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704 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1986
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 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. It’s tenants were the bumblebee-looking monsters peasants called bald-faced hornets. They have a foul temper unrivaled anywhere in Nature. The cowed the Mole crowd fast, without bothering our lads.
"Fine work, Silent, "Mercy said, after having vented his own fury on several hapless patrons. He herded the survivors into the street.
Madle blanched, stared at the coin. It was a kiss of death. His patrons would think he had helped set the ambush. "Gotcha," I whispered. "Want to get out of this alive?"
He looked at me in fear and hatred. "Who the hell are you guys?" he demanded in a harsh whisper.
"The Black Company, Madle. The Black Company."
I don’t know how he managed, but he went even whiter.
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
Book 1 Review: 2stars
It just hit me that i should have picked the single edition and not omnibus one, now i'm reading three books for one. ugh pot of beans life. That aside, I DID NOT ENJOY THIS BOOK!! yeah there were some parts which were sort of enjoyable, where i had a glimmer of what was going on but for the most part you're just going in blind. Imagine someone opens up a door and slams it shut before you get your bearings, that's how you get to view this book. You get a rough understanding of what is going on, but mainly, you're just stumbling through wondering why the hell you picked up the book in the first place (which was how i felt for the most part of this book)
Also i absolutely detested the first person narrative in the book. We had the pleasure of reading this book from Croaker's narrative, who happens to be the Annalist of the Black Company's POV. While i no longer blacklist books (yes, i was that finicky) simply for being in first person narrative, i absolutely do not understand why every single thing has to be from Croaker and there's a shit load of characters in the book. why on earth am i subjected to one person's narrative for over 300 pages??? Don't get me wrong, Croaker isn't a bad character but it would have been great to get some other character's perspective on things.
All in all, not a good start to this series.
Book 2 Review: 3 Stars
Ok, im going to be honest, i still don't see what the "epicness" of this book is.. Anyways i definitely enjoyed this way more than i did book 1 mainly because i wasn't just getting Croaker's views on everybody..I don't know about you guys but it's kind of hard to fall in love with characters that you don't know... Kinda excited to know how book 3 ends though.. so i'm definitely going to pick that up soon.
Book 3 Review: 4 Stars
Yeah i actually really enjoyed the 3rd book of this series. I know a lot of people just can't seem to get into this book and it's really not their fault. So here's basically my negatives on this book:
Croaker's POV: Reason with me people: Why on earth would you name a book Chronicles of the Black Company, if we don't get to meet the Black Company. Is Croaker the whole black company?? How is it that only about a handful of the Black Company get names? Are you telling me just One Eye, Goblin, Silent, Otto (i only remembered this name cos it was mentioned in book 3 again), Elmo?? Eldo?? The Captain and the lieutenant were the only people worth mentioning? and it's not like you actually get to meet them.. No seriously how do you have characters of such scope and get the PoV of ONE PERSON. ONE PERSON!!! for the whole gaddamn black company.
That's not even the most annoying part, whatever doesn't interest Croaker he doesn't take time describe. Dude is a terrible narrator. He leaves the good stuff out and his descriptions are basically lacking flair. Case in point, his description of the battle in Rusts
"Weapons Clanged. Arrows flew. Horses Shrieked"
The end.. that was the battle!!
I'm not sure why Glen Cook made a central character who for all intents and purposes didn't care enough to give us the facts on the matter. Reading Croaker's perspective it's easy to think the author's writing is shit, which it is for the most part but in Book 2 and 3, the writer introduces not sure if it's 2nd or 3rd Person Pov for other characters not in the Black Company and it's brilliant. There's also the additional negative of not knowing what happens if Croaker doesn't witness an event. Case in point in book 1 at the battle of Charms.
"I wakened less frightened but hardly confident...One-Eye appeared almost immediately. 'You allright?'
'Yeah i'm fine'
'You missed a hell of a show'
I raised an eyebrow.
'The circle and the Taken went at it after your lights went out. Only stopped a while ago..'
