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PostPosted: Sat 13 Aug , 2005 7:02 pm 

Joined: Tue 19 Jul , 2005 12:56 am
Posts: 176
Location: Twilight Shadows
~The Black Company series~


I posted this in the 'Fantasy Book Recommendations' thread, but thought it deserved a thread of its own.

I have to thank Moonbiter for getting me into this book series. He bugged me for years to read it, and when I found an old paperback of the first book I decided to do so. Now I've read through this whole series and I can say for sure that Glen Cook doesn't follow the usual book fantasy formula. He builds an amazing but often cruel world, and despite a few dry stretches along the way, he keeps your interest and will throw in a twist and turn when it seems least expected. The story is told from the common grunt's eye, not from the nobles. An annalist is charged to keep records of the Company's doings and who joins and who dies and such. It is definitely not Tolkienesque, & I highly recommend this series as a read! Here's a list of the Black Company series of books and a brief synopsis:
  • The Black Company
  • Shadows Linger
  • The White Rose
These three are called The Books of the North are also sometimes referred to as The Annals of the Black Company, and are available as a single three book hardbound edition by that name (regularly listed on ebaY - advanced search under 'Books' for 'Glen Cook').

I will say here that the first two chapters of the first book
The Black Company is kind of hard starting, as names of some of the major characters are thrown out rather quickly. This has turned some people off from continuing to read them. If you have this issue, I hope you stay with it, or skip to chapter 3 titled Raker. That chapter was a short in Sci-fi & Fantasy magazine and really gets the book going. You can always go back and read the first two chapters as a prequel if need be. A note on the chapters in the first book... they are huge! Take the breaks when the story shifts a little, or where the little three stars are.

The first three books start with the Black Company taking on a new contract with the Empire, and board ship to head north. Along the way they have to battle a rebellion against the empire, and in finally coming to the city of Charm, are faced with the downfall of said empire. Some good battles and sorcery along the way!


The next book is a stand alone that is a 'journal' of one of the characters you get to know in the
White Rose.
  • The Silver Spike
Written as a journal for a soldier, it's an excellent book that takes place soon after the events covered in the White Rose. An evil mentioned in the earlier books that is so dark attempts to arise again. I think its one of the better reads of the series.

The fifth and sixth books in the series are
The Books of the South:
  • Shadow Games
  • Dreams of Steel
Shadow Games is the account of whats left of the Black Company as they journey south (a few of the members remained in the north and are written about in Silver Spike). The timelines of Shadow Games and Silver Spike are somewhat concurrent. Here is a synopsis of the two Books of the South...

There are seven members of the Company left, and its a hard time for the Company. Shadow Games begins their journey and what they encounter along the way. Ultimatly, what they get mixed up in as they travel south introduces us to the Shadowmasters, who fear the Black Company's coming. After meeting the Nar, much political intrigue, and army-building, there come a climatic battle with the Shadowmasters. Dreams of Steel continues from the aftermath of this battle, and is the first book written from a different character's point of view. The writing style reflects this as it is seemingly different, which is a great feat for an author to do in my opinion.

The next four books is the more recently written
Glittering Stone series:
  • Bleak Seasons
  • She Is the Darkness
  • Water Sleeps
  • Soldiers Live
The account in Bleak Seasons is of the perspective of the standard-bearer and annalist protégé Murgan, who we start to get to know in Shadow Games. The account parallels events mentioned in Dreams of Steel and is again, written a bit different from the earlier writings.

She Is The Darkness gets us back to the writings of the original annalist Croaker, and all he had been through since the end of Shadow Games. The last couple chapters I noticed a changed writing style, and I felt the story got a little choppy and hurried. It seemed Glen Cook may had let it sit for a time, and then hurried to finish it to maybe meet a deadline. The story worked, but I thought it could have used another chapter to smooth it out.

Water Sleeps, and Soldiers Live are follow up adventures and closes out stories of many of the characters we have come to know and love. Some cool new folk are introduced but not really developed, and it leaves open the door for more books in the future me thinks (in this interview with Glen Cook he says there may be a couple more Black Company series books coming in a few years).

As a series, you can feel the morphing of the story through the years it took Glen Cook to write them, and it follows well in the aging of the characters in the story. I do think he dwells too long on things that really didn't require so much verbiage, and doesn't go into things I found intriguing, but that's the way it is with me and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Yes, the
Black Company is quite a dark story for sure. One of the things I liked about it was the way the battles were described. Not outrageously descriptive, but with a feeling a common soldier may have for their fallen comrades. Also, some of the more developed characters seem 'real', and the composition of the Black Company at any one time is filled with 'everyman' types from all walks of life. I'm surprised this series isn't more popular, but I guess it takes a grim sort of person to understand it. I highly recommend reading this series.

Here are the book covers of most of the books.

I found a Black Company Livejournal Community here.

About the cardgame
Tonk... its a gambling card game played in the Black Company books based on the rummy game of the same name. Here are the rules if anyone is interested in it. I had the opportunity to play this game a year or so ago with several people, and it was quite fun!


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PostPosted: Thu 18 Aug , 2005 4:54 pm 
The Woman who Knows her Vegetables
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:Q WOW, judging by the size of that post you really did enjoy it greatly...it`s not really my cup of tea but the sheer enthusiasm and dedication in that post made me :D :D :D

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PostPosted: Sun 11 Jun , 2006 8:06 pm 

Joined: Tue 19 Jul , 2005 12:56 am
Posts: 176
Location: Twilight Shadows
Yeah I did! I got Tyranny of the Night cheap for a once-read hardback on eBay but haven't gotten around to reading it yet.

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PostPosted: Thu 15 Jun , 2006 7:56 am 
Tricksy Elf!
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Location: Tanelorn
You know they have released this as a role play game world now?


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PostPosted: Wed 23 Jan , 2008 3:18 am 

Joined: Tue 19 Jul , 2005 12:56 am
Posts: 176
Location: Twilight Shadows
Are you referring to the Green Ronin deal? Yes, its pretty cool. Too bad I don't have the time to get into this sort of gaming anymore.

I understand that the Black Company books are a real hit among the soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that copies of the paperbacks get read and passed around until their pages fall out. I guess it was one of the reasons the publisher last year released the first three books in an omnibus paperback edition called the Chronicles of the Black Company. This year they will be releasing the next three as The Book of the South - Tales of the Black Company.

As for Tyranny of the Night... it was shiit. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood or frame of mind, but I couldn't get past the first couple chapters.

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PostPosted: Mon 03 Nov , 2008 8:44 pm 
The Keeper of the Splendiferous Sword
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Joined: Mon 27 Jun , 2005 7:08 am
Posts: 119
Location: Myrtle Creek (Tri-City)
Nice summary Snowdog. :)

One of my all time faves. The series has an honored place in my library. Picked up the first book after I got back from Saudi in 92. Was hooked on the series right from the start.

Not your ususall sword and sorcery books.... that's for sure. LOVE Goblin ,Silent,and One Eye. ;) Evil little bastards. :devil:

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