hack and slash and hum-drum contrived routine of Terry Brooks, Raymond Feist, Jim Butcher (gag), R.A. Salvatore, Terry Goodkind (yea, his male centric ego driven self fantasies get really old so he can join on the crud bus with the rest of these hacks)and the gaggle of other crummy writers that pollute the book shelves. Glen Cook's Black company belongs with Tolkien, Erickson, Donaldson, Hobb, Martin and Herbert's Dune.
Enjoyed TBC again for the fourth time,never disappoints.
There's nothing too fancy about Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company - but that's the charm.This is no frills, gritty fantasy writing. Cook doesn't waste time with countless pages devoted to world building with exotic sounding names. Instead what you get is a tort, lean series of books that detail the exploits of a group of mercenaries thrust into their latest conflict.Some of the usual fantasy clichés remain - the presence of magic for instance - but overall I found this trilogy a breath of fresh air. Each book is better than the last and they're all top quality.
Grittily realistic, violent and no holds barred; Glenn Cook has a way of dragging you into his scenes and holding you fast so you have no choice but to witness the horrors of his world unfold. The boys of Black Company become a rather unsavoury part of your literary family, someone who you would rather not want to invite over for a formal tea but would want at your back in a bar fight.
I was recommended this book while waiting for GRRM to finish his next book.Overall it was worth the time but it drags in certain stretches.Reading all three books took quite a long time as I would get a little bored with the tone and the mood.Good Plot was somewhat original Characters were interestingMood Fog of war depicted well BadMood, the same for all 700 pagessome of the characters were flatLack of backstory
Glen Cook's "Chronicles of the Black Company" falls pretty clearly into the "gritty war fantasy" camp. The titular "Black Company" is a group of mercenaries, working in a land under the thumb of a tyrannical ruler known only as "The Lady"; before long, one of her servants hires them to help fight off a rebellion. The moral murk isn't used so much to question morality, or good and evil; there are no saints here. Most of the main cast here is old and set in their ways; there's not that much development, but Cook does draw the members of the Company (and the rest) as people and soldiers, with all their flaws and virtues. The violence is handled well. Cook only occasionally goes into the hack-and-thrust of individual combat, preferring a slightly broader scope in the battle scenes. But that scope - as well as the longer slogs of warfare in general - is captured vividly.The first volume of this trilogy, "The Black Company" is probably the strongest of the three here, and the most bleak. The second ("Shadows Linger") moves away from the broader warfare, and suffers a little both from middle book syndrome and events in the third book that slightly cheapen the resolution of the second. The third ("The White Rose") ultimately has a good climax but focuses a little too much on Croaker, the primary narrator.Steven Erikson, on the back blurb, credits the Black Company series with bringing fantasy down to a human level from mythic archetypes. I don't think Glen Cook's work is quite that important, but it is quite a good read.