Time Line: Frankly the time line was a mess.Croaker mentions in passing, in certain parts how much time has gone in parts but lord almighty. You'd be reading the book thinking everone was on the same timeline and croaker's part would pop up and he'd go, oh it's been months or years and you're just like..what?? how?? when??
How did Darling have time to organise a well formed rebel group: So basically you're told almost through out the start of book 3 that the black company has been on the run, hiding and shit. They make it to the plain of fear where Croaker says they've been for years and are basically outside communication is bordering on sparse to non-existent but somehow, no explanation, nothing. Darling somehow manages to assemble a well organised network of rebels. Yeeeeeeeeeeah, i get Glen Cook.
Seriuosly Underwhelming Descriptions/ Underwhelming shock value: Let's start with the Dominator. This supposedly "bad ass, will crush the world and darkness will forever reign" baddy. We've been regaled with tales of his supposed evilness from book 1. Then finally we get to meet this evil personified and this is what we get:
"The other boasted a sleeping man. A big man and handsome but with the mark of the beast upon him even in repose. A face full of hot hatred, of the anger of defeat"
Like seriously. that's it? Let's circle back to this "mark of the beast thing" which i'm not even sure what it's supposed to be. Was Cook talking about the mark of the beast in the bible? is there some sort of universal mark of the beast we're all supposed to know about?
- Another underwhelming part was the Lady killing off some of the Taken
"The Lady called upon that power she held over them and they ceased to be Taken"
Cook is unable to present shock value, like he'd just drop a bomb in the book that would ordinarily make you go HOLY SHIT!! in other books, but for him the presentation would be bland. Leading to disappointment and it's so frustrating because you as the reader actually recognise these parts as important moments.
So probably wondering why book 3 is 4Stars. Well despite Cook's best attempts (and believe me he went hard) to sabotage himself, brilliant story telling does manage to shine through especially when Croaker wasn't narrating everything.
That being said, Croaker wasn't all shit guys. Somehow he managed to present another view of The Lady that absolutely made me fall in love with her. Seriously that woman was bad ass and a genius.Not sure why the 3rd book is named "The White Rose" because quite frankly this book was all about the lady.
All in all i actually think this book isn't unreadable and i'll definitely continue with the series
Overall stars for all 3 books - 3 Stars
This series is a masterpiece, perfectly written. In fact, my all-time very favorite series. I identify so much with The Black Company characters that I actually start to miss them, and end up re-reading the entire series again every few years. Must be on my fourth or fifth time through now. Every time, I somehow feel as though I'm coming home.
I absolutely love Glen Cook's writing style. I see that several reviewers complain about it being overly choppy and abrupt, and not laying enough background framework. I personally never felt any of that. The level of background, the timing and the pace seem just right to me and definitely add to the realistic feel of the narrative. Glen Cook isn't aiming for "The Comprehensive History and Analysis of the Black Company," but rather, the daily/monthly annals from ground-level perspective, hastily scratched out if there's time between missions. Our annalist is not privy to the big picture, and lacks the benefit of time's distance and omniscience--I say all the better! Ergo, narration suffused with real-time agony and sweat, and even here and there an irrepressible sense of wonder that will not be extinguished.
One last thought on the writing style: I love how Glen Cook can so finely-tune his nuance with just the right descriptor, without ever becoming wordy or pretentious. (Yes, I admit to resorting to my dictionary repeatedly while reading this series.) My heart races every single time I read that first chapter set in Beryl. And don't get me started on the end of Book 3!!! I think my heart actually stops!
Finally, to the best part of the series: the wonderful characters. They're amazing! They're so real, always evolving (fascinating), yet always true-to-character. Croaker: sweet, funny, thoughtful but tough, unprepossessing and unselfconsciously courageous. One-Eye, Silent, Raven, the Captain, Elmo, Murgen... my old friends. The only character I never appreciated was Sleepy, too smug for me. But that's okay, because all the better (after that draught) when I get to the next book!
I must disagree with my sister Puppitypup's assessment (for identical twins we sure do have very different tastes): the entire series is wonderful.
Please, Glen, I need more Black Company!!!