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Glen Cooks The Black Company series

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I'm about one book into the first Omnibus and while I like it, I find it difficult to get into the mindset of the spartan style of writing. I expect this is more of a roadblock I need to hurdle rather than a dealbreaker...since I REALLY love the characters.

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QuickTidal - if you keep going, you will get a better feel for the core "old crew" members, and the later "Books of teh South" are somewhat more detailed with the characters.

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QuickTidal - if you keep going, you will get a better feel for the core "old crew" members, and the later "Books of teh South" are somewhat more detailed with the characters.

That is indeed the plan! The style was the only complaint I could register so far, as the story is perfectly enthralling as were the characters.

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That is indeed the plan! The style was the only complaint I could register so far, as the story is perfectly enthralling as were the characters.

It's easily one the best fantasy series out there.

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it's really a master piece in Fantasy and yet we can see how different it is compared to aSoIaF :

- praticly no sex

- 1 PoV at a time/cycle

- the author give rare interviews and don't have (to my knowledge) a blog or a website

- magic is not as rare as in GoT

don't you think so ?

if adapted in tv show, we can only hope the differencies will be still : rock music, lot of tv stars ..

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One of the things I like most is just how bad-ass the magic can be in that universe, yet, little hedge magics are just as useful in teh right place, and physical weapons always work...(but sometimes, it takes a lot of hitting to drop a mage).

The way certain characters turn up, or certain events have such loooooong term effects (One-Eye being pissed about teh fate of TomTom results in a few major plot points, even in the final book).

Plus, Toadkiller Dog and Old Man Fish - names and characters like that are so much fun.

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Shadows Linger

Six years after the mighty Battle at Charm, the Lady's Northern Empire has expanded further than ever before, carrying the Black Company into the distant lands of the east. However, orders come that will drive the Black Company on a march of thousands of miles to the far north-west, to the city of Juniper were mighty forces will clash as the result of the activities of one dirt-poor innkeeper.

Shadows Linger is the second novel in The Black Company sequence and comes as a bit of a surprise for readers expecting more of the same. The Black Company was a vast war epic, huge in scope. Shadows Linger feels a lot smaller in scale and more intimate, with the bulk of the action taking place in the single city of Juniper and focusing on the troubled life of the innkeeper Marron Shed. This division of focus - between Juniper and the Black Company as they cross an entire continent to get there - requires Cook to adjust his POV structure from the first volume. Whilst the bulk of the action continues to be relayed by Croaker, annalist and physician of the Black Company, we also get third-person POV chapters focusing on Shed. Later it is revealed that Shed recounted his adventures in detail to Croaker, explaining how this structure works.

Cook is at home with the small-scale story as he is with the larger, and he is able to inject real fear and tension into the mundane storyline of Shed's debt worries. As the story continues, we realise how Shed's apparently irrelevant concerns are related to the bigger picture, and once the Black Company reaches Juniper we snap back to a larger, more epic story with far-reaching consequences for the characters (several major characters don't make it to the end of this one).

The story itself unfolds relentlessly, with superb pacing as we flick between Shed's activities, Croaker's narration and the third-hand reports of the Black Company's march on Juniper. There are also hints of genuinely weird and fantastical ideas here, such as the bizarre landscape of the Plain of Fear (which features much more strongly in the third volume) and the black castles which grow from seeds (which Erikson clearly cribbed for the Azath Houses in the Malazan sequence). There's a feeling of constant invention as Cook deploys weird and wonderful ideas and combines them with the more traditional military fantasy shenanigans he has set in motion.

Complaints are few. The timeline feels a little shaky (in order for it to work, Croaker has to spend months and months in Juniper, which doesn't feel the case in the book) but this is not particularly a major problem. A few characters established as major players in the book seem to end their story arcs with damp squibs or rather off-hand deaths, but this may be part of Cook's intended effect - not everyone is a hero and some people do just expire unexpectedly in undramatic fashion. There's also much more of an obvious cliffhanger for the third book, but given that the third book has been out for decades and is combined with the first two in omnibus editions, that's not particularly problematic either.

Shadows Linger (****½) is more than a worthy follow-up to The Black Company. It's a fast-paced, addictive read which sees Cook not resting on his laurels and trying some new approaches and ideas, and succeeding well. The novel is available as part of the Chronicles of the Black Company omnibus in the UK and USA.

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The White Rose

The Black Company - or rather the handful of its survivors - has broken ranks with the armies of the Lady and sworn its allegiance to the White Rose, who is prophecised to bring the Lady down. But the Lady's armies have besieged the Plains of Fear, hemming the Company and their allies in. As the threat draws in, Croaker, annalist of the Company, receives anonymous messages relating how the wizard Bomanz awoke the Lady and the Taken in the first place. As events unfold, it becomes clear that the Lady's husband, the evil Dominator, is planning his own return to the world, a prospect that cows even the Lady, and that the growing war will soon develop a third side.

The White Rose concludes the original Black Company trilogy, wrapping up story and character arcs begun back in The Black Company and continued in Shadows Linger. Based on those two books, the reader might go into this novel expecting a massive magical conflageration and battles of mythic proportions. Again, Cook blindsides the reader by crafting something far less predictable and much, much weirder.