First Black Company collection ("The Black Company", "Shadow Lingers", "The White Rose") follows the adventures of the last mercenary company from Khatovar - from defending the city of Beryl, serving the unspeakable terror and evil force in form of the Lady to the final stand against that same evil and beginning of the journey back home to Khatovar, place unknown to almost entire company [since there are but few original members left alive].Black Company is not something I expected to exist [at all] in fantasy genre [but then again I guess I have not read that much fantasy novels :))] - closest thing to this outfit [for me at least] are Hammers Slammers or (to some extent) Black Regiment - both set in SF environment not fantasy. Organization reflects modern (and SF) infantry outfits - one can just substitute wizards with machine-gunners or mortar sections and you end up with a contemporary military outfit fighting small wars for their employers. Entire book feels like a memoir of an infantry troop fighting in foreign lands, with all the fears and craziness of war described in detail.Black Company exceeds in fighting rebels and are considered finest soldiers-for-hire. This brings them to attention of merciless ruler of the Northern states - Lady.They know their employers are not good people (in fact, they know that their employers aren¿t human at all) but they do their job, because Company's honor is paramount to them and contract must be fullfilled no matter what (well.... lets say that survival of the Company has precedence over anything). Despite all this they know when they are doing wrong things and they do their best to choose the lesser between two evils. Finally they will side with the good and fight the very evil force they served (and more) and prevail but at the great cost - almost entire company will be obliterated and few survivors will start their voyage back south to their point of origin - Khatovar.Story and characters are great, can't wait for the next adventure of Croaker and company :).I can only say one thing - highly, highly recommended :)
Reviewers on Amazon seemed to be in agreement that the Black Company series was Cook's best work. Lo and behold, the publisher issues the first three books in a handsome "trade paperback" edition, saving me the trouble of hunting them down one by one. Great timing! Overall, this makes a great "epic" story, in three parts, though it's obvious there's more to come. It holds together, in other words, as a single large novel, despite being an omnibus of three novels. Each novel follows a somewhat different approach (first is all first-person, second one mixes up first-person with omniscient, etc.) in the telling, but the story holds together very well. The man claims to have written these books whilst assembling cars in Detroit, which makes no sense. Never mind that, the book itself is being reviewed here, and it's a great one. After dropping the limp-wristed "The Golden Key" midway through in disgust, I simply ripped through this sucker. It reads like a war story, I suppose, though I haven't read any, really. I would guess that prior to writing novels and assembling cars, Mr. Cook spent some time in Vietnam. I guess that based on his age, and the prose he writes, which seems very authentic: the camaraderie of the mercenaries is very convincing, very natural. You like these guys, you can't help it. They may seem like low-lifes at first, but they grow on you. By the end, I was rooting for Croaker like he was an old friend. On the face of it, this is a military fantasy, since the characters are mercenaries. But it's more than that, way more. It's about friendship, the nature of evil, loyalty, love, and mortality. The only thing it was missing, in my opinion, was a map. Where's the stinking map? When a fantasy spends so much time moving characters around an imaginary world, you really need a map. Besides, I love maps. Anyway, this was an excellent read, highly recommended. A refreshing break from the usual D&D crapola.
I came to Glen Cook by way of Steve Erkison (whom I read first after a particularly glowing review in Salon.com). Cook is a great deal like Erikson, although his work is somewhat less grand (and grandiose) in its vision. That being said, if you like Erkison I expect you will enjoy Cook as well. You will certainly find his vision and style familiar.Having read both authors now it is easy to see how Erikson stands as a direct lineal descendent to Cook. Both approach the fantasy genre not from the perspective of princes, knights, and maidens, but from a grittier, foot soldier view. While it is perhaps a bit of a stretch, there is a certain amount of E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class in Cook and Erikson's view of the fantasy world. This "foot soldier" approach to fantasy has certainly been fertile ground to science fiction writers such as David Drake, Jerry Pournelle, Robert Heinlein, Frederick Pohl, and, more recently, newer authors like John Scalzi. Some of all this probably can be traced to the synthesis of traditional fantasy notions with the sober realities of the Vietnam War and Korea. Authors such as Cook are not interested in writing about the dynamic between good and evil, but in exploring the fertile grey that stretches between those two less than realistic extremes. But getting back to the book--Chronicles combines Cooks first three "Black Company" novels about a mercenary troop with deep historical roots but somewhat murky morals. They are not exactly "the bad guys," but they are certainly not the traditional good ones. Without giving away too much, these are the stories of the Company's travel to a distant land to fight for the Lady, a powerful sorceress in apparent eternal struggle with a rebel force which awaits the arrival of a mythic leader called "the White Rose." There is violence aplenty and Cook has an extremely good ear for the enterally squabbling members of the Company who are, after years of fighting, really an extended family. Those who are not used to Erikson or Cook may find the book's start, which dives right into the action without much background, a little disconcerting but its doesn't take that long to sort things out.All in all, a good read.
