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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.

Librarian note: an alternate cover for this edition can be found here.

319 pages, Mass Market Paperback

First published May 15, 1984

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About the author

Glen Cook

145 books3,269 followers
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 malicious intent to publish in 1968, eventually producing 51 books and a number of short fiction pieces.
He met his wife of 43 years while attending the Clarion Writer's Workshop in 1970. He has three sons (army officer, architect, orchestral musician) and numerous grandchildren, all of whom but one are female. He is best known for his Black Company series, which has appeared in 20+ languages worldwide. His other series include Dread Empire and and the Garrett, P.I. series. His latest work is Working God’s Mischief, fourth in the Instrumentalities of the Night series.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,331 reviews
Profile Image for Luna. ✨.
92 reviews1,212 followers
May 25, 2017
DNF @ 48%


"This book is utter pus" - a quote by Lady Luna hater of all things shit.

I'm actually really sad about this DNF, I wanted to love this book and before I even read it, I knew it was going to be a four or five star read because of the reviews on it & that blurb sounds goddamn amazing. I, However, can safely say I was wrong and that I absolutely loathed reading this. I'm sorry I truly tried, however I just didn't care about anything & the writing *shudders*. I tried forcing myself to love this, however my rating on the book kept getting lower & lower until it reach a 'no star' rating, that's when I threw in the towel. I RARELY DNF books it saddens me to do it. But I'm not even sorry this one got the can. This book truly deserved it. I know I'm in the minority here however this book is so hugely overrated in my opinion. I heard this was the "best grimdark ever created" well for me it's probably the worst, yeah I get it was written in the 80's however that's no excuse. Classics are classics for a reason and this book does not deserve the hype it gets. I've read gory disgusting messes of books before that have you gritting your teeth, I didn't get that once with this book. I understand I didn't read the whole thing but I just couldn't force myself to continue. There was nothing happening that made me want to read more. I honestly was either breaking ribs from laughter at the amount of bullshit I was reading or I was rolling my eyes. I seriously got an eye cramp for the amount of times I rolled them.

I honestly feel this book is unworthy for a full review so I'm going to justify my opinion with a dot point presentation on why I hated it so much.
*leers at book with venomous contempt*

-“ As you might expect in a company of villains held together by its now and its us-against-the-world gone befores.”
Okay well, where was the villainary at? All I read about was a bunch of grown men giggling and finding corpses that weren't even described. A lot of the action scenes were done in the background. Stop telling us & show us instead... Actually don't bother.. I don't care.

-“ Bassard. All bassard.” Something struck him funny. He giggled.”
I HATED all the giggling. Tough grown men do not giggle like school girls. I HATE THIS & what the heck is a Bassard? I put the word into Google & computer says no. *anger rising*

-I was bored & I was confused. I have the attention span of a goldfish & this book was like having to do homework. It sucked. Like There's no descriptions of things so I didn't have a clue what the fuck the limper or soulcatcher was... Oh and did I mention, I don't care either, because grown freaking MEN WHO ARE MURDERS, WERE GIGGLING.

-There was 0 world building. I didn't know what anyone or anything looked like & I didn't really care anyway..

-There's 0 back story so the whole book was a confusing mess.

-There was 0 compelling characters & 0 feels were involved.

-I'm someone who is very extremely particular about POV's. I hate first person story telling. And this book was the strangest first person POV I've ever read (i can't even describe it). literally took all the enjoyment out of reading this book.

-This would have to be the most disjointed, sloppy, lazy, hard to follow writing I've ever come across. I can normally look past bad writing, however this book held 0 interest for me. So it felt like a chore to try to read it and believe me when I say you need to concentrate really hard on the writing while reading, it zapped all my precious energy.
Example of why I didn't like the writing;
"Zig when they expect you to zag.”
What even is that sentence?

"Red eyes. Four legs. Dark as the night. Black leopard. It moved as fluidly as water running downhill. It padded down the stair into the courtyard, vanished.
The monkey in my backbrain wanted to scamper up a tail tree, screeching, to hurl excrement and rotted fruit. I fled toward the nearest door, took a protected route to the Captain’s quarters, let myself in without knocking.”

*cough* what the actual fuck?! Like why is the author talking about monkeys flinging poo?

-You call this grimdark?! My nannas undies are darker after she farts.

-I feel this book just tried way to hard to be different, I get the author was trying to break stereotypes, HOWEVER it felt forced.

-But it was the writing that honestly just put me off it was SO hard to digest, I have heartburn now.

- "Crap. You kill them same as you kill anything else. Only you move faster and hit harder ’cause you only get one shot.”
This to me is a promise of badassery, however Glen Cook broke his promise and delivered none in the entire first half.

-Also a lot of nothing happened.. Seriously nothing happen.. except a bunch of grown men playing cards, giggling, chasing wereleopards & imagining what the Lady looks like.. Did I mention grown men were giggling?


-A child is raped and tortured but it had 0 relevance to the plot. Like it was just there to make the book darker and add shock value, however all it achieved was pissing me off. It made me want to rape this book with a knife. *anger fully risen*
side note: an Internet troll informed me that this information is false & the rape plays a bigger role later on... But just remember, I couldn't careless.

NOW IM RAGING. This book made me so angry, I am ready to fight someone *flips table*

I'm sorry, I really tried on this one but I can safely say this would probably be the worst book I've ever tried to read in my whole entire existence. I do not like this author & wont be trying any of his books in the future. So to all my Goodreads buddies that love this book, I'm sorry you had to read this nasty review. Truly I am. Here's a cupcake to cheer you up.

Please be mindful that this is only an OPINION on a BOOK (believe it or not). I'm not looking to change anyone's opinion on this novel or stop them from reading it. Plus my opinion can't be trusted on this one, BECAUSE EVERYONE ELSE LOVES IT. I obviously just got a dud.
Now have a lovely day..
Yours sincerely your local Goodreads axe wielding psychopath.

Literally the biggest buddy read I've ever done, like we are no longer a group, we are now an army of savages wanting grimdark goodness. Sir Twerks, My stinky princess, Oriental, Jody, Alex, Craig, Emilia, Terry & Michael.

Will the force be with this one?
It even has Darth Vader on the cover.

Ps I'm keeping the wine cooler.
May 9, 2022
💀 The Black Company is Recruiting Again Buddy Rereread (TBCiRABR™) with the MacHalos and a Lurking Overlord 💀

And the moral of this rereread is: why I ever bother to read non-CookBooks™ is and forever shall be one of the greatest mysteries of the universe.

I know, Spockie, I know. I promise I'll try to read more CookBooks™ and less crap from now on.

P.S. For those who missed the previous episodes: the Lady is MINE MINE MINE. So don't get silly ideas in your silly little puny human heads. Or else...

👋 To be continued and stuff.

[January 2018]

💀 Buddy reread with the clueless new mercenary recruits over at BB&B. Under the wicked supervision of our Ever-Stalking Black Company Overlord (ESBCO™), of course 💀

And the moral of this reread is :

There is that, yes. Also, my boyfriend Croaker and my girlfriend Lady have been safely stashed away in my High Security Harem for a few decades years now and I think it's high time I discreetly kidnapped some of their fellow mercenaries to keep them company. They have me to keep them, um, entertained, of course, but what with my other 24,548 harem spouses I can't keep everyone, um, you know, satisfied 24/7 and stuff. I have therefore decided to abduct One-Eye and Goblin. I'm pretty sure they will provide Croaker and Lady with hours and hours of most delightful, lively entertainment. Official Court Harem Jesters (OCHJ™) I hereby name them and stuff.

That's not exactly what I had in mind, but hey, I guess it would work, too. Sure it would. I bet Lady is going to love the unicorn costume, too.

And now excuse me while I go, um, entertain, Mad Rogan and Sandman Slim and His Furriness and Daniel Faust and Ms Caitlleanabruaudi and Caleb Shepperd and Ace Dante and and and...need I go on? Didn't think so.

[Original review]

Actual rating: 15 stars. And I'm not even exaggerating.

Warning: this book is not for the fluffy bunnies, pastel-colored rainbows, romance freaks. If you belong to that scary lovely bunch of people, do not, I repeat, DO NOT, read this book. It might scar you for life. It might even haunt you after death.

