Book Review - The Chronicles Of The Black Company
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was my first Glen Cook book and I am glad that I did not put it down, as I was tempted to in the beginning.
At the start, the reader is thrown right into the middle of an already in-progress conflict, which continues to go on as if everyone who has just started to read it should already know what is happening and who all the characters are. It took me a good fifty pages to at least feel like I was not drowning in confusion. And even then, at fifty pages in, I still did not know what a single character looked like. I think it had said by that point that one man was black, but, other than that, nothing. Even two hundred pages in I knew only what a handful of others kind-of sort-of looked like and had to draw my own conclusions for everyone else based entirely on my imagination. It also took a while to get into the groove of Cook's clipped style of writing. Many sentences and thoughts are brief and not full sentences at all, which is completely fine, creative, and unique. And it is purposeful - these are the annals of a private regiment of soldiers, and so it would follow that the entries into the annals would have to be condensed right down to the essence only of each happening. It just takes a while to get used to. That, then, for me, made the connection I formed with the protagonist take a much longer time to develop. Which is why I nearly stopped after 80 or so pages - I felt no connection to anyone and really did not care what happened to who.
But that all changed halfway into the first book of the omnibus (The Black Company). I was suddenly compelled and could not put it down. Nothing had changed insofar as the writing went, so maybe I had just suddenly gotten the hang of it. Whatever the case, the book started to fly. I was hooked and remained so the rest of the way through. It really never slowed down or let up. One does become attached to Croaker, the protagonist, and one does ultimately want to see him pull through every terrible situation he finds himself thrown into.
This book is actually three books in one: The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose. For me, Shadows Linger was easily my favorite of the three. It delved much deeper into study of human emotions and actions based on those emotions, and that is the kind of writing I enjoy most. Additionally, the story carried on from two viewpoints - that of a local innkeeper as well as that of Croaker - which was a change from the first book that I think worked really well to fill out the story.
I am not going to add too much more, as I don't want to write a review with spoilers. Suffice it to say, if you enjoy fantasy with action, magic, military angles, and bravado, you will certainly like this one. You will probably even like it if you don't really care about those things. But don't turn to this one if you what you seek is righteousness and true romance, for the men of The Black Company often have little room for either.