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The Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  20,043 ratings  ·  803 reviews
Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here.

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
Mass Market Paperback, 319 pages
Published March 15th 1992 by Tor Fantasy (first published May 1984)
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Max I'd recommend sticking around for the later books of the Wheel of Time series, even if you didn't quite enjoy the first book(s). The final three books…moreI'd recommend sticking around for the later books of the Wheel of Time series, even if you didn't quite enjoy the first book(s). The final three books number alone the best fantasy books I have ever read.

Other than that, I second Sanderson (Way of Kings), Rothfuss (Name of the Wind), and Erikson (Malazan book of the fallen).(less)
Miles Ross There are some primitive fan-made ones, but I don't think Glen Cook ever made an official one.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinJ.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set by J.R.R. TolkienThe Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. LewisThe Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
The Best Epic Fantasy
52nd out of 2,347 books — 16,627 voters
Gardens of the Moon by Steven EriksonA Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinThe Blade Itself by Joe AbercrombieThe Black Company by Glen CookDeadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson
Military Fantasy
4th out of 207 books — 357 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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mark monday
i thought this book was great. a strange kind of modern classic, one that influenced many other fantasy efforts by ushering in the genuine darkness, grittiness, and lack of wonder of the military novel. the writing is direct, unadorned, choppy - a soldier's perspective, i suppose. the novel jumps right in the middle of the action and makes no attempt to help readers out, assuming that they will eventually catch up. experiencing the lack of poetry and of justice, the anonymity of most of the sold ...more
After 75 pages, I've come to the conclusion that life is too short to waste reading bad books. Positive praise and reviews caused me to bring the book home against my best judgement. The first-person style, lack of character depth, stupid names, inane dialogue and juvenile prose have caused me to abandon the book in frustration. Good thing I read Mary Gentle's Ash: A Secret History before giving up on the military fantasy genre altogether.
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)
It’s amazing how well military and fantasy seemed to mesh in this story. The Black Company is an elite mercenary unit that holds two values sacred: Committing fully to any commission they take on, and watching out for their fellow members, their brothers in the unit. This unit consists of hardened fighting men, some of whom happen to be wizards, and our narrator, Croaker, who is the annalist (records the history of the unit) and the doctor of the unit.

The world they live in is plagued by war bet
Quick review: Think Malazan Book of the Fallen, but focusing only on the marines. Sounds good right?

Especially given the fact that MBotF is one of my all-time favorite series and the marines were always my favorite parts. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I enjoyed this more, but I can't help but make the comparison and think it a good one. Don't ask me how my mind works, I obviously don't have a clue.

The comparison also makes sense because this series was influential on Erikson's MBotF. Th
David Sven
Position Vacant:

The Black Company is now recruiting in your city. All applications considered. No credit checks, no criminal history checks, no psychological tests, no moral aptitude tests. No matter how dark your history the “Black” in Black Company is Black enough to blot out all your past sins.
Prerequisites: We prefer those who are experienced at “wet work.” If you have never killed anyone, we can provide on the job training but one must consider carefully before hand if you can undergo such
“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 own mourners.”

After only reading the first book in the three-part omnibus edition, I can already tell that Glen Cook is an exceptionally skilled storyteller, and that The Black Company is probably the best war story I have ever read.
5.5 stars. I loved this book!!! The world of the Black Company is absolutely amazing and reading this book was a BLAST. Great characters, great world-building and a terrific plot. Can't ask for much more than that. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!
Troy G
You will either love this book or hate it. It is like nothing else ever written. It is the gateway to a series that is consistently better with each novel, but this novel is so polarizing that you might never be able to appreciate the series for what a masterwork it is.

First, the book is told from a first person perspective by an unreliable narrator in a vernacular that is less flowery than is common for fantasy works. This is often the thing that turns people off to this book, but I encourage y
I can see why this is a cult classic. Thoroughly enjoyable read!

I think Croaker is a great character and a perfect choice of narrator! He's been part of the Company for many years and I at no point questioned his loyalty to them, but he's more than just a soldier for hire. Being a physician he has a greater admiration for human life and his perspective on the front lines of war / fighting was refreshingly different. I also liked that he was the historian who kept a record of the Company and the
The adventures of a company of warrior mercenaries in a medieval-type fantasy world, but told in what's presumably supposed to be a modern and grittily realistic manner, with the characters sounding like hard-bitten US marines in a bad Hollywood war movie. It's The Dirty Dozen in chainmail. This sort of thing can be done well, as in Mary Gentle's "Ash", but in "The Black Company" it becomes very tedious very fast. And whereas Mary Gentle actually knows about medieval warfare, this one gives the ...more
Jun 11, 2011 Carol. rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Carol. by: FA
Three stars; ultimately it's just not my kind of book.

