The Black Company by Glen Cook

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The Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company #1) *I have also seen this reffered to as Books of the North Series.
By Glen Cook
Publisher: Tor Fantasy
ISBN13: 9780812521399
Pages: 319
Genre: Fantasy

Blurb:

Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself. The hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must, burying their doubts with their dead. Until the prophesy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more. There must be a way for the Black Company to find her… So begins one of the greatest fantasy epics of our age—Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company.


my-thought

I am not sure where to start with this one. It began ever so slow and remained that way for me well past the 50% mark. Yet, I was not dissatisfied with the story. I silently trudged along with The Black Company, without complaints. Something was working, but I could not pinpoint what that “something” was…

The Black Company is a group of mercenaries who seem to value one thing above all else: loyalty. They are loyal to the job, and above all else to one another. No matter what the task ahead is, they will complete it and will see each other through. This ragtag group of men and sorcerers have some seriously admirable qualities at their core. It is just a little difficult to see this initially through all of the grime and fighting.

They reside in a land divided between those who serve the Lady and the Rebels. It is a time of constant war and a world full of darkness, overshadowed with doubt. The Lady leads her chosen against the Rebels in a battle for humanity against all that is evil. It is in that battle that she has enlisted The Black Company who shall remain faithful to the job at hand and see her through. With the assistance of the Lady’s Taken (those she has chosen into her own army) they trudge slowly across the land to herald her cause.

But the Lady is not without her own shroud of mystery and fear invoking actions. Soon Croaker, a physician among The Black Company, and the others develop their own doubts. Members of the Taken begin to behave questionably and ethics and morals are suddenly being challenged. Are they fighting for the right side?

“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.”
― Glen Cook, The Black Company

The Black Company crew is a peculiar case of more than meets the eye. Upon initial introductions, we see a disheveled and undesirable group of men with a few sorcerers added to the mix.  After all, mercenaries are not exactly known for their charm. No one is handing out “good behavior” awards. The only thing that has traditionally attached them to the cause is payment and the desire to see the job finished. So motives, as always, can be very questionable.

But Cook has successfully added a unique amount of depth here that takes us below the surface of this motley crew and exposes the reader to the inner workings of each character in a manner that makes it easy to forget just who they are. With a solid bond and devotion interwoven amongst their brethren, we soon find ourselves forming a connection that is not only of interest but a slight amount of uncanny respect.

“We lead a simple life. No thinking required. The Captain takes care of that. We just follow orders. For most of us the Black Company is a hiding place, a refugee  from yesterday, a place to become a new man.”
-The Black Company, Glen Cook

Croaker, the hardened and experienced soldier and physician is our humble narrator. He is also fittingly the annalist. He has seen the crews through many trials, and as expected, he has developed his own flaws and ethical issues while serving his time. He is not without a respectable amount of contradictory morals though. He has held on to a part of the man he truly is and can often be caught maintaining or acknowledging his own limits and upholding certain ethical standards. For this very reason, I was immediately drawn to his character. He is a steadfast reminder that we sometimes must look deeper.

“I should be used to this. I have been with the Company a long time. And it does bother me less than it used to. I have hung a huge armor plate over my moral soft spots. But still I try to avoid looking at the worst.”
-The Black Company, Glen Cook

There are two other characters who managed to be of great interest for myself. One being Raven, a man with a veiled past who somehow manages to secure a spot in the company and quickly develop a close relationship with the Captain. It is not long before he has also become a constant companion of our dear narrator, Croaker. While there is a certain amount of debate and concern enveloping Raven, it is after he rescues a young girl Darling and her grandfather from a horrible fate, we soon learn he is not without his own honor. He almost instantly finds himself devoted to looking after young Darling, and I found myself growing rather fond of him.

Another character I would like to briefly mention would be Soulcatcher. A member of the Taken that The Black Company has chosen to work closely with in correspondence with the Lady. Soulcatcher is a complete enigma who will have you second guessing until the very end. Catcher’s contribution to the story is not to be overlooked.

The world construction happens slowly as the progression of the battle unfolds. We venture across the lands, following The Black Company as they set forth to achieve the job they have been tasked with. While it may not have been as expansive as I am accustomed to in some epic fantasies, it worked rather well. Instead of a story that focused on the vastness of the environment, we were presented with the grimness and darkness that was settling upon the lands like a plague. The important focus here was understanding the atmosphere, and this was achieved outstandingly.

I found the pace to be a bit slower than I was expecting, but it was steady and consistent. And while I normally struggle with “slow”, I soon discovered that I was easily settled in and compelled to move forward with the crew. There was an oddly comforting feel to the darker fantasy that welcomed me back like an old friend and I openly embraced it. The choice of narration was perfect complement to this fantastical tale that has been cleverly balanced with amoral characters, violence, wit and unpredictability that carry this story well to the end. The result was a refreshing experience that took me back to the very reasons I have come to love dark and epic fantasy.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Purchase The Black Company: 

Amazon.com
Barnes&Noble.com

36 thoughts on “The Black Company by Glen Cook

        1. I am definitely going to make a better effort to read more dark and epic fantasy this year. I was easily reminded of why I enjoy it so much!

          Of course I will also jump around a lot haha. I am so indecisive like that 😉 Thanks Liz ❤

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    1. I am looking forward to continuing with the series. I have myself on a buy ban at the moment (I snagged this from the library on ebook) so I am hopping they have the rest.

      I was a bit nervous to write the review because it was hard to sum up how I felt about this one. So thank you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I don’t know what you were worried about, this is a great review! Reminds me a bit of that movie with Mel Gibson as well as the armies passing through the landscape in Lord of the Rings ;-). They’re is always one that’s more than a fighting machine alone :-).

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    1. Thank you Inge ❤ You couldn't be more correct. Have to have that one character who has something extra 😉 This was definitely a ragtag group haha. I was just nervous to finally review some adult fantasy. It can be a lot to try to put in words. But so far so good I suppose 😉 You, Drew and Liz approve so I will take it ❤

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    1. The thing was it was super slow, but I just was not bored for some reason. Even though it seemed like nothing was happening, it must have been haha, because I was eagerly trudging along 😛

      I do admit though, I did go into it expecting to commit knowing this is one of the older fantasy books that have been claimed to greatly impact the books we know now 😉 So maybe a bit of bias helped. But it worked out!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I read your reviews I always feel like I am really reading, as in a book. I don’t know what it is, but you always draw me in even if it is something I wouldn’t normally be interested in. I always get to the end and think wait… what… there is no more, but I was having such a good time. Keep ’em coming. :

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  3. You are a more patient woman than I — I don’t know if I could have gotten to 50% without being hooked. That said, adult fantasy is a very different beast. Perhaps it was just that you missed some of the more traditional YA hooks? I find that if I don’t connect with a character quickly, I will often lose interest in adult fantasy– that said, this sounds really interesting. I don’t know if I’ve *ever* read a book which is classified as “Dark Fantasy”. Perhaps I start here? I’ll wait to see what you think of the rest of the series, first. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is so funny that you mentioned that I may have missed the traditional “YA hooks”. I was telling myself as I read this that I may be spoiled as of late with some of the YA titles also haha.

      The weirdest part was, it was slow but it was not without interest. I was still hooked. I think that a part of me has missed adult fantasy so much that I was just completely submersed. It was like returning to my favorite spot and I enjoyed it. The writing is somewhat simple so it flows well. That also helped. Definitely on the darker side, but not the darkest 😉

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  4. I seem to recall starting this book some time ago, and didn’t get into it for some reason. I may have to give it another try, though, as I do like darker fantasy tales. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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