There are books with bad guys. Then there is this book. Never before have I encountered such a glorious collection of twisted, evil, morally corrupt, vile, dishonorable, despicable, contemptible, shady characters. The guys are immoral, the chicks are villainous, the weird creatures are blood-thirsty. And all of them are homicidal maniacs! This. Book. A dream come true.

Meet the bad guys: The Black Company.
They're mercenaries. They will do anything for money. Morals? Completely irrelevant. Ethics? Oh please, don't be silly. We're talking about war here. And crushing the enemy, whatever the cost. Whatever the reasons. Whatever everything. Just follow the orders (-hum- more or less) and cut, cut, cut, slice, slice, slice, hit, hit, hit, kill, kill, kill. Some people sell cute puppies for a living, other get murderous for money. Just a job like any other .

Meet the bad guys the bad guys work for: The Lady and The Ten That Were Taken.
There are villains. And then there are VILLAINS. Believe me when I tell you you have never come across such a bunch of deliciously wicked, evil characters:
✔ Bloodthirsty (minimum job requirement #1)
✔ Nefarious (a personal favourite, obviously)
✔ Vicious (yay!)
✔ Merciless (minimum job requirement #2)
✔ Perverted (hooray!)
✔ Cunning (minimum job requirement #3)
✔ Treacherous (the amount of backstabbing, double-crossing and deceitful scheming going on in this book is mind staggering. And positively exquisite).
✔ Ruthless (minimum job requirement #4)
✔ Just plain despicable (YES YES YES YES YES!)

Meet the bad guys the bad guys that work for the bad guys are up against: The Rebels.
These guys here are not the good-hearted rebel type. They're just as heartless, devious, homicidal and unscrupulous as any other character in this story. Yeah, Cook is an equal-opportunity kind of guy. Everyone gets to be evil in his book. It's absolutely delightful. And so very refreshing {insert happy sigh here}.

Dear silly people who thought I would DNF the hell out of this book in less time that it takes to blink: this is one of the best, most engrossing books I have read in recent years. Take that ye of little faith! This book is epic. This book is awesome. This book is so gripping-compelling-thrilling that once you start you just can't put it down. And it's bloody well written. Okay, so Cook's style takes some getting used to. Okay, so the first chapter kind of makes the reader think he/she is a total idiot. And not bright enough to be reading the book. And might be in need of a brain transplant. Because, frankly, nothing makes sense at first. But worry not dear friends, for it all becomes clear as day once you get past chapter 1. What? What seems to be the problem dear friends? I just scared you away from this book? You think you're not clever enough to read it? Of course you are. Come on people, time to have a little self-confidence! If I, the everytime-I-try-to-read-epic-fantasy-I-DNF-the-book-after-20-pages freak did it, you can, too!

Still not convinced about this? What if I told you flying carpets were involved (guaranteed 100% Aladdin and Jasmine-free)?

How can you resist something like that? Well let me tell you, you can't.

►► And the moral of this review is: read this people, you'll be glad you didyou better be anyway. I might unleash The Lady and The Taken on you if you aren't. Be afraid. Be very afraid .

· Book 1.5: Port of ShadowsI have no idea where this book came from, or what it's about. Pretty sure I never read it.
· Book 2: Shadows Linger ★★★★★
· Book 2.2 (short story): Shaggy Dog Bridge ★★★★★
· Book 2.3 (short story): Bone Eaters ★★★★★
· Book 2.4 (short story): Letha of the Thousand Sorrows ★★★
· Book 3: The White Rose ★★★★★
· Book 3.5: The Silver Spike ★★★★
· Book 4: Shadow Games ★★★★★
· Book 5: Dreams of Steel ★★★★★
· Book 6: Bleak Seasons ★★★★★
· Book 7: She Is The Darkness ★★★★★
· Book 8: Water Sleeps ★★★★★
· Book 9: Soldiers Live ★★★★★
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
763 reviews3,486 followers
October 23, 2022
If this cool dark fantasy setting would have been executed with a more accessible writing style, it could have become a masterpiece, but so it´s just a solid work with problems that let it lose some of its potential.

Criticism at a high level
So it´s unnecessarily and inappropriately funny when it´s no real humor and more letting the reader lose flow and diminishing the atmosphere. The first person narrative doesn´t work so well, because the lack of other perspectives doesn´t make it feel complete and like one. Worst of all, it isn´t really reader friendly, as it´s hard to follow, doesn´t explain much, is suddenly switching between characters and storylines, and leaves one with too many wtf, where am I, moments.

Maybe it´s my memory and not the work
To be fair, it could also be that people should have a very good memory to enjoy it and that I´ve overseen all the hints and interwoven explanations, but as I tend to primarily forget unimportant real life facts like names and obligations, but not important fictional settings, I am not certain about this one too.

Could have been outstanding
Without these issues, it could have been an amazing novel, the worldbuilding, the concept, the cool abilities of the different antagonists, and the not really good heroes, but so it´s a collection of fine ideas and scenes that don´t live up to the expectations. Especially because some seem to see this work as a kind of fantasy milestone, of which I´ve read a few, and this stays miles away from the quality of others because it´s just not as accessible.

Titans name it as inspiration
Even Abercrombie, Butcher, and Erikson (who has a similar, for some readers too eccentric writing style, but a subjectively better one than Cook), name the series as inspiration, but as said, I don´t get it. It may be that certain kinds of readers who are into first person narrators joking around while the plot is between too much acceleration, info dumping, and confusion, love it, but this old one is no gold one for me.

Rising ratings
But there have already been some series with weak, far not so bizarre, starts because the author had problems with establishing the setting or simply not enough routine and expertise, and the ratings start rising above the 4 star level with the second part, so I might give it a try or, let´s say, a second chance. Not sure that the confusing writing style may change, but I´m hoping to finally find the reason for the cult status.

Tropes show how literature is conceptualized and created and which mixture of elements makes works and genres unique:
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,630 reviews4,997 followers
June 30, 2012
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 soldiers, and the dearth of noble sentiment - indeed, very little sentiment of any kind whatsoever - was like splashing into icy cold water. it is startling, at first. but you get numbed to it.

the beginning was definitely abrupt but i got into the swing of things pretty quickly. the novel is an onion that gets increasingly rotten as you peel away every layer - but still isn't a completely bad onion. you can still use parts of it in a salad. don't toss that onion away, it's not all bad!

in particular, i loved the literalized levels of moral ambiguity and evil:

'cause baby, we're with the bad guys this time!

the reader's stand-in, Croaker, is not all bad. he does some pretty good things. he usually won't lift a finger for anyone outside of the Black Company but, at times, he is a genuinely good guy. The Black Company itself sounds like a militaristic Evil Pixar. it takes pride in its reputation for excellence and usually delivers, above and beyond. it treats its people right. it cares for them; it tries to remember their names. it doesn't like wasting time and effort in senseless battle. it prefers to run rather than toss away the lives of its men. it tries to give them rest and recreation; it promotes comraderie and respect and positive, friendly relationships. The Black Company actively tries to never fuck its men over. and, rather sweetly, it does not think highly of child abuse and torture. that's a good company to work for!

however, The Black Company also kills sleeping guardsmen in their beds. it burns down whole villages. it cares more about a paycheck than about working for mass murdering villains. its younger men rape women while its older men shrug their shoulders indulgently, an older brother chuckling at the shenanigans of a younger brother. for chrissakes, it marches screaming prisoners of war in the middle of a town square and then proceeds to nonchalantly slaughter them, simply because they are in a hurry to get the hell out of dodge. Croaker notices these things, justifies or tries to explain away some of them, but mainly chooses not to dwell on it. as he says: he was not raised to speak ill of his family. and so his narration focuses on the The Black Company's current place on the map as he helps out the wounded, tries to figure out mysteries, and writes about those colleagues with whom he is particularly close. often he spends a lot of time mooning on and on and over the two most intriguing and glamorous women that he actually only sorta knows - Soulcatcher and The Lady. just as often, he contemplates the history and the future of his outfit. he is a Company Man, through and through. The Black Company is bad - Croaker knows it and the reader is shown it during several key sequences - but it is, as they say, not all bad .

the novel features a Secret Hero: Raven. he saves a little girl's life and protects her throughout the tale. he also has a habit of enacting blind vengeance, enjoys extreme knife play, and early on, he graphically and nonchalantly strangles his backstabbing wife at a garden party, in front of his new buddies The Black Company. he is not bad looking and apparently smells like a corpse. that's our mysterious Secret Hero, folks, enjoy him!

