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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)

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1,562424,687 (3.88)86
Recently added byAlissa-, private library, ladypembroke, Dennisvdvoort, Alendor, SELindberg, Dobbie
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English (39)  French (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (42)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
I found the first chapter of this book a little difficult to get through. Once you get going and accept the world setting, though, the book is a pretty captivating read. I wouldn't call it the smoothest writing or the most well-fleshed out characters, but they grow on you. I figured out the twist about 2/3 of the way through the book. I feel more invested now in seeing how the whole situation plays out. Plus, I am getting to enjoy the main character. ( )
  ladypembroke | Nov 22, 2014 |
Gritty, Mysterious Adventure: Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company starts off a lengthy series with a large following (which I have finally joined). Thanks to a Sword & Sorcery group read on Goodreads I did not entirely miss a series born in 1984, which I had naively figured was just another fantasy series. I mistakenly thought it was just tales about silly comrades, with more brawn than brain, going from one job to another. The Company is not just some band of brutes going from one mission/employer to the next; it is a professional army for hire that has a history longer than most States/Kingdoms. Expect lots of intricate gritty warfare infused with warrior magicians dolling out spells that liquefy mountains and topple the sky. By reading these chronicles, you are (more or less) reading the Annals; well, you almost become part of the Company.

This first-person narrative is compelling: Our narrator, Croaker, is a physician and warrior, but he has the singular duty of recording the Annals of the Company. Below are a number of quotes to convey his voice. His succinct observations add an unexpected, very satisfying, level of intelligence. The Annals (as physical books) are rarely mentioned/accounted for; however, the storytelling was so engaging I often overlooked the notion that Croaker appears bookless.

Pleasantly mysteries adventure: Cook throws the reader into the deep-end from the start. Strangely even this reprint has no map (which would have been welcome to orient readers). The scale of adventure ranges from skirmishes, to grand battles, to sorties with selected members. The Company seems to range in size from one hundred men to a few thousand. Their employees and their enemies are many and complex.It becomes clear that the conflicts are many and intertwined, but thankfully consistent. Without spoiling anything, I can reveal that it will take 50% of the book to communicate that the Lady is the primary employer of the Company, and her secondary commanders are the Taken (usually undead/possessed sorcerers) which also battle one another. All these are in battle with another army led by the Rebel (and his Circle of eighteen). Somehow Cook manages to dose out just the right amount of information to keep you hooked.

Characters are interesting and a strength Each has concise names whether they be the narrator (Croaker), an enemy (Rebel, or Dominator), a Company member (Captain, Lieutenant), or sorcerer (One-Eye, Catcher, Lady, etc.). We learn about everyone via Croaker’s narration; which are often profound. One-Eye and Goblin are two of the Company’s few sorcerers (Silent being another Key one); they continually have contests of antagonistic sorcery, like brothers. Then there is a new addition who joins early on named Raven who has a truly mysterious backstory. Croaker voted to enlist him saying, “I voted aye. I smelled a mystery and did not want it to get away.” Which is what I feel now about these book. There are many mysterious left in the series of the Black Company … and I do not want them to get away!

Croaker’s Voice (Various, disconnected quotes)

We all have our pasts. I suspect we keep them nebulous not because we are hiding from pour yesterdays but because we think we will cut more romantic figures if we roll our eyes and dispense delicate hints about beautiful women forever beyond our reach.

When I reflect on my companion’s inner nature I usually wish I controlled one small talent. I wish I could look inside them and unmask the darks and brights that move them. Then I take a quick look into the jungle of my own soul and realize that I cannot. Any man who barely sustains an armistice with himself has no business picking around in an alien soul.

One-Eye is at least a hundred years old. The Annals mention the wizened little black man’s tempers throughout the last century. There is no telling when he joined. Seventy years’ worth of Annals were lost when the Company’s positions were overrun at the Battle of Urban. One-Eye refuses to illuminate the missing years. He says he does not believe in history.

One-Eye cheats. But never when Raven is playing.

Silent smiled, shrugged, stalked over to the stone pile and seated himself. He was done with the question game. Of all the Company he is the least concerned about the image he portrayed in the Annals. He does not care whether people like or hate him, does not care where he has been or where he is going. Sometimes I wonder if he cares whether he lives or dies, wonder what makes him stay.