I will start by stating that the Black Company series would be five star ratings across the board but for the fact that Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series one-ups Cook in this vein. Nonetheless, the Black Company started the 'hard boiled, soldier-in-the-mud' style fantasy story for me and as such it hold a dear place in my heart. I have read the entire series multiple times; Croaker and The Lady are always close by and ready to appear on my night-stand once again.Highly recommended for anyone who appreciates fantasy a little more 'realistic' and little less flowery.These three stories are the cream of the crop for Black Company tales. Plot twists, excellent character development and interaction, and shifting of good/evil perspective that is so lacking in so many fantasy stories. I like my characters realistic, with flaws and foibles and I like my issues of morality to be a mess of tangled grey area. The Black Company's first three stories deliver. Croaker and The Lady are some of my favorite characters from any fiction. Alas when I first experienced a Black Company book, it was Water Sleeps - which after (much later in life) reading them all is by far my least favorite. If you have judged Cook's storytelling skills on the basis of anything other than these three novels, do yourself a favor and pick this up. These are good hard-boiled fantasy fiction.
Surprisingly good. I was recommended this book by a friend (thanks J) and was disturbed I hadn't read it before. It's disturbingly like a less-epic Erickson, so much so that I'm going to have to re-evaluate how awesome Erickson is. I thought he was breaking new ground, but he was just expanding on Cook's vision.I do have several complaints with the way the story is told, however. I was not terribly fond of the first book in this little trilogy. I generally like the first person point of view, but his historian main character is a little too objective, especially in the first novel which sometimes reads like a history instead of a novel. This makes it hard to identify at all with the character. I feel like a first person point of view should help develop empathy and identification.However, the reason why I stuck with the whole trilogy and didn't just stop after the first book was because the main characters were all "evil". That is the main hook of this series - he spends an entire novel on "the bad guys". I've read novels that did something like this, but they always chicken out pretty quickly and make them good or kill them off. He was amazingly able to keep me interested in redemption for more than a whole novel.However, that brings me to what I didn't like about the very ending. It was cheesy. Everyone becomes happy and good. Certain characters were suddenly sweet and cuddly for fairly weak reasons. This felt incredibly artificial. I think the trilogy called for a bittersweet ending where bad characters did bad things because they were habituated to it, with just the glimmer of goodness in them so they understood the tragedy. This was the deserved ending and if it was written well, I would have been sobbing.However, I am greatly looking forward to reading his other works now and will recommend Cook to my other fantasy reading friends.
3 & 1/2 heading for 4 stars. includes the first three Black Company books: The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose. starts slow, and then as the story widens and deepens, becomes engrossing. a curious combination of a contemporary-sounding story and a mythic landscape, in an arena of endless war. easy to see why Steven Erikson loves it, and built on the way it changed the perception of what you could due with a classic epic fantasy. and that's some evolution arc for an Evil Queen.
Well worth the time to read. Great world building and vivid characters.
Line this series
I first read the the books about 25 years ago. Still dust them off and visit the Black Company every few years. I would say it's in within my top 10 favorite fantasy series. Highly recommended!
Superb series of books. This is the series that pretty much invented and set the gold-standard for the mercenary fantasy genre. Original when it came out over 30 years ago and still going strong today. If you are a 'fan' of fantasy you might not like this book because it does not have silly little elves running around and all of that nonsense. The world of he black company is a bleak place. The heroes are dark and the villains darker still. Highly recommended.