i understand that Glen Cook used his experiences in Vietnam to inform his novel. after learning that fact the parallel becomes obvious. but to me at least, it is not simply a parallel for Vietnam; it is a very grown up and realistic analogy for many wars, for the nature of war itself. even the Good Guys can be Bad Guys. and even the Bad Guys have their reasons. what villain truly thinks that they are motivated by Complete Evil anyway? almost anything can be rationalized.

the novel contains precious little of pure good - so little that i clung to those rare good deeds, parceled out by the author so sparingly. what the novel has in spades is shades of grey: no true heroes and very few completely villainous villains. and yet... not a despairing novel. i felt strangely refreshed after reading it.

review for the The Black Company trilogy:
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews55.9k followers
March 7, 2022
The Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company #1), Glen Cook

The Black Company is a series of dark fantasy books written by American author Glen Cook. The series combines elements of epic fantasy and dark fantasy as it follows an elite mercenary unit, The Black Company, through roughly forty years of its approximately four-hundred-year history.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش روز دوم ماه می سال2016میلادی

عنوان: سرگذشت گروهان سیاه، کتاب اول - گروهان سیاه؛ نویسنده: گلن کوک؛ مترجم آیدا کشوری؛ تهران، نشر کتابسرای تندیس، سال1393؛ در397ص؛ شابک9786001821332؛ موضوع: داستانهای فانتزی حماسی و تاریک از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده20م

این سری شرح چهل سال از تاریخ چهارصد ساله ی گروه نخبگان مزدور، «گروهان سیاه»، آخرین گروهان آزاد «کاتوار» است؛ «گلن کوک»، فانتزی و داستانهای نظامی را، در تصویر واقعبینانه ی شخصیت، و درگیری‌های رئیس گروهان، در هم آمیخته اند؛ سرگذشت اصلی، شامل نه رمان است، که آنها را می‌توان به سه بخش «سفر به شمال»؛ «جنوب»، و «سفر بازگشت»، تقسیم کرد؛ در این کتاب «گروهان سیاه»، از سوی یکی از تسخیرشدگان، با نام «روح‌بند» ناخواسته و ناآگاه، به خدمت بانو درمی‌آیند، و به خواست او می‌جنگند؛ طبیب سرگذشت گروهان را در این دوره ‌ی پر تنش بازگو می‌کند

سفر به شمال (کتاب‌های شمال): «گروهان سیاه: ماه می سال1984میلادی»؛ «سایه‌ های ابدی: ماه اکتبر سال1984میلادی»؛ «رز سپید: ماه مارس سال1985میلادی»؛

کتاب‌های جنوب: «بازی‌های سایه؛ ماه ژوئن سال1989میلادی»؛ «رویاهای پولادین ماه آوریل سال1990میلادی»؛

کتاب‌های سنگ‌های درخشان
فصل حزن: ماه آوریل سال1996میلادی
She Is the Darkness: ماه سپتامبر سال1997میلادی
Water Sleeps: ماه مارس سال1999میلادی
Soldiers Live: ماه ژوئیه سال2000میلادی
سرنیزه نقره‌ ای: ماه سپتامبر سال1989میلادی

منتشر خواهند شد
A Pitiless Rain
Port of Shadows

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 01/02/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ 15/12/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Matt's Fantasy Book Reviews.
213 reviews2,497 followers
March 24, 2022
A gritty fantasy mercenary story with an incredibly unique vibe

The Black Company is such a different book than any other I have ever read. It comes off like a diary from someone in Vietnam, but with evil wizards and magical beasts. It's dark, gritty, matter-of-fact, and has a wonderful dynamic between the main characters.

Coming from someone who read and loved Malazan, it's clear that Erikson used Cook as inspiration when writing the interactions between people in his military like the Bridgeburners and the Bonehunters.

I loved reading this book, and eagerly look forward to the rest of the series.
Profile Image for Jessica ❁ ➳ Silverbow ➳ ❁ .
1,257 reviews8,675 followers
September 9, 2017
Reviewed by: Rabid Reads

I went into the reading of THE BLACK COMPANY by Glen Cook nearly blind. I knew a lot of people didn't like it. I knew it wasn't going to be warm and fuzzy.

But that was pretty much it.

I quickly learned that despite Joe Abercrombie being widely known as "Lord Grimdark," it was Cook who gave birth to the subgenre.

So that's important to know: it it grim and it is dark.

But it's also about brotherhood, about family. It's about upholding some version of a moral code in the midst of your own depravity. It's also surprisingly funny. I buddy read this with a bunch of friends on Goodreads, and after various similar incidents, I suggested the BR's catchphrase should be, "Shock, horror, and hilarity."

Shock. Horror. And hilarity . . .

The story is told from the POV of the Company physician, a man named Croaker. He's also the annalist, the Company historian, and it doesn't take long to determine he's perfectly suited to the task.

Croaker is . . . curious. So curious that he borders on being nosy (but he's not a gossip), and his good-natured need to unravel mysteries keeps him likable rather than obnoxious. He's one of my favorite characters.


Likable as he may be--as any of the Company may be--they are not the Good Guys.

They're sellswords, the archetypal mercenaries, they fight for coin, not for cause, and while Croaker admits to not recording every foul deed in which the Company partakes, he records enough that you never confuse them with heroes.

The Black Company enthusiastically engages in the spoils of war and all that entails, so consider this your warning if anything that falls under that umbrella is one of your triggers. This kind of thing is always unpleasant, but as I've mentioned before, I give a lot of it a pass when it happens in fantasy b/c realism.


They do have their own version of a code, and unless it threatens the Company as a whole, they follow it to the best of their ability.

Unfortunately, that code doesn't preclude working for the Bad Guys. B/c according to Company philosophy, there are no "Bad Guys," and similarly:

“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.

BUT. Croaker becomes less and less convinced of this as the story progresses as more and more people become victims in the power struggles of their "betters."

And by victim, I mean DEAD. As a doornail. Numbering in the tens of thousands. B/c WAR.

The only real problem I had was an infrequent lack of clarity.

I don't expect to know ALL THE THINGS in the first installment of a long-running fantasy series, but the things I don't know need to be tangibly shrouded in mystery. You can't make incomprehensible statements in a way that looks like you're supposed to know what they're talking about, when in reality you're not.

That way lies madness.

Beyond that, I loved THE BLACK COMPANY by Glen Cook. One of the wonderful things about fantasy, is that it ages well, and whether it's traditional good vs. evil fantasy or more nebulous what is good or evil fantasy, the elements are timeless--there's a reason this one is still making the rounds nearly 25 years after it was originally published, and that reason is EPIC. Highly recommended.

Jessica Signature


SO. I just finished this . . . and it was so good that even though the thing I didn't want to happen (b/c so bloody obvious) happened, I did not care, b/c the way it played out was EPIC.



Full RTC.
Profile Image for Mayim de Vries.
577 reviews798 followers
August 7, 2022
“There are not self-proclaimed villains, only regiments of self-proclaimed saints. Victorious historians rule where good or evil lies.”

Evil fights the darkness, folks. The Black Company is a grim and jarring read meant for a more mature audience, fast-paced, devoid of extensive descriptions and throwing the reader into deep waters inhabited by hungry and malicious things.

The Black Company is a group of mercenaries offering their services to those who pay well. It has nothing to do with “serving the good cause”, and individual members of the Company are often despicable individuals. Their only creed and hence faithfulness belong to the Company, which is their home and family. It is a “Company of villains held together by its now and its us-against-the world gone befores.” The Company becomes entangled in a war between the Lady aided by her Taken sorcerers (it is the one called Soulcatcher that enlists the mercenary band) and the Rebel forces of the White Rose. The fact that our heroes are fighting on the wrong evil side is a great starting point for the book.

In the first volume of the Chronicles of the Black Company we follow the events from the perspective of Croaker, the doctor and annalist. The first-person narrative means that we know Croaker very well, but his companions we know only as much as Croaker knows them. And as for the rest of the protagonists, what you get are just scraps of knowledge that Croaker will learn throughout the book. What is applied here, is the same trick which was later repeated with great success by Mr Erikson. We know nothing about the world, we will not find any introduction, prologue, dramatic personae, overview. The author does not bother with something as obvious as explaining who is who or where the conflict originates from. All this is revealed in the minimum amount of information transmitted through Croaker’s observations and recollections. As the action develops (and it does rather quickly, almost too quickly!) we get to know other protagonists and with every new plot twist, we get a new piece of the puzzle to fit in.