I am a haunted man. I am haunted by the Limper’s screams. I am haunted by the Lady’s laughter. I am haunted by my suspicion that we were furthering the cause of something that deserves to be scrubbed from the face of the earth. I am haunted by the conviction that those bent upon the Lady’s eradication are little better than she…I am haunted by the clear knowledge that, in the end, evil always triumphs.

My last glimpse of Catcher was of a weary person slumped in unhappiness. I guess it is hard for them to live up to their reputations. We all want people to like us. ( )
  SELindberg | Nov 15, 2014 |
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. ( )
  Irena. | Aug 26, 2014 |
Ok, normally I’m one of those people who likes to finish my books, even if I don’t completely love them (see the entirety of the Maze Runner Trilogy). I like to know how things end, because sometimes good books have slow beginnings, and gems can be found if you just give them a chance.

This is the exception to the rule.

I’m sorry. I’m 50 pages into this book and I don’t think I can stomach reading anymore of it. It’s confusing, the prose is bland and boring, the characters lack any real depth, and the plot? I’m not even sure what’s happening. A friend asked me to read this because it’s one of his favorite books and when he asked me how far I was, I couldn’t even say because I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT HAD HAPPENED. The plot is episodic, things happen but I’m not quite clear on WHAT is happening (like, wtf, where did a freaking wereleopard come from and now we’ve captured the wereleopard but we’re killing this faction of the army while they sleep and someone tell me WHYYYYYY).

I think the premise had potential. A story from the bad guy’s point of view? Hell yes. But this is not good. This is not interesting, the characters are just names and I still have no idea who is who and why people are being poisoned and they set bees after some guy???

Just, no. Sorry. I’m done. I’m throwing in the towel. I’m moving on to something worth reading. ( )
  BookishMatters | Feb 27, 2014 |
It reads like a firsthand account of war straight out of a high school textbook. It doesn't shy away from any reality, even while it weaves an incredibly immersive fantasy setting. I really didn't think I'd like it because of some of the darker details and my own general squeamishness, but I truly did.
Okay, points of interest: one, we have a very interesting narrator. He's a sellsword historian medic. Yes, these things can work together and create a very viable narrator. I really liked Croaker, and he told the story in the best way possible, by being able to believably travel from the thick of the action to the relative safety of a makeshift hospital and the battlefield observations he makes. He feels incredibly real, not whitewashed or stereotypical. He is not entirely likeable--he does some very sick things--but ultimately you end up liking him anyway. I think part of that is because he rest of the Company likes him and you're hoping that at least one character you've spent time with survive his mess, and part of it is because you can't help but empathize a little bit with him and all his familiar human foibles. He's not a hero, but I get the strangest impression that he's not done cooking yet.
The plot was pretty darned good. It is one long military campaign and stays very exciting for the most part. The final battle was awesome, and it was kind of disappointing that the reader doesn't get to see the actual end of it, disturbing though it would have been. There were one or two slow points, and there's one ultimately predictable RPG style twist right at the end that had me rolling my eyes before I saw it actually carried out. I have to admit, Mr. Cook did such a good job of telling that part of the story that I didn't even mind that I'd guessed.
The writing itself is also good, and I actually liked the fact that sometimes Croaker just leaves things out. It makes you really pay attention to the writing, and it often brought out a lot of suspense that wouldn't have been there otherwise. Plus it was in keeping with the narrator and the Company's proclivities of not saying things straight, and it helped you get to know Croaker. On the subject of suspense, there's really something to be said for a narrator who constantly keeps you in suspense about whether or not he's going to do the 'right thing' or even if you know what the 'right thing' is with how limited the presented information is. Overall, I think the best argument for this book is that I was looking forward to doing other things today and instead I'm going straight to book 2. So much for that plan.
But man, I liked this. Been a while since I read adult fantasy that got me so interested. On that note, any Game of Thrones fans should give this a look. Probably'll be right up their ally! ( )
  Inkwind | Jan 4, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Glen Cookprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berdak, KeithCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:52:46 -0400)

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