Gritty, Mysterious Adventure: Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company starts off a lengthy series with a large following (which I have finally joined). Thanks to a Sword & Sorcery group read on Goodreads I did not entirely miss a series born in 1984, which I had naively figured was just another fantasy series. I mistakenly thought it was just tales about silly comrades, with more brawn than brain, going from one job to another. The Company is not just some band of brutes going from one mission/employer to the next; it is a professional army for hire that has a history longer than most States/Kingdoms. Expect lots of intricate gritty warfare infused with warrior magicians dolling out spells that liquefy mountains and topple the sky. By reading these chronicles, you are (more or less) reading the Annals; well, you almost become part of the Company. This first-person narrative is compelling: Our narrator, Croaker, is a physician and warrior, but he has the singular duty of recording the Annals of the Company. Below are a number of quotes to convey his voice. His succinct observations add an unexpected, very satisfying, level of intelligence. The Annals (as physical books) are rarely mentioned/accounted for; however, the storytelling was so engaging I often overlooked the notion that Croaker appears bookless. Pleasantly mysteries adventure: Cook throws the reader into the deep-end from the start. Strangely even this reprint has no map (which would have been welcome to orient readers). The scale of adventure ranges from skirmishes, to grand battles, to sorties with selected members. The Company seems to range in size from one hundred men to a few thousand. Their employees and their enemies are many and complex.It becomes clear that the conflicts are many and intertwined, but thankfully consistent. Without spoiling anything, I can reveal that it will take 50% of the book to communicate that the Lady is the primary employer of the Company, and her secondary commanders are the Taken (usually undead/possessed sorcerers) which also battle one another. All these are in battle with another army led by the Rebel (and his Circle of eighteen). Somehow Cook manages to dose out just the right amount of information to keep you hooked. Characters are interesting and a strength Each has concise names whether they be the narrator (Croaker), an enemy (Rebel, or Dominator), a Company member (Captain, Lieutenant), or sorcerer (One-Eye, Catcher, Lady, etc.). We learn about everyone via Croaker’s narration; which are often profound. One-Eye and Goblin are two of the Company’s few sorcerers (Silent being another Key one); they continually have contests of antagonistic sorcery, like brothers. Then there is a new addition who joins early on named Raven who has a truly mysterious backstory. Croaker voted to enlist him saying, “I voted aye. I smelled a mystery and did not want it to get away.” Which is what I feel now about these book. There are many mysterious left in the series of the Black Company … and I do not want them to get away! Croaker’s Voice (Various, disconnected quotes) We all have our pasts. I suspect we keep them nebulous not because we are hiding from pour yesterdays but because we think we will cut more romantic figures if we roll our eyes and dispense delicate hints about beautiful women forever beyond our reach. When I reflect on my companion’s inner nature I usually wish I controlled one small talent. I wish I could look inside them and unmask the darks and brights that move them. Then I take a quick look into the jungle of my own soul and realize that I cannot. Any man who barely sustains an armistice with himself has no business picking around in an alien soul. One-Eye is at least a hundred years old. The Annals mention the wizened little black man’s tempers throughout the last century. There is no telling when he joined. Seventy years’ worth of Annals were lost when the Company’s positions were overrun at the Battle of Urban. One-Eye refuses to illuminate the missing years. He says he does not believe in history. One-Eye cheats. But never when Raven is playing. Silent smiled, shrugged, stalked over to the stone pile and seated himself. He was done with the question game. Of all the Company he is the least concerned about the image he portrayed in the Annals. He does not care whether people like or hate him, does not care where he has been or where he is going. Sometimes I wonder if he cares whether he lives or dies, wonder what makes him stay. I am a haunted man. I am haunted by the Limper’s screams. I am haunted by the Lady’s laughter. I am haunted by my suspicion that we were furthering the cause of something that deserves to be scrubbed from the face of the earth. I am haunted by the conviction that those bent upon the Lady’s eradication are little better than she…I am haunted by the clear knowledge that, in the end, evil always triumphs. My last glimpse of Catcher was of a weary person slumped in unhappiness. I guess it is hard for them to live up to their reputations. We all want people to like us.
These books r so good. I credit them with making the whole two or three person "crew" not an obligation...and all the characters r really interesting.as is the concept. And the writing style. It was a sad day when i finished the final one...this entire series is easily in my top 5 Love Cook's style with his fantasy. Not so much as far as sci fi.