As far as plot, it mostly consists of a series of encounters for the Black Company, starting with getting out of their current contract and accepting employment from the Lady. I don't mind this style of plot in my books, but not everyone may enjoy.

The pacing of the story was uneven at best. Mostly the narrative stopped on plot points germane to their particular tasks for the Lady, but occasionally it takes time to linger on company dynamics.
Mike (the Paladin)
I read the text version of this book some years ago (so long I'd pretty much forgotten the story). This is the set up for the saga as the Company fights in service to The Lady (a seemingly nasty piece of work who's almost the epitome of evil...almost.)

I'm pretty sure that the Black Company would exemplify "anti heroes" here. nasty fighters a mercenary company made up of the good, bad and ugly (with the good being in the decided minority.) The company has a long and....well "illustrious" isn't a
I finished; I was glad; some questions were answered; I guessed right about a major plot point (which wasn't exactly a huge feat of mental brilliance, since (view spoiler) ...

I thought it was, for quite a few chapters, almost plot-less; it followed the Black Company on its travels, with no real beginning or middle to the story: it was a series of events. By the end a pattern became clearer,
[Name Redacted]
I've heard this described as "Vietnam War fiction on peyote" and I think that's a pretty accurate description. This is wild, dark, bleak stuff and deserves its reputation as a fantasy classic. While other writers had done a marvelous job of plumbing the depths of gritty, amoral fantasy (Robert E. Howard & Jack Vance spring immediately to mind), Cook seems to have been the first to focus on the fortunes of the rank-and-file rather than the great heroes and rulers and magicians.

The Black Comp
Dirk Grobbelaar
What a piece of work. It’s clear that the abhorrent is nothing new to the characters in this book, and things which we would normally find highly objectionable are often mentioned in a casual and matter-of-fact fashion. This device is employed quite brilliantly by the author to drive home the nastiness of war, especially war on the side of evil. So, dark times and dark deeds are the order of the day here. Let battle and pillage commence!

In actual fact, the book isn’t more violent than you would
I don't know what to think of this book. It's the grittiest of fantasies, with some really fascinating stuff -- Soulcatcher and the other Taken, the Lady, Raven... -- and some really gross stuff -- Soulcatcher and the other Taken, the Lady, Raven, and just about everyone else. The pacing's odd, but it sort of worked here; the plot takes quite a while to become apparent, but I figured out some important details long before the characters did.

I'm interested in where it's all going, and the moral s
Reading this has become a chore. Like digging a trench.
*turn on whiny voice*
That's why I just don't want to do it anymore!

Its not about the plot or content of the book, those were fine, even interesting. Its about this author writing style, its making me angry!

*turn on super whiny voice*
No description of any kind, crude language, ridiculous characters names and characters them selves sounding like they're illiterate!

I'm giving this 2 stars because the plot was good, execution left a lot to b
S.E. Lindberg
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 m ...more
Milda Page Runner
3,5 stars. I liked it and at times even loved it, but ultimately it didn't blow my mind the way Abercrombie or S.Lynch did at some point.
It has a very strong plot, non stop action and plenty of intrigue to keep you going. I did not think I'd ever say that but - if anything - there could be more filler and explanation. It often drops you in the middle of things and leaves you confused for awhile especialy in the beginning. Writing takes some time to getting used to. There are few sparks of black
I had heard alot about the Black Company, it kind of has the status of a classic in fantasy literature andd with good reason.
As I started out reading the book, the first thing I noted was the names of the characters which were very reminiscent of Joe Abercrombie's books, the use of personality adjectives and nouns like Silent, Goblin,Darling etc as names.
Starting out the book underwhelmed me with talk of vampires and werepanthers but as I went deeper the real and more deeper issues of soldierly
Jan 19, 2014 Artemas marked it as abandoned
I'm not going to give this book a rating since I didn't finish it, but 50 pages was all I could take from the Black Company. I love fantasy books. I love military fiction books. I love military fantasy fiction books. So why did I not enjoy this book? I guess it just comes down to the author's writing style - which for me just wasn't working. I thought all of the dialogue was choppy and felt like watching bad actors on stage. This book gets great reviews and tons of people love it - I'm just not ...more
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
Mar 26, 2010 Mark rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of fantasy novels
Shelves: fantasy
The Black Company, by Glen Cook, is something of a unique read for me. That's why I liked it. It's not a perfect fantasy novel, nor is it probably the best book of its type. It's a great way to pass the time, though.

