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Glen Cooks The Black Company series

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I've finally finished reading these. They are indeed very different from the classical, Tolkien-based fantasy. I think that for the most part, they work well, although the protagonist turnover makes the later books a bit depressing. With maybe one or two exceptions, Cook doesn't give any of the ordinary mortals plot armor -- they die in all kinds of ways (ranging from heroic to ordinary to stupid) and there is a a lot of dying -- the casualty rates on both sides of most conflicts are extremely high even among characters that have names and personalities. It's perhaps the most realistic fantasy work on war that I have read, but this makes it hard to get attached to characters.

I liked the original trilogy best. The ending of The White Rose is awesome:

I loved Croaker's final "There ain't going to be no more killing." stand. Yes, he's only doing it because he's in love with her, but it's still the antithesis of the ruthless way that world usually operates.

Also, the earlier part where Goblin figures out the identity of Croaker's lady friend is hilarious.

The Silver Spike would be less cynical if Smeds was not introduced with the "music lessons", in which case his character (once developed) would not be much worse than many of the others in the books. As it stands,

his part of the story leaves a pretty sour taste, although the rest of it is not bad (given the usual 50%+ casualty rates on all sides).

The other Books of the South are OK. I like that the love story at the heart of the series finally comes out into the open, but they also tend to end with cliffhangers which take a long time to get resolved.

The Glittering Stone books are a mixed bag. Bleak Seasons is really, really depressing (for a while there I was questioning the sanity of the narrator). It gets slightly better when

Murgen catches a glimpse of Sahra in the swampland and the reader can guess that she is alive. However, it's not

that much better since it implies a rather monstrous betrayal and he doesn't figure it out for a while.

The next two are better and the last one (Soldiers Live) is quite good. If we ignore the usual casualty rate, the ending is almost positive.

There are a lot of loose strings, but Croaker gets a fate he is almost perfectly suited to, Lady also gets more or less what she wants and so do the remaining younger characters.

Lady really has to suffer before getting a happy ending. Up until the last page, she's lost everything she valued; her husband, her daughter, her magic, her political power, and her looks.

I think Dreams of Steel was my second favourite book in the series. I enjoyed getting inside Lady's head and seeing just how bleak her world outlook was.

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I've finally finished reading these. They are indeed very different from the classical, Tolkien-based fantasy. I think that for the most part, they work well, although the protagonist turnover makes the later books a bit depressing. With maybe one or two exceptions, Cook doesn't give any of the ordinary mortals plot armor -- they die in all kinds of ways (ranging from heroic to ordinary to stupid) and there is a a lot of dying -- the casualty rates on both sides of most conflicts are extremely high even among characters that have names and personalities. It's perhaps the most realistic fantasy work on war that I have read, but this makes it hard to get attached to characters.

I liked the original trilogy best. The ending of The White Rose is awesome:

I loved Croaker's final "There ain't going to be no more killing." stand. Yes, he's only doing it because he's in love with her, but it's still the antithesis of the ruthless way that world usually operates.

Also, the earlier part where Goblin figures out the identity of Croaker's lady friend is hilarious.

The Silver Spike would be less cynical if Smeds was not introduced with the "music lessons", in which case his character (once developed) would not be much worse than many of the others in the books. As it stands, his part of the story leaves a pretty sour taste, although the rest of it is not bad (given the usual 50%+ casualty rates on all sides).

The other Books of the South are OK. I like that the love story at the heart of the series finally comes out into the open, but they also tend to end with cliffhangers which take a long time to get resolved.

The Glittering Stone books are a mixed bag. Bleak Seasons is really, really depressing (for a while there I was questioning the sanity of the narrator). It gets slightly better when

Murgen catches a glimpse of Sahra in the swampland and the reader can guess that she is alive. However, it's not

that much better since it implies a rather monstrous betrayal and he doesn't figure it out for a while.

The next two are better and the last one (Soldiers Live) is quite good. If we ignore the usual casualty rate, the ending is almost positive.

There are a lot of loose strings, but Croaker gets a fate he is almost perfectly suited to, Lady also gets more or less what she wants and so do the remaining younger characters.

I'm glad you finished the series and came back and shared your opinion on them.

It seems like most people are on the same page when it comes to their feelings for the series. Especially when you get into the later books.

What did you think of the big twist? In regards to

What the Glittering Plain actually was, the multiverse concept, etc.. .

I believe Cook is writing a book that takes place during the early days of the Northern campaigns, as well as a direct sequel to Soldier's Live.

So we have more Black Company to look forward to.

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Lady really has to suffer before getting a happy ending. Up until the last page, she's lost everything she valued; her husband, her daughter, her magic, her political power, and her looks.

I think Dreams of Steel was my second favourite book in the series. I enjoyed getting inside Lady's head and seeing just how bleak her world outlook was.

Yes, she's a surprising character and a rather tragic one. She is one of the few characters ruthless enough to kill for political convenience whom I nevertheless find likable. Her ending is actually not that happy -- her daughter is still lost and her husband is no longer human -- but it's much better than I expected. I was half convinced that she would die with Kina as the price of leeching Kina's power.

What did you think of the big twist? In regards to

What the Glittering Plain actually was, the multiverse concept, etc.. .

It was interesting, but it wasn't one of the defining moments of the series for me. I think the concept might have been more innovative when the books were first written.

