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The Black Company by Glen Cook
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The Black Company (1984)

by Glen Cook

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Chronicles of the Black Company (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,780483,943 (3.87)89
  1. 30
    The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon (romula)
  2. 10
    Le Trône de fer, tome 07: L'épée de feu by George R. R. Martin (yagarek)
  3. 10
    The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (Rouge2507)
    Rouge2507: fantasy battles told from the point of view of soldiers
  4. 10
    The Founding (a Gaunt's Ghosts Omnibus) by Dan Abnett (NickBlasta)
    NickBlasta: While existing in a different genre, the story of a company of fighting men is quite similar.
  5. 00
    The Deepest Sea by Charles Barnitz (Dragget)
    Dragget: Good dialogue and realistic combat. The humor is similar also.
  6. 00
    Angles of Attack (Frontlines #3) by Marko Kloos (Dragget)
    Dragget: Military fiction from the viewpoint of the individual soldier.
  7. 01
    Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Another fantasy tale told from the typically opposing side.
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English (45)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
Excellent storytelling in a slightly insidious, unreliable narrator style that may not be for everyone.

The Black Company is something of a fantasy classic, but it's quite different from almost anything else out there. This is no black and white world, it's black and grey, and soaked red with blood. The heroes are not good or even nice, the righteous rebels are even worse, and the chief evil is neither the enemy nor the worst thing in the world.

And it's all told in a sparse style, as if you are sitting by a fire in a smoky pub, listening to the annalist of the company tell you his story, knowing full well that he's no more reliable than the next narrator along.

I can see why it's not everyone's cup of tea, but it's definitely mine.

And I think its one of those rare books that is much, much better, on a re-read, once you've come to understand the point of view, and aren't spending the first few chapters floundering with it.

Stylistically there is little exposition, which I confess is totally fine with me, I don't need it. There's enough, when it's needed, and put in context of us hearing the story from a self-admittedly unreliable narrator, in a company of mercenaries who necessarily have left their lives behind them, mean not only is there no way to know the details, but there are none to tell. Just guesses, and rumours, and stories. There's world building aplenty, if you care to read between the lines, but exposition is indeed rare. I prefer not to have everything spelled out for me, to build my own images. There are not pages and pages of description, and if you are a G.R.R. Martin fan, this is probably not a book you will enjoy much, but for me that makes the small descriptive passages shine even more when they do crop up.
The land slowly became silvery green. Dawn scattered feathers of crimson upon the walled town. Golden flashes freckled its battlements where the sun touched dew. The mists began to slide into the hollows. Trumpets sounded the morning watch.
Such simple and clear imagery, not flowery purple prose, but I think quite evocative nonetheless.

Our storyteller, Croaker, can sum up an entire battle in a sentence and sometimes does:

So we went and did it. We captured the fortress at Deal, in the dead of night, within howling distance of Oar.

Or when it suits him spend five pages detailing every detail of another. Because he's telling us about what matters, not what happened, and there's a difference.

It reminds me of listening to my grandfather and his cronies on the rare occasions they talked about their war experiences, and indeed Glen Cook was a soldier. Like Elizabeth Moon (also career military, something I didn't know until long after starting to read her books) there is some sense of recognition for me having spent time around military types, both as a child and later: A certain wry black humour as a way of facing, or even avoiding, horror. It's subtle, but it's there. Odd, perhaps, that they both chose to write about mercenary companies, albeit in quite different ways. ( )
  krazykiwi | Aug 22, 2016 |
At times the story dragged a bit and as soon as it is first mentioned the whole time a reader has a very important thing constantly thrown in the face while the characters don't have a clue about it even though it is the only logical conclusion.

The Black Company are mercenaries, working for whoever hires them. This particular commision is recorded and told by Croaker, the Company's Annalist. He is also their physician. His job is to write down everything that happens to the Company as a whole, but also whatever happens to ordinary men. "We are the last of the Free Companies of Khatovar. Our traditions and memories live only in these Annals." Croaker is very dedicated to his job. He needs to tell each man's story ("I was almost neurotically anxious that some men had been lost and would be forgotten.The Company is our family.")This record tells about an ancient evil and her ten companions. One of them is Soulcatcher, the Company's employer. "The Captain settled beside me. “Tell me, Croaker.”
So I told him about the Domination, and the Dominator and his Lady. Their rule had spanned an empire of evil unrivalled in Hell. I told him about the Ten Who Were Taken (of whom Soulcatcher was one), ten great wizards, near-demigods in their power, who had been overcome by the Dominator and compelled into his service. I told him about the White Rose, the lady general who had brought the Domination down, but whose power had been insufficient to destroy the Dominator,
his Lady, and the Ten. She had interred the lot in a charm-bound barrow somewhere north of the sea."
Now the Lady and her Taken are in the world again. Of course, there are those who want to fight them.
Even though I wanted the evil to fall, to be punished somehow for the horrible things that have been done in its name, I was still worrying about the main characters. They are not good, they are not without flaws. They are truly mercenaries, but as the events in this story show, mercenaries with a soul. I think this is the first book I've read that the main characters are fighting on the wrong side. ( )
  Aneris | Aug 12, 2016 |
A great gritty story about a mercenary company. Written with a minimalist approach, I found myself hungering for each small detail that would come out in the story. ( )
  davidpauly1105 | Jul 20, 2016 |
The first & my favorite of the Black Company books. The narrator's "voice" is such fun ... his sardonic and self-deprecating tone seem to make the character real, and someone I'd enjoy having a beer with. ( )
  GeetuM | Jun 3, 2016 |
The Black Company is a fresh perspective on a typical fantasy story. Like most fantasy, there are evil villains and rebel forces that are trying to overthrow an evil sorceress that is ruling the land as a tyrant. What makes this book different is that it is told from the point of view of a member of a group of mercenaries that is working for the evil sorceress. The story takes place in the trenches and the reader does not know any more about what is going on than the main character knows (the story is told in first person). I found the new (to me) point of view interesting. I liked many of the characters in the black company and I found myself rooting for them, even though they were on the bad guy's side. The book was a slow read for me. I think this is because it was written from this perspective. At times it was frustrating that there were holes in the story, but that is because the character telling the story did not know what was going on either. Overall I am glad I read the book and I will be picking up the next book in the series soon. ( )
  Cora-R | Jan 13, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Glen Cookprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berdak, KeithCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hiltunen, PetriCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
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This one is for the people of the St. Louis Science Fiction Society. Love you all.
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There were prodigies and portents enough, One-Eye says. We must blame ourselves for misinterpreting them. One-Eye’s handicap in no way impairs his marvelous hindsight.
Quotations
No one will sing songs in our memory. We are the last of the Free Companies of Khatovar. Our traditions and memories live only in these Annals. We are our only mourners.
"Evil is relative, Annalist. 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."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812521390, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:19 -0400)

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