“Fire! Riots in the Groan! Dancing at the Gate of Dawn!”

At this point, I would like to say that it is worth grinding your teeth and arming yourselves with patience during the initial chapters. I promise that the breakthrough will come and you will not be able to stop reading. Also, the scant information sharing is an advantage. In the end, when we learn enough to begin to understand what's going on... the book ends. Nice trick, Mr Cook .

Those of you who meet the Black Company after having read the Malazan Book of the Fallen, as well as those familiar with the Starks, Lannisters and Baratheons could be underwhelmed by this novel. This is because while (I imagine) it was pathbreaking in the 1980s, today it is just one in a big crowd of novels that borrowed and developed several ideas that were introduced by Mr Cook. That being said, two things are decisive when it comes to sorting through the pros and cons: the expressiveness of the protagonists and the fact that the created world seems to be very real. There are no heroes in shining armour here; there is a group of various individuals (each of them unique in their own way) connected by the ties of brotherhood, who neither want to save the world nor destroy it, but (like all mercenaries do) just hope to earn some gold. The relativity of what is good and what is bad and what is neither renders the world building so very realistic. Perhaps the Lady is evil but those who proclaim to fight her, prove to have similar qualities and it makes us question whether after the destruction of the “empire of evil” they would be able to build a better world. Nothing in this novel is unambiguous and obvious. The Taken are wonderfully fascinating, and oh so intriguing! The Lady is scary but her connection with Croaker transcends ‘normal’ relations. There is a whole host of colourful and ingenious characters to root for (well, hello Raven!) and hate with a passion.

“Annals of the Black Company, last of the Free Companies of Khatovar. Our Traditions and memories live only in these Annals. We are our only mourners.”

While I believe that Mr Cook made an excellent use of the first-person narrative I can also recognise that this is one of the main reasons why this book evokes so strong emotions and gets contradictory ratings. The main controversies are two: 1) the language and narrative 2) stylisation of the book.

Glen Cook has its own, very distinctive, style of writing. It is rather characteristic, difficult to imitate, and quite specific. The author very wisely mixes sophisticated vocabulary with coarse colloquialisms and simplifications. He manages to be both dark and funny (and funny it is, the ongoing frolics between One-Eye and Goblin is one of the best love-hate relationships I know!), moving and gloomy. He juggles the opposites and doesn’t get burned in the process. Not every writer is capable of achieving such equilibrium.

Secondly, The Black Company is stylised on the diary of a soldier (whose fluency in high sarcasm rivals my own!). The soldier makes short notes whenever he has time to do so, constantly recording events and selecting those worth recording in a rather arbitrary manner. Accordingly, the narrator focuses mainly on himself and his closest colleagues, there are also moments when he simply does not have time to write. Thus, we end up with whole passages in which important (from the conventional narrative point of view) events are skipped or replaced, “We marched Here and There, we fought These and Those, people died (list of names). There was no time to write and then…” It is only understandable that not everybody will appreciate this kind of narrative.

“Ah, the smell of mystery and dark doings, of skulduggery and revenge. The meat of a good tale.”

However, if these two things do not scare you away, you will get a great combination of grim stories about tough guys with epic military fantasy. You think you want to join the Company? The recruitment is open.


The other Chronicles:

2. Shadows Linger ★★★ (and a half, Goodreads!)
3. The White Rose ★★★★��
3.5 Silver Spike ★★☆☆☆
4. Shadow Games ★★★★☆
5. Dreams of Steel ★★★☆☆
6. Black Seasons ★★★☆☆
7. She is the Darkness ★★★★☆
8. Water Sleeps RTC
9. Soldiers Live RTC
10. A Pitiless Rain RTC
Profile Image for carol..
1,513 reviews7,699 followers
June 12, 2011
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. Those interludes mostly seem to consist of card games. I'm definitely more used to the epic fantasy that tells you what the road was like, the color of the blooming flowers, the sunsets, etc. along the way (David Eddings, anyone?).

The characters felt mostly archetypal, sketch portraits done in greys. There's a grizzled captain who knows more than he lets on and has a hidden moral core; the fallen warrior; the morally ambiguous doctor; the orphan foundling who will be the figurehead for a new movement. That said, the small touches helped make them interesting to me and left me intrigued: the wizards' bickering, Darling's finger language, Soulcatcher's voices.

The world seemed interesting, as much as we are given. The concept of the Taken was fascinating. The forvalaka was fascinating as well, but language is odd--why did we go from a made-up word to "Taken?" I think the forvalaka was one of the only created words, which sits oddly with the language of the story. Flying carpets were introduced late and seemed mostly to be a plot device. They seemed at odds with the conventional methods of horseback, cart, walking, ship.

Overall it was a kind of a *shrug* kind of book for me. I didn't hate it, but I was able to put it down and even fall asleep while reading it, and I've been known to stay up all night reading. However, I'll check out the next in the series out of curiosity, and because Cook has so many fans, I'm trying to see the appeal.
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews761 followers
July 19, 2012
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.
Profile Image for Eon ♒Windrunner♒  .
418 reviews459 followers
November 23, 2015
Before Abercrombie… Before Lawrence... Before Martin…

There was Cook.


I loved The Black Company.
It is dark, entertaining and funny with a hint of epic and it kept me enthralled until the end.

It's about a group of people (with a particular set of skills :D) fighting for the employer of the day. These people are not good or bad. They are just people. Some are worse than others, but it’s all about your point of view. I mention this only, because I kept on wondering if I was backing the bad guys here. Turns out, things are not so much black and white as they are grey.

The beginning of the book was a bit of 'WHAT IS GOING ON?' at first, but the confusion dissipates and makes way for 'just-one-more-page' pretty quickly as we follow the core of a group of mercenaries known as …The Black Company. Didn't see that one coming did you?

The story is told from the viewpoint of the company’s annalist and opens up with our mercenaries doing their thing in the city of Beryl, Queen of the Jewel Cities, protecting the Syndic from rivals and his own troops among other things. So basically, bodyguards. That is until events conspire and something is released upon the city…

“You know anything about that out there?” An isolated scream echoed in the distance. It had a quality which set it aside from other recent screams. Those had been filled with pain, rage, and fear. This one was redolent of something darker.


Can it be killed?”
“They’re almost invincible, Captain.”
“Can they be killed?” The Captain put a hard edge on his voice. He was frightened too.
“Yes,” One-Eye confessed. He seemed a whisker less scared than Tom-Tom. “Nothing is invulnerable. Not even that thing on the black ship. But this is strong, fast, and smart. Weapons are of little avail. Sorcery is better, but even that isn’t much use.” Never before had I heard him admit limitations

Unfortunately for the mercenaries, the forvalaka is just the beginning and leads them to a fated meeting with something that goes by the name of Soulcatcher and thus they make the best of a bad situation and are hired and caught in a war they do not want to be a part of, fighting for an employer they do not want to serve. Also, EVIL is about.

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.
“And now they’re restored to life, it seems,” I said. “They rule the northern empire. Tom-Tom and One-Eye must have suspected. … We’ve enlisted in their service.”

The writing felt different. I cannot pin exactly what it is that felt so fresh, but suspect it is just the way Cook writes. He says things in ways that I haven’t read them before and his humour was delightful in that horrific kind of way. More please!

Highly recommended.

PS: One-Eye vs Goblin…best wizard rivalry ever.

One-Eye had trooped downhill behind me, sour, surly, grumbling to himself, and spoiling for a row. His path crossed Goblin’s.
Slugabed Goblin had just dragged out of his bedroll. He had a bowl of water and was washing up. He is a fastidious little wart. One-Eye spotted him and saw a chance to punish somebody with his foul mood. He muttered a string of strange words and went into a curious little fling that looked half ballet and half primitive war dance.
Goblin’s water changed.
I smelled it from twenty feet away. It had turned a malignant brown. Sickening green gobs floated on its surface. It even felt foul.
Goblin rose with magnificent dignity, turned. He looked an evilly grinning One-Eye in the eye for several seconds. Then he bowed. When his head came up he wore a huge frog smile. He opened his mouth and let fly the most godawful, earthshaking howl I have ever heard.