Much of the book takes place on the Plains of Fear, an area warped into what can only be called surrealness by the presence of a god manifesting as a tree. Talking, teleporting menhirs warn of strangers on the plain, whilst flying manta rays and immense windwhales pass overhead. These chapters are more akin to the New Weird than anything in the epic fantasy canon, and keeps things fresh and offbeat. After this sequence the story moves to the Barrowland, the prison of the evil Dominator, where an unlikely alliance of convenience must be struck in order to ensure the Dominator's destruction.

The White Rose is certainly not the ending that I think anyone was expecting, but this is a good thing. Scenes where the apparently evil, amoral Taken and their mistress show their doubts and fears in the face of the threats of both the White Rose and the Dominator show an impressive degree of characterisation. Cook also reveals the backstory of the wizard Bomanz which shows that history has been rather unkind to him, and sets the warped version of history that Croaker and his friends are familiar with straight. Cook's succinct but still memorable prose and typical mastery of pace drives the story to a conclusion that it is expectation-defyingly small in scale, but nevertheless logical.

The White Rose is the third book of ten (so far) in the Black Company series, so obviously there is more story to come, but Cook brings things to a solid conclusion and the book has no cliffhanger for future books, making it an ideal pausing point for those not wishing to plough through the whole series in one go.

The White Rose (****½) shows Cook defying expectations once more and delivering a morally complex, atypical epic fantasy that is compelling to read. It is available in the UK and USA now as part of the Chronicles of the Black Company omnibus.

Edited by Werthead

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I can't recall if I said it, but there's a Cook line that sticks with me "The manhood of a continent lay dead" or something basically that.

He also has a quick statement on what "God" is that I loved. Minimalism done well, some of the highest in the genre IMO at least.

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I love The Black Company series, especially the original trilogy.

For detailed information about this series and Glen Cooks style of writing check my blog

glen-cook-fan-site.blogspot.com

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I love The Black Company series, especially the original trilogy.

For detailed information about this series and Glen Cook’s style of writing check my blog

glen-cook-fan-site.blogspot.com

This is a little off topic, but can the Garret P.I. books be read as stand alone novels in any order?

Back to topic, I really thought that Shadows Linger was the weakest of the first three books, but it looks like Werthead reserves that spot for the final volume. Are you (Werthead) going to read and review more of the series, or are you stopping there?

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This is a little off topic, but can the Garret P.I. books be read as stand alone novels in any order?

I wouldn't read Garrett P.I. books in any order because there are many references to what was happening in earlier novels. It could cause some spoilers and some things would not be fully understandable.

BUT every Garrett novel tells a separate story and has a definite ending (unlike Black Company novels), so from that point of view they can be regarded as standalone novels.

Edited by Marcin

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Are the Garrett novels any good?

I personally don't like them nearly as much as the other stuff he's written, but that may just be a matter of taste. Essentially, most of them strike me as just a bit too long, and I found myself page skipping. But others like them a lot, so there's nothing wrong with trying the first one and seeing for yourself.

The same general idea was done better in The Dresden Files, I think, though that has morphed over time unto being much more than just a fantasy detective series.

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I never like a Garret novel as much as his other stuff...when I start.

By the end, I'm always like "Why don't I read these more often?"

It might be the style difference in them, or the type of humour not blending well with the sheer nastiness of the actual story...

Parts seem silly, but, the stories and "cases" aren't. It has some very very cool characters in it, the war in the background is very interesting (because you only learn the whole picture in tiny bits).

Plus, Garrets unicorns are vile, evil, scarey critters.

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Are the Garrett novels any good?

To me first 4 Garrett novels are the best novels written by Glen Cook. I have read many his books and only three Garret novels (1st, 3rd and 4th) I rate as perfect 10/10. There is huge amount of sarcastic humour combined with non-stop action. By action I mean not only fighting but also talking about the case that is to be solved.

As with any novel it's all about taste.

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Are you (Werthead) going to read and review more of the series, or are you stopping there?

I've already read Book 4, hope to review it soon. After that it's Alastair Reynolds' Blue Remembered Earth and Ian Esslemont's Orb, Sceptre, Throne, then back to Cook.

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I've already read Book 4, hope to review it soon. After that it's Alastair Reynolds' Blue Remembered Earth and Ian Esslemont's Orb, Sceptre, Throne, then back to Cook.

Just curious, does a "Wertzone Classic" mean it's something you read along time ago, or is it just an old book you read recently?

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To me first 4 Garrett novels are the best novels written by Glen Cook. I have read many his books and only three Garret novels (1st, 3rd and 4th) I rate as perfect 10/10. There is huge amount of sarcastic humour combined with non-stop action. By action I mean not only fighting but also talking about the case that is to be solved.

As with any novel it's all about taste.

I have only read the first three Garret books ( picked up the omnibus that came out last year, the next omnibus is coming in a couple of months and I will get it also ) and I liked them alot. I think Cooks prose fits well with this type of story, and I love the setting. I actually prefer them over Dresden ( only read the first three ). If you like Cook, I would suggest at least picking one up from the library, or used.

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