I believe Cook is writing a book that takes place during the early days of the Northern campaigns, as well as a direct sequel to Soldier's Live.

So we have more Black Company to look forward to.

Yes, although I'm not sure if he'll ever get around to it -- those interviews are from quite a long time ago. Edited by Altherion

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Yes, although I'm not sure if he'll ever get around to it -- those interviews are from quite a long time ago.

Well, the one that is set in the early days of the Northern Campaign has been coming out a few chapters at a time via Sword & Sorcery anthologies. The last interview I saw him talking about it was dated in 2011 or 2012. I have confidence we will at least see that way.

The sequel to Soldiers Live, I'm not so sure about.

Cook has said he was more productive when he had a full time job along with writing.

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Altherion, I thought she'd commit suicide at the end. That seemed to be how her story was heading.


Edited by SeanF

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Anyone hear anything about the sequel to Soldier's Live? Or ANYTHING relative to Mr. Cook. All the interviews I'm finding online are a few years old, nothing recent.



I'd love some more Black Company.


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I was in the book store yesterday and saw a Baen anthology called Shattered Shields that came out last year with a Black Company story in it. I checked online and Cook is in another anthology from Baen, Operation Arcana which just came out in 2015. Looks like these are the latest serialized installments of "A Pitiless Rain" which takes place between the first two books, and is a tale of the north. If he's still writing "A Pitiless Rain", I doubt we'll ever see "Port of Shadows" the sequel to Soldier's Live and the series finale. If that doesn't happen, I guess I would be alright with it. Soldier's Live was a great book and I thought it had a great and fitting ending.

According to ISFDB, so far the following portions of A Pitiless Rain have been released. I added Bone Eaters, as ISFDB isn't including that under the Black Company header yet. According to Amazon.com it's a Black Company story, which makes sense given the title and the title of the previous short story released in 2014.

Edited by IronEmperor

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I recommend people up pick up the anthology, Blackguards: Assassins, Mercenaries, and Rogues.



Glen Cook gives a HILARIOUS Foreword to it which I think really needs to be read to understand. The rest of the book is great but the foreword gives a speech by him about what he loves in anti-heroes.



And then it goes kind of nuts.



LOTS of nuts, actually.



Like brain-eater nuts.

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YE Gods, that Shattered Shields collection is like...well lets say Cook is by far the best author in there.

It was pretty bad. I ended up reading about two stories. Cook and I believe Bear had one as well... may be confusing collections here.

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Now, on the seventh book of the main saga (have read the prequel too). The first book on Books of the Glittering Stone was awful IMO, which is a shame considering that the final book on Books of the South was awesome. I don't like the new chronicler as much as Croaker.

Hopefully, this one and the final two books will be better.

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For the Books of the South omnibus, would you guys recommend reading the books in the order they are in the omnibus? Or publication order (which has The Silver Spike before Dreams of Steel. I'm generally a "publication order always" guy and will probably do that unless you guys think I shouldn't.



Currently on The White Rose and am enjoying it.


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Now, on the seventh book of the main saga (have read the prequel too). The first book on Books of the Glittering Stone was awful IMO, which is a shame considering that the final book on Books of the South was awesome. I don't like the new chronicler as much as Croaker.

Hopefully, this one and the final two books will be better.

You made it through Bleak Seasons? Congrats! Nothing, but good stuff from here on out. I disliked Bleak Seasons as it felt like too much of a retread, just the same overall story told from Murgen's point of view, rather than the...other chronicler. But it's definitely wroth reading, as you learn new information.

She is the Darkness is pretty good, but IMO, the series really gets reinvigorated in Water Sleeps, and Soldiers Live is fantastic.

You've come this far, keep on reading. It only gets better after Bleak Seasons. That's easily the one dud in what is otherwise a spectacular series IMO.

The Books of the North and the South were amazing, but Cook kind of fumbled on the first book of the Glittering Stone (Bleak Seasons).

For the Books of the South omnibus, would you guys recommend reading the books in the order they are in the omnibus? Or publication order (which has The Silver Spike before Dreams of Steel. I'm generally a "publication order always" guy and will probably do that unless you guys think I shouldn't.

Currently on The White Rose and am enjoying it.

No, don't read them in that order. You want to read The Silver Spike right after you finish the Books of the North Trilogy. So read The Silver Spike right after The White Rose. Then after the Silver Spike, rejoin your old friends as they march south in Shadow Games.

Here's my recommended reading order:

  1. The Black Company: May 1984
  2. Shadows Linger: October 1984
  3. The White Rose: April 1985
  4. The Silver Spike: September 1989
  5. Shadow Games: June 1989
  6. Dreams of Steel: April 1990
  7. Bleak Seasons: April 1996
  8. She Is the Darkness: September 1997
  9. Water Sleeps: March 1999
  10. Soldiers Live: July 2000

Not connected to the Black Company series, but once you're done with these, you're going to want more Cook fantasy. I recommend the Swordbearer: http://www.amazon.com/Swordbearer-Glen-Cook/dp/159780150X

Edited by IronEmperor

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I don't remember The Silver Spike having any connection to the rest of the books, so not sure why it would matter. Also I always found water sleeps to be the weakest entry, but that seems to be a minority opinion.

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