The Lady



Profile Image for Markus.
470 reviews1,516 followers
November 21, 2015
“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.

Series review from the beginning
Series review from the ending
Profile Image for Alienor ✘ French Frowner ✘.
832 reviews3,718 followers
February 15, 2021

DNF 42%. Shoot me, because it seemed that The Black Company was written for me :

Morally ambiguous Plain bad heroes whose only rules are brotherhood's related and who don't shy away from almost any deed (they draw the line at killing children, but everything else is implicitly accepted - I'll let you think about what resides into their candid brains, haha). You gotta love antiheroes : when you start smiling because Aww, they didn't kill the kid, after all! you know that you're up for some awful developments. I personally consider antiheroes like the best surprises in Fantasy, because let's face it, this genre is so overcrowded with special snowflakes that we could spend days shivering in their vicinities.

✘ The complete lack of info-dumping mixed with a rather complex world-building does bring some confusion in the beginning and I came across several words in the first chapter that got me all, What the hell is THAT? Yet it didn't bother me at all because we're thrown into action without any form of introduction, and that's something many Fantasy writers should try sometimes. Give your readers some credit : we always figure things out after a while.

✘ The writing itself is also different from what I'm used in Fantasy : a little choppy but to the point and without the dared 2 pages long descriptions that make my eyes bleed. Yet it's not free of repetitions either.

Now you're probably wondering why I'm stopping at 42%. Sigh.

As I said, it seemed that The Black Company was written for me. Unfortunately it was without counting on the intense boredom I'm feeling, and the worst kind of boredom it is : It's not that nothing is happening, but that I don't care for any of it whatsoever . Perhaps Fantasy heavy on war games is not for me. Perhaps they spend way too much time playing cards for my liking. Perhaps it's not the right time for me to read it, I don't freaking know, but I can't find in me to go on when there are so many great books waiting for me out there. Not to mention that as interesting the characters appear to be at first glance, I feel no connection to them and to the MC, Croaker, and in my opinion they lack layers - but it could get better after. The only one who awoke my interest is Raven, but not enough for me to keep reading. If I can deal with choppy writing, I sure can't bother with choppy plot.

The Black Company was not written for me after all. Freaking traitor. Many of my friends loved it, though, so I might try again someday, but not when I'm counting the hours before coming back to school.

For more of my reviews, please visit:
May 25, 2011
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 between the Rebels and those who serve the Lady. After leaving their present commission for a minor potentate in Beryl (a dead end that could have ended up with them all dead had they not found a way to ‘honorably’ terminate their employment), they take a commission with one of the twelve extremely scary Taken (a cabal of undead wizards who serve the Lady), an androgynous figure called Soulcatcher. Soulcatcher has the tendency to speak in various voices, male and female, sometimes at the same time. The Company knows there is something not right about Soulcatcher. Soulcatcher is probably evil. But for the Black Company, they don’t look at morals that way. Their greatest ethical commitment is to put in a good day’s work for their present employer. The problem is this job is going to take them into really nasty places, and cause some of the men of the Black Company to reevaluate their morals for serving their questionable employer, particularly Croaker.

The writing style in this story appealed to me, with a brisk narrative that managed to convey exactly what I needed to know. The humor is subtle, and the depiction of violence is done very well—not excessively gory, but clearly expressing the ugly nature of war. As I mentioned above, the fantasy elements went hand and hand with this military adventure. The use of magic was a weapon used by both sides in the military conflict. The wizards in the Company were quite the characters, often having competitive showdowns with each other that were great comic relief.

I appreciated the time spent to bring the characters to life. Although these are guys who work for pretty much anyone who can pay for them, I felt that they were honorable men in their own way. Croaker was a good narrative choice, because he was a seasoned soldier who had seen a lot, and pondered what he experiences in a way that brings the reader right into the narrative, along for the ride. He'd been in the business too long to be morally righteous in the traditional sense; but there were things that he and the guys in his unit definitely wouldn’t stand for. Croaker would be one of the first to admit that most of his brothers sit at various points on the evil spectrum. But there is evil, and there is worse evil, as they soon come to find out. The problem is trying to figure out which side is worse.

Another standout character in this story was Raven. He was, well, scary, but tremendously fascinating. A man who joins their unit shortly after they take on the commission with Soulcatcher, he is driven initially by revenge. A formidable killer who scares even the hardened men of the unit, but with a sense of honor that causes him to intervene when another group of soldiers murder a village of children, and gang-rape a nine year old girl. That girl and her grandfather essentially become part of the unit, and Raven becomes like a surrogate dad to the little girl called Darling. This unlikely adoption of a mute little girl and her grandfather adds to the rag-tag family atmosphere of the Company, as they all end up becoming fond of the girl and her grandfather.

Shades of gray. This story is definitely about that spectrum between black and white. It touches on the fact that war is more often the means through which figures in power work out their political squabbles, and less about doing the ‘right thing’ or righting wrongs. And the puppets of their war are working men, getting paid to fight their battles. That doesn’t erase their individual responsibilities for the wrongs they do, and they carry those burdens in the ways they can best manage. But at some point, one has to wonder when it’s time to walk way, to save what’s left of one’s own soul. That’s what Croaker struggles with.

I like that fantasy can go to these places that I wouldn’t necessarily explore out of the fiction setting. The military life is not one I would choose for myself. However, I respect those in the military a lot. Like any profession, a soldier has his own set of ethics and rules, and the good and the bad that goes along with his job. Cook illustrated the inns and outs of military campaigns very well here, the grueling days and nights, and how war isn’t always some crazy, dramatic battle. Sometimes it’s about the long waiting, the even longer marches, and the deprivation when supplies are down, losing men faster than they can be saved, and digging in while the Company is surrounded by the enemy. And everyone has their part to play in the conflict, even if it’s just cannon fodder (sadly enough).

I’m on a roll. I’ve liked most of the epic fantasy I’ve read so far. But this one stands out with its military esthetic, which was done very well. I read this story out of an omnibus collection of The Chronicles of the Black Company, and I’m glad I went ahead and bought it because I want to read more of the Black Company’s adventures.
Profile Image for Layla ✷ Praise the sun ✷.
100 reviews10 followers
March 9, 2017
A military fantasy book from a Vietnam war veteran and the father of grimdark.

The writing takes some getting used to in the beginning as you are thrown into the world with no idea whatsoever of what is happening and you have to figure it all out on your own while you continue reading.
There is no hand-holding and at times I felt like I was watching a David Lynch movie all over again in the sense that I wondered WHAT THE FAKK IS GOING ON.

We abjure labels. We fight for money and an indefinable pride. The politics, the ethics, the moralities, are irrelevant.

The Black Company is a band of mercenaries who fight for whoever pays them, in this specific case for the ultimate bad girl, the Lady, and against the Rebels, and its members are portrayed as neither really good nor bad here.
They have but two principles: Faithfully carrying out their current commission and watching out brotherly for their fellow company members.
Apart from that everyone in this book is devious, prevaricating, unpredictable, scheming people, just the degrees vary.

The story is told from the point of view of Croaker, the company's physician and annalist, and during the lecture you get the feeling that you are actually reading someone's memories rather than an author's book in spite of the fact that this is fantasy. Brilliant! Croaker is also a good choice as the narrator because he questions their course of actions and it adds further to the shades of grey which are part of what makes this book so good.

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 are 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. Oh, my.

Then there is Raven.
He flicked a finger at a man surveying the gardens. His clothing was grey, tattered, and patched. He was of modest height, lean, dusky. Darkly handsome.
I guessed him to be in his late twenties. Unprepossessing.… Not really. On second glance you noted something striking. An intensity, a lack of expression, something in his stance.
He was not intimidated by the gardens. People looked and wrinkled their noses. They did not see the man, they saw rags. You could feel their revulsion.
Bad enough that we had been allowed inside. Now it was ragpickers. A grandly accoutred attendant went to show him an entrance he’d obviously entered in error.
The man came toward us, passing the attendant as if he did not exist.

I think I might be in love.

