The Books of the South by Glen Cook
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: The Chronicles of the Black Company (Book #3.5-5 of 9)
Genre: Fantasy, Grimdark fantasy, Military fantasy
Pages: 670 pages (Paperback)
Published: 10th June 2008 by Tor Books (US)
Great stories and character development for The Lady, but I still have mixed feelings towards Cook’s prose.
The Books of the South consists of Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel, and a spin-off called The Silver Spike. Same as the previous omnibus, I’ll be doing a short spoiler-free review for each book.
Shadow Games: 3.5/5 stars
The Books of the South begins with Shadow Games, which is the fourth installment in The Chronicles of the Black Company. The story continues with the member of the Black Company marching south to Khatovar, the place of the Company’s origin. During their mission, they’re chased and hounded by a new group of enemies called the Shadowmasters. Croaker is back once again as the main narrator, and honestly, although I’ve gotten used to reading his first-person narration, I also have to admit that I get tired from reading his POV quickly. His cynicism and sarcasm are fun in small doses but not for long. Just to give a bit of data, Shadow Games is 220 pages long in this omnibus, and it took me three days to read it; I usually read around 200 or 300 pages a day. I think what made this book a bit boring was the travelogues. Almost the entirety of the novel is The Black Company marching. That being said, I enjoyed reading the characters development in this book, especially for Croaker and The Lady. The last section of this book was filled with battle and eventually ends with a cliffhanger.
“Every ounce of my cynicism is supported by historical precedent.”
Dreams of Steel: 4/5 stars
Dreams of Steel is the fifth book within the series; it marks the halfway point of the series. The story picks up immediately from where the cliffhanger left off in Shadow Games. I personally found this book (together with Shadows Linger) to be the best books within the series so far. A huge part of why I enjoyed this one more was the change in the main POV’s perspective. Dreams of Steel is told in multi-perspective but the first-person narration is done by The Lady, hence why it’s also called Book of The Lady. I honestly didn’t expect The Lady to become such an awesome and complex character with a gradual and believable development. I was getting tired of reading Croaker’s first-person perspective for four books now and it felt refreshing to read The Lady’s first-person narration. I’ve also come to realize that I find Cook’s writing to be the most engaging when he’s not writing from Croaker’s first-person perspective.
“More evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way.”
The Silver Spike: 2/5 stars
After finding the series’ improvement in Dreams of Steel, it was quite disappointing to read The Silver Spike, a spin-off that takes place around the same time of Shadow Games. The plot in this one focuses on the group that didn’t march south with Croaker’s group. Unfortunately, this ended up being the lowest point of the series for me despite being back with some characters we’ve met before that were missing from book 4 and 5. I’m not sure whether reading this before I binged-read Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel would help or not, but reading it right after Dreams of Steel was meh. Considering that the publication dated before the fifth book, I think this was meant to be read before it for a better experience.
The Books of the South served well as an omnibus with a good grimdark story of more or less the same quality as the previous three books. Despite enjoying the main stories, I still have mixed feelings towards Cook’s prose. It’s a huge dilemma for me because I do want to know the continuation to The Lady’s story immediately but I’m going to take a month break before I dive back into this series. Two more omnibuses await, and I plan to finish them before the end of the year.
“I guess each of us, at some time, finds one person with whom we are compelled toward absolute honesty, one person whose good opinion of us becomes a substitute for the broader opinion of the world. And that opinion becomes more important than all our sneaky, sleazy schemes of greed, lust, self-aggrandizement, whatever we are up to while lying the world into believing we are just plain nice folks. I was her truth object, and she was mine.”
You can order the book from: Book Depository (Free shipping)