The Plot

The book is told from the perspective of a character called Croaker. That's his nickname. His real name is never revealed. He's called Croaker because he's the physician for a mercenary company called "The Black Company". He's also the chronicler of the company, which expla
GrimDark as it should be written.

This book alone is a promising start to the series and the story continues to be more interesting as you move from battle to battle through the trilogy.
Sumant Natkar
The book starts with with a soldier of black company getting poisoned and from there it keeps on getting better and better.I thought during the start of the book when there was a were leopard involved that it will be like typical fantasy but I was really surprised when it kept on getting better and better.I had audio books for ASOIAF and after that I haven't ventured into audio books because I like solid paper in my hand while reading or my kindle also suffices for me, but searching quite hard f ...more
A.R. Witham
“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.” - Croaker, The Black Company

It's a nice thought - the Black Company isn't working for the "bad" guys...evil is relative, it's all relative, man (smokes giant doob). But none of us are kidding ourselves after one of the primary characters kills his wife in order to join the Black Company: these guys are evil.

Okay, not a prob
Because it didn't actively offend me, I almost wanted to give this three stars, but the readability just wasn't there enough to justify that rating. This is the sort of book where the author throws you into a world and expects you to learn it as you go. I HATE that. Give me a least some information, points of reference, something so that I don't feel like I'm reading pidgin. Another problem I had was the perspective. The good thing about first person is that you get to know all about the narrato ...more
Daniel Roy
Boy, this is one dark book. It's grim, gritty, and dripping with pain and viscera. It's the perfect antidote to all that high fantasy filled with beautiful people having sex between dragon battles. If it were a person, it would stare at people at parties and make them uncomfortable with its facial third degree burns.

Pullitzer-winning war journalist Chris Hedges, in War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, explains how war as we perceive it is a patriotic fantasy that has very little to do with the
Clever, morally-ambiguous mercenaries

I feel like there is a standard hero story in fantasy. A person, or a small group of friends, starts the story in a settled, complacent home. Their town gets attacked and they begin the quest. They acquire new powers and abilities and try them out. The whole story leads up to some climactic battle with the evil empire or a dark lord, and the heroes save the day and go home.

This is not that story.

Instead this story is about the henchmen of the dark lord

This is a very well written series, and it is built up of fascinating concepts. The only reason I didn't rate it higher is my personal preference for books that have a more descriptive and cohesive narrative. The plot is really fast paced, and the book starts in a way that leaves you confused, as if you have started in the middle of the story. The more you read, the better it gets, and it does have some of the most amazingly engaging characters in fantasy. Do not read this book if you dislike mi ...more
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Glen Cook was born in New York City, lived in southern Indiana as a small child, then grew up in Northern California. After high school he served in the U.S. Navy and attended the University of Missouri. He worked for General Motors for 33 years, retiring some years ago. He started writing short stories in 7th grade, had several published in a high school literary magazine. He began writing with m ...more
More about Glen Cook...

Other Books in the Series

The Chronicles of the Black Company (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Shadows Linger (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #2)
  • The White Rose (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #3)
  • Shadow Games (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #4)
  • Dreams of Steel (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #5)
  • Bleak Seasons (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #6)
  • She is the Darkness (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #7)
  • Water Sleeps (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #8)
  • Soldiers Live (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #9)
  • A Pitiless Rain (The Chronicles of the Black Company, #10)
  • Port of Shadows (The Chronicles of the Black Company, #11)
Chronicles of the Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company, #1-3) The White Rose (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #3) Shadows Linger (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #2) The Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company, #4-6) Shadow Games (The Chronicle of the Black Company, #4)

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“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.” 60 likes
“If one chooses sides on emotion then the rebel is the guy to go with. He is fighting for everything men claim to honour, freedom, independance, truth, the right.......all the subjective illusions. All the eternal trigger words. We are minions of the villan of the piece. We confess the illusion and deny the substance.” 14 likes
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