Even the most wicked of the company fear him for how cold, lethal and inscrutable he is,

If you assume this is all dark and grim, it mostly is, but then there are One-Eye and Goblin. Two of the Company's wizards constantly trying to outperform each other at making the other one's life just a little more miserable, and it makes for some good laughs.
A herd of minuscule lightning bugs poured out of One-Eye's nostrils. Good soldiers all, they fell into formation, spelling out the words Goblin is a Poof.

All of the side characters are interesting in their own way. Take Silent, for instance. He doesn't say a single word throughout the entire book, and yet he works as a side character.
Silent drifted into the clearing. He looked at me, at Raven, at the supplies, and did not say anything. Of course not. He is Silent.

Because of how the book is written.

Do I recommend this book? That depends entirely on you. It is dark, there is no hand holding, and nothing much seems to happen at times.
But if you like an author who has faith in the intelligence of his reader, if you prefer shades of grey to black and white, and if you like fun schemes and wicked people, this is a must read.
Profile Image for seak.
429 reviews474 followers
April 2, 2015
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. They're completely different, but the cynicism is definitely there in this mercenary band (I'm talking about The Black Company now) and it doesn't hold your hand as you're getting acquainted with the book.

As a big Malazan fan, I'm also a huge fan of authors that let you struggle. Authors that trust the intelligence of their readers, that they'll get it, they'll figure things out, and they'll be rewarded by it as well.

I think the part where The Black Company diverges quite a bit from the Malazan world is that where Malazan is vast, The Black Company is not. The limited viewpoint, following the first person account of Croaker (Crokus anyone?) who's both the company healer and historian, definitely holds back the worldbuilding, but I'm not complaining either. Just noting. And that's not to say it's not vast, you just don't get a sense of the world as much when you only follow a single person. I'm sure the world expands as the series progresses.

Overall, this was a really fun book. It's not black and white, you don't even really know if The Black Company is fighting for the right side, but that's what makes it good. They're just trying to make it through their commission.

Plus, there are some great, zany characters, like One-Eye and Goblin, who magically duel each other constantly, pranking each other with the most ridiculous things and then having more ridiculous things gobble up the previous ridiculous things. It's just great fun.

Croaker, the narrator as I mentioned, has a great voice. He takes his job seriously, but there's no pretense either. I can't wait to read more from the annals of the Black Company.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,586 reviews1,466 followers
November 24, 2015
Buddy read with my fellow Mercinaries at Buddies Books and Baubles who kept me on track. Thank you.


Have you ever gone into a book blind and been so surprised you look again to see if you picked up the right book? That was me, now I’m not entirely sure why but I thought this was about a group of guys on a ship sailing the open seas *shrugs*. So I was really surprised when it is about a band of soldiers for hire, more surprised when there were Wizards in that band and floored when they started talking about vampires, forvalaka and beings that have been brought back from the dead.

After the first chapter I had no idea what was going on. I honestly thought I missed something and needed to go back and start again. This is why I was happy I was in a buddy read for this book. I would have maybe given up thinking that I totally was missing something, I wasn’t. It is Cook’s style to have a character know something but not let the reader in on it for awhile. It takes a little getting used to.

The best thing is that this is Grimdark…so we are following a group of men who are mercenaries. They sell their swords to the highest bidder, more or less and will fight for any cause. It’s a tale of war so there is bad on both sides but it becomes pretty clear that our team is playing for the bad side.
“You who come after me, scribbling these Annals, by now realize that I shy off portraying the whole truth about our band of blackguards. You know they are vicious, violent, and ignorant. They are complete barbarians, living out their cruelest fantasies, their behavior tempered only by the presence of a few decent men. I do not often show that side because these men are my brethren, my family, and I was taught young not to speak ill of kin. The old lessons die hardest.”

It becomes pretty clear that Croaker and a few of the officer type people are the best of the crew but even they are hardened men that sometimes do the right thing but more often than not they just do the thing they are being paid for. Currently they are in service of The Lady. She is a bit of a megalomaniac set on world domination but hey everyone has to have goals. She also has a team of people she has brought back from the dead to be in her service….Croaker has even romanticized her in a few of his writings the beautiful seductess. That might have been a mistake as she is cruel, vindictive and will kill thousands of men just to further her goals.
“I damned myself for my earlier romanticism. That Croaker who had come north, so thoroughly bemused by the mysterious Lady, was another man. A stripling, filled with the foolish ignorances of youth. Yeah. Sometimes you lie to yourself just to keep going.”

We only ever get into the lives of a few of the main band but man the story was really gripping. If George RR Martin wrote this it would be over 1000 pages as he described the battle standards, the detailing around an archway and 3 days of battle. I’d be bored to death and skimming because battles are not really my thing. But Cook gives or tale and sometimes he abbreviates because he doesn’t give you every detail in the 2 weeks of a march north, or the battle that waged for 5 days. Instead he gives you the plot developments and meat of the story. There are fun times too as Croaker records the various Wizard battles between frenemies Goblin and One-Eye.

There are some great raw unredeemed characters. Raven has some sort of past that made him kill his wife and lovers before joining The Black Company. He almost seems to have a little magic of his own and he shows how merciless he can be a few times is this book. But he was my favorite character and I really enjoyed how different he was from the rest of the company.

There were some big surprises at the end of this book and it was well worth the read. I loved the idea of a band of men with their own moral code, at least to each other. They are not heroes and they are on the wrong side but it is an interesting journey and I’m excited to see where they go next.

Note: I really suggest reading this with a few people. There are a few things that were somewhat critical I might not have caught all on my own and since the characters are so unhero-esk it’s really great discussion.
Profile Image for Terry.
334 reviews71 followers
April 15, 2018
I started Black Company with such high hopes. I bought the book back in the '80's when I first started digging into fantasy, but for some reason, never got to it. At one point or another, I know I picked it up, but the challenging writing style in the beginning turned me off and it's been sitting on my shelves unread ever since. When I found out that a great group of friends on Goodreads were going to do a buddy read of it, I couldn't resist pulling it out to join in. Ultimately, I'm really glad I did so. It has been terrific seeing the diverse and differing reviews and reactions of my friends, both those who read it all the way through as well as those who stopped after the rough beginning.

So, for me, this book was a challenge. I really did not enjoy the first three chapters (which was just a little bit short of half the book). I felt like there was little I could invest myself in terms of both the characters or the action. Since there was not much description of the setting, or of the overall conflict, I found myself wondering what was the point. Too much action occurred out of scene, and we only learned of it through dialogue, which I didn't enjoy either. It was the most disjointed start to just about any book I've read, and I almost quit at that point.

But, after making it into the second half of the book, the writing style smoothed out and we finally did start to learn what the point of the story was and more about the characters. By the end, I found that I was interested in the outcome and the sense of a larger story still to come.

I feel that I'm an emotional reader. I can work my way through poor writing or even a bad storyline if I can feel invested in the overall emotion of the story, or if I can become emotionally attached to the characters. I was really challenged in this book to find that emotional connection to either. So, while I'm glad I finished, I would probably put my overall rating somewhere in the 2.5-3 stars range. I doubt that I'll pick up the sequels any time soon, although I will not rule them out as I've heard the next books are better.

Again, thanks to all of those who were buddy reading with me. I love reading everybody's comments and reviews!
Profile Image for Orient.
255 reviews207 followers
May 10, 2017
DNF at page 52

A huge BR with amazing people. Edge, Alex, Sarah(Luna), Emelia, Jody, Michael and Craig. You are great and I'd be most happy to read any great book with you anytime <3 I want to apologize to you guys that I can't continue this adventure in "Black Company" with you.

I won't rate this book as it wouldn't be fair and there is no such option I can link this book to.

When I started reading it I felt excited and good as I was reading it with awesome people, in the biggest BR I've ever been.

But after the first couple of pages my good mood was almost crushed.

