Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Chronicles of the Black Company (Book #1-3 of 9)
Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pages: 704 pages (US Omnibus edition)
Published: 18th September, 2018 by Gollancz (UK) & 13th November 2017 by Tor Books (US)
The Chronicles of the Black Company by Glen Cook is a series that Steven Erikson has praised intensely for a long time now, it’s even considered to be his inspiration for Malazan Book of the Fallen and after reading this omnibus, I can certainly see why.
There were many aspects that displayed them; similarities between the Bridgeburners and the Black Company, a storytelling style that drops readers into the midst of the plot without any clear explanation, just to name a few without spoilers. The differences between Erikson and Cook would be that Erikson’s series is gigantically more massive in scope and difficulty. Chronicles of the Black Company omnibus comprises of the first three books in the series: The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose. These three made up for the first story arc in the series: Books of the North story arc. Same as my review for Riyria Revelations omnibuses, I won’t be writing a full review for each book but I’ll write a mini-review for each book in this volume instead.
The Black Company: 3/5 stars
The first book in the omnibus and series, The Black Company was a good start and introduction to the series but not an easy one to get into for me. The immediate and noticeable element of my first entry into this series was Cook’s super minimalistic writing. Important events happened in one sentence, sometimes even only a few words. In this book, Cook didn’t paint any of his scenes vividly; actions, world-building, pretty much everything were done in short sentences. This style of prose combined with the fact the story in the first book was told exclusively from the annalist of the Black Company, Croaker’s, made the first half quite a struggle for me to read through. It did get better in later installments, but his first-person perspective in this one really made the book felt almost devoid of emotion. It took a long time for me to get used to the prose, thankfully by the last quarter I’ve started to get used to the writing and felt more attached to the characters.
“Evil is relative…You can’t hang a sign on it. You can’t touch it or taste it or cut it with a sword. Evil depends on where you are standing, pointing your indicting finger.”
Shadows Linger: 4/5 stars
Shadows Linger, the second book in the series, was a significant improvement over the first book. Although it’s true that I’ve started to get used to Cook’s prose at this point, it’s highly probable that Cook’s writing on its own has improved immensely in this installment. Croaker’s narration has gotten better to read, but more importantly, what made Shadows Linger so engrossing was the addition of a new character’s perspective: Shed’s. Shed’s perspective was gripping, unputdownable, and it adds varieties to the overall narrative. In my opinion, Shed’s storyline was even better than Croaker’s side. I found Cook’s third-person narration in Shed’s POV to excels over his first-person narration. Also, Shed’s development was believable and realistic, Cook truly brings out some of the worst parts of humanity within his story brilliantly; money, greed, lust, blind love, deceit, and fatigue of war filled the plot of the second book. The sections where the Black Company contemplated the purpose of their group and war helped a lot in showcasing the character’s emotion that felt largely missing in the first book.
“I believe in our side and theirs, with the good and evil decided after the fact, by those who survive. Among men you seldom find the good with one standard and the shadow with another.”
The White Rose: 3.5/5 stars
This is the third and the last book in this omnibus; it also closes the Book of the North story arc of the series. I enjoyed this one more than the first book but I personally think the second book was better. The story was told in three perspectives of three—at first—different timelines that eventually converged. Seeing that this is the third book already, I feel like I’ve gotten to know the main characters even more than before. The personalities and banter between the characters were enjoyable to read; sometimes funny, sometimes sad. But I must say that although it has a strong and memorable closing section, I feel like it took a bit too long to get there. Overall though, this was certainly a great conclusion to the first story arc.
“I do not want to die, Croaker. All that I am shrieks against the unrighteousness of death. All that I am, was, and probably will be, is shaped by my passion to evade the end of me.”
Chronicles of the Black Company was a great kick-off to the series and reading these three gave me insight on why “the grandfather of grimdark” title was given to Glen Cook. Darkness battles darkness, morally grey characters, good or evil are decided by which side they stand; despite a rough start, I had a good time with the first story arc of the series and I will definitely continue.
“There are no self-proclaimed villains, only regiments of self-proclaimed saints. Victorious historians rule where good or evil lies. We abjure labels. We fight for money and an indefinable pride. The politics, the ethics, the moralities, are irrelevant.”
Chronicles of the Black Company: 10.5/15 stars
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)