So what happened? I was put away by typos and missing words in the writing at first. I thought that it was the fault of my edition (I was reading an ebook), but I know that a couple of people had the same problem with other editions, too. True, it's annoying, but it's not very bad as I can continue if the story is good itself. Well, it wasn't. Reading the first pages I was allured to one of the characters, I mean the doc. He was quite likable and I craved to get more of him, as well as about the mages as they seemed interesting, too. But when I went further and spotted that the writing so far resembled nothing extraordinary or gripping, so I just read really slowly and made up various reasons not to read at all. And that's bad as the book should invoke the opposite. Moreover, I couldn't see the purpose of the story, the aim or the main idea. Was it to present the team of characters? Maybe, but again, I didn't find the connection I wanted with them. The writing just resembled a work of amateur sometimes. There were some funny dialogues I liked, I must admit and that helped me a little not to DNF this book soon as I did it the first time I read Black Company. To tell the truth, if it went on like that, I could have read the book till the very end. But one episode really struck me as disgusting. Those of you who know my reading preferences, remember that I avoid kid's torture. I had read a couple of books which had kids' torture (like Malazan), but again, it was vital to the story, everything was entwined and the way the author resolved it, well, I could skip the parts if I felt that it'll be too much for me. Regarding Malazan -kids were tortured/killed as a cause of weakening the enemy or gaining the power to execute the mastermind plan. I understand that. What I got in "Black Company"...it didn't resemble anything like that. Torture a kid in the cause of mocking...that was too much for me. And it definitely made me DNF this book. I don't know if I ever be able to read this series again.

I wish you all a good day and I hope that those who are reading this book now or plan to read it, won't be put away by my unpopular POV.
Profile Image for Nicole.
717 reviews1,785 followers
February 22, 2017
When I finished this book, I was even considering giving it 5 stars because the ending has such an effect on me. However, I can't ignore the fact that the writing style was hard to get into and I didn't really start enjoying the book before I reached the second half.
Profile Image for Twerking To Beethoven.
359 reviews63 followers
May 10, 2017
This was supposed to be a huge BR with heaps of peeps, only the book turned out to be a monumental pile of shite.

Chapter #3 - This is where I'm giving up. I've been told the the following instalments are much better than this one, but, honestly, I just don't have time nor energy to even try. Also, I'm supposed to finish this bastard to actually go ahead with the story, thing is there are so many issues in the pages I've gone through, I just don't feel like that, I'd rather... I don't even know.

OK, let me express my feelings...

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Profile Image for Kaora.
559 reviews280 followers
November 28, 2015
We are minions of the villains of the piece. We confess the illusion and deny the substance.

There are no self-proclaimed villains, only regiments of self-proclaimed saints. Victorious historians rule where good or evil lies.

We abjure labels. We fight for money and an indefinable pride. The politics, the ethics, the moralities, are irrelevant.

I loved this one.

I didn't start out loving it, but on my second attempt at it with a group of friends, I found myself thoroughly hooked.

It probably helps that I found out that Steven Erikson was largely influenced by Glen Cook's writing, so I went into it expecting that. It is similar in that it is not immediately apparent what is going on and who everybody is, but the characters quickly draw you in.

Raven. Colder than our weather since Oar. A dead soul now, maybe. He can make a man shudder with a glance. He exudes a stench of the grave. And yet, Darling loves him.

Each sentence was followed by a break. Each was in a different voice. I have heard those are the voices of all the people whose souls Soulcatcher has caught.

There are some great battles, but Cook doesn't paint a picture as much he creates fascinating characters that you can't help but love, fear, hate. And that keeps you turning page after page.
Profile Image for Troy G.
103 reviews13 followers
December 12, 2010
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 you to read the rest of my review before you make your decision.

The key to this book is the above mentioned narrator. He is cynical. His view of fantastical events is often that of you or me watching the mail be delivered. He is sure that the world doesn't reward good deeds in the same way that it doesn't punish sins. I could compare it to something like Catch-22 or Old Man's War, but really none of those comparisons do it justice. Suffice to say that the voice telling this story is distinct, unique, and endlessly fascinating. Those who want stories of happy elves frolicking in the forest, where good guys wear white and always wins may find this tone distasteful.

The next great gift of this book is the camaraderie of Soldiers. Those who face trial and conflict together for a long time build a bond that we can appreciate, but not fully understand without being there ourselves. Glen Cook has a way of showing us this bond without telling. Reading this I was able to appreciate the bond more than ever, and I was forced to recognize the lack of it in every other novel I've ever read. If you read this book, it will alter you expectations forever.

I recommend this book to everyone. Those that are well read will appreciate it the most, but anyone should be able to read this for themselves. Because it is a story of violence, and doesn't cringe away from it, children should probably not read this book.
Profile Image for Michael Britt.
171 reviews1,996 followers
May 11, 2017
Actual rating: 3.75. Rounded up because of the latter half of the book.

This actually ended up being harder to rate than I thought it would! The first 3 chapters were quite boring and badly written. So I'd give them a 3 star rating to be generous. But chapters 4, 5, 6 and 7 were honestly pretty awesome. This book was frustrating, up til chapter 4, because I could tell Cook has talent, but it felt like he wasn't "tapped into it" just yet. So I was really happy to see him "evolve" as an author about half way through this book.

This author intrigued me because me favorite Epic Fantasy author, Steven Erikson, sites him as being an influence. You can tell that influence is there, too, by the characters. I felt like I was reading interactions between the Bridgeburners/Bonehunters, but not as well written. What I really loved, and is the saving grace of this book, for me, are the characters and their interactions. It feels very "fluid" when they're interacting and talking to one another. So this was my favorite part.

Now onto what I hated. Well, disliked is a better word. The writing could feel very disjointed at times. And I mean *very* disjointed. The first 3 chapters in particular. He tightens up the writing a bit in Chapters 4 and up, but this was definitely a big problem in the first few chapters.

The plot was very meh for most of the book. He does a good job of giving us some tense scenes later on, but nothing that'll make you sweat. I was ultimately happy with the plot by the time we reached the end, though.

Do *not* think you're going to get something like Abercrombie or Erikson or GRRM or whatever "grimdark" or "epic" author you're thinking this will be like. Cook is the "father" of grimdark, but that doesn't mean he does it as good or better than anyone current. Just that he was one of the first.

This isn't a *bad* book, per say. But it's no masterpiece. It is so short that I have a hard time not recommending it. You could honestly sit down on a Saturday, or whatever day you have nothing to do, and knock this out in a few hours.
Profile Image for Zahra.
138 reviews48 followers
December 25, 2021
سوپرایز بزرگ آخر سالی من هم شد این کتاب. مجموعه‌ای که شروع کردنش اصلا تو برنامه سال های نزدیکم نبود و اصلا فکر نمی‌کردم اینقدر خوب و راضی کننده باشه. رسماً هرچی امید و آرزو و انتظار از مالازان داشتم و بهشون نرسیدم دارم تو این کتاب دوباره پیداشون میکنم! هرچند که فصل اولش گیج کننده بود و زاویه دیدش خیلی مورد علاقم نیست ولی تمام خوبی هاش می‌ارزید به این دوتا نقطه ضعف.
ممنون از دوستانی که با شروع همخوانیش من رو هم همراه خودشون کردن هرچند نصفشون کتاب رو دراپ کردن😅
برای کتاب دومش خیلی هیجان زده‌ام🥳
Profile Image for Ɗẳɳ  2.☊.
156 reviews293 followers
August 17, 2020

The following is a courtroom transcript from the ongoing criminal investigation into the matter of The Goodreads Collective v. Wrongreader 2.0.

Please note: This is merely a preliminary hearing to determine if there is sufficient evidence against the defendant to carry this matter to trial.

JUDGE: Will the defendant please rise . . . Mr. Wrongreader, I see here you have been informed of your right to have counsel present, but have chosen to wave that right. Is that correct, sir?

WRONGREADER 2.0: Yes, Your Honor.

JUDGE: Very well.

You stand accused of improperly rating this novel, gross negligence in failing to acknowledge its merit, a second-degree misdemeanor for missing the point, and general impropriety. You have chosen to plead not guilty. Is that also correct, sir?

WRONGREADER 2.0: If it pleases the court, Your Honor, I’d be willing to cop to a lesser plea and throw myself at the mercy of the court if you’ll allow me a moment to state my case and show that these charges are entirely unwarranted.

JUDGE: I may consider that motion if your argument is persuasive. Please proceed.

WRONGREADER 2.0: Thank you, Your Honor.

Okay so, from what little foreknowledge I had of The Black Company, I was expecting this series to revolve around a gang of mercenaries pulling cons, heists, and other sneaky, nefarious misdeeds, à la Locke Lamora, Rogues of the Republic, Ocean's Eleven, etc, etc. Imagine my surprise then, when I cracked open the book only to discover that it’s not about a small band of mercenaries, but rather a huge company of soldiers—nearing a thousand at one point—and these soldiers and their handful of wizards are the tip of the spear in the war between an ancient power and the pesky rebels seeking to overthrow it. Granted, I failed to read the synopsis, so the error lies with me. But I’ve repeatedly stated my general aversion to war stories.

JUDGE: So I’ve heard. A stale argument that’s, honestly, quite silly.

WRONGREADER 2.0: Perhaps. But, along with an unexpected storyline, I also encountered a fairly basic, straightforward writing style, with none of the superfluous descriptions typical in epic fantasies. There are no detailed descriptions of the surroundings or extensive world-building. You’re simply thrown into a new world with little to no explanation. Thus, it takes quite some time to find your footing and settle into the story.

A story which is told by the company surgeon and annalist, who chronicles the deeds, and histories of all the members of the Black Company. A story which finds the company duped into the employ of an immensely powerful evil, The Lady and her Taken, in a war with the rebels who’ve foolishly awoken her from her long slumber. A story lacking any sense of morality or “good guys.” A story of dark and darker deeds. “Conspiracies and assassinations and naked power-grabs. All the fun of decadence. The Lady does not discourage anything. Maybe the games amuse her.”

However, there was just enough prophecy and intrigue to keep me turning the pages. Thankfully, the annalist sticks to a small group of core members, some of whom are only referred to by their rank. But it’s the two wizards of the company, Goblin and One-Eye, that steal the show and lighten the mood with their delightful antics, as they wage a mini-war of their own in their endless attempts to one-up each other.

Look, I realize Glen Cook is known as the father of Grimdark or the “anti-Tolkien.” And prior to The Black Company high fantasy was most often comprised of simple stories of heroes performing heroic deeds on a quest to save their world or kingdom or some such nonsense. And that Glen Cook deserves the lion’s share of credit for ushering us past those do-gooder fairy tales into far more intriguing dark tales colored in shades of gray. Tales where it’s often hard to sort out the heroes from the villains, or their roles may reverse over time—it’s all a matter of perspective. He helped pave the way for many popular Grimdark series we all know and love such as The First Law or Game of Thrones. But this is no Game of Thrones, more like . . .

JUDGE - holds up hand: That’s quite enough, sir. Let me stop you there before you embarrass yourself any further. I’ll not be hearing any history lessons from you today. Your ignorance of the subject is rather self-evident.

Motion denied. The court finds enough probable cause here to carry this matter over to trial.

Bailiff, please remand the defendant into custody.

WRONGREADER 2.0: But, but my friends are all heathens. You can’t believe their lies! You can’t trust their opinions!

JUDGE: Yes, heathens and Glen Cook do tend to go hand in hand. Now . . .

WRONGREADER 2.0 - shouts: Please, be reasonable, Your Honor. I’d be willing to round my rating up if you’d reconsider your ruling.

JUDGE: You should stop right there, lest you’d like me to tack on a charge for attempting to bribe an officer of the court.

Bailiff, remove this man from my courtroom. Oh and, find him a copy of books two and three.

Mr. Wrongreader, I suggest you use your time wisely. I’d advise you to continue on with the series until your eyes are opened to the brilliance of Glen Cook. However, if you choose to remain steadfastly blind to your own ignorance, I suggest you take a long walk off a short pier.

Now, settle those nerves, and try to enjoy your time with us. I have a feeling you may be in for a long stay. *Cackles*

Profile Image for David Sven.
288 reviews445 followers
November 17, 2012
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 training without developing severe emotional problems – actually any squeamishness at all would indicate you are possibly not a sociopath and may be unsuitable for recruitment.
Pay, food, and sleep negotiable. Rape and Pillage not looked on favourably. We always look the other way.
All queries regarding this position can be lodged with our Customer Service Officer, Silence.

PS: Magic users in high demand. We have a shortage of magic users. In fact we have no wizards or magicians, sorcerers, or soothsayers at all. Really we don’t.

Signed Croaker.
“A Black conscience is a Clear conscience”
Company Creed


Having trouble with your people seeing things your way? Suffering from an ungrateful population? Need help with crowd control? Introducing The Black Company. An elite fighting force with an outstanding tradition of military service spanning centuries. Our history may be black but we have earned a flawless reputation for seeing out our commissions and sticking to our high ideals.
We do not engage in questionable activities. That is, whatever the activity, we ask no questions except of course “how much?”

Signed Croaker
“Dont Judge Us, We won’t Judge you”
Company Motto


I found this book really hard to judge properly. On the surface of it, there isn’t any one thing this book does that is particularly outstanding.

Characterization? Not terrible, but not fantastic either. I liked the main POV character Croaker. Fight scenes and battles? Mostly understated and often underwhelming, but still passable and to be fair there were a couple of decent encounters. Probably some of the my favourite encounters were the mini mage battles between two of the squad mages in an ongoing mostly friendly if slightly spiteful competition. Magic system. Well we have half of those. There is magic but no well defined “system.” But the sorcerers and ascended beings in the book were still quite interesting and I’m left wanting to know more about the Taken, The Lady and The Dominator and the lore behind them.

And yet the book still manages a subtle appeal that held my attention from start to finish. Being a shortish book probably helped there. I think this book does everything “well enough” that when put all together still worked for me somewhat. The plot development was actually good. The subtext of war’s moral ambiguity, and the mindset of a soldier who does not believe in the cause he’s fighting was poignant in that if you take the magic away and gave the soldiers machine guns and grenades, this could just as easily been a documentary on any modern war. There’s another underlying theme of tradition vs adaptability, integrity vs expediency.

Glen Cook’s writing style also leaves a lot for you to figure out for yourself. If you already have enough information to work out the significance of certain events and actions, he doesn’t spell it out for you – he just assumes you should know. It’s this style that is an obvious influence of Steven Erikson’s Malazan series. Having read all of the Malazan books I can see Erikson used Cook’s portrayal of comraderie, disrespect for authority and interaction between soldiers in a tight military unit as the cookie cutter for every military squad in his series. Erikson does it better though with more fleshed out battle scenes, better humour, world building and magic system. He also adds 1000 pages to his books as well.

Anyway, The Black Company is told from the first person perspective by Croaker, the physician, official chronicler and imperfect conscience for The Black Company, which finds itself in the employ of evil.

3 stars for now until I can mull over the after taste.
Profile Image for Juho Pohjalainen.
Author 5 books248 followers
December 6, 2021
First, nice cover.

I think I'd have enjoyed this one a lot better had I been there to read it more than three decades ago when it first came out. Back in the day most fantasy followed the well-trodden path of Tolkien, or Moorcock's New Wave; back in the day a dark, grey, low-fantasy story starring some of the bad guys, the usually faceless mooks, reminding us that they too are human, would surely have felt a breath of fresh air. But the novelty's well worn off now that we've had a small mountain of books such as this, from good writers and abysmal alike - and so this book's own problems have grown all the more glaring.

First some of the good stuff. The prose is easy to read and follow (apart from some translation issues, which I'm not holding against the book as a whole), the plot complex and tangled enough with all its politics and intrigue yet I could still keep up. The war brings the titular Company into different sorts of battlefields, facing different kinds of challenges, coming up with the occasional clever ploy and scheme to make it well clear that they're quite good at their jobs, not to mention being fairly entertaining to read through from time to time. All sorcerers, on both sides, come across as terrifying and powerful and mysterious - magic done right in many ways.

A few of the characters are portrayed well enough, despite the inherent limitations (more on that later): you've got your grizzled veteran captain, feuding wizards and their prank-war, a couple distinctive mutes, the scheming sorcerer boss and his (or her) weird voices, the edgy brooding knife-wielding badass that probably went on to inspire roughly half of all D&D rogues ever made... and of course the main narrator's irrational crush at their dark overlord, something his companions rightfully make fun of, and that I find frankly hilarious. Picture a she-orc writing love letters to Sauron. It's hilarious.

But all of these things have their problems as well - and the flaws, in my book at least, far outweigh the merits.

The writing skips and ignores a lot of things I would have liked to know. Many entire fights are glossed over, and when the fights are described, they're fairly matter-of-factly and do not really evoke tension or thrill or fear in me. A bit of disgust (especially one raided village near the beginning), so there's that, but still. Worse, the setting itself remains shallow and ill-defined, and what little I do get out of it just paints an image of another generic fantasy setting, just with less monsters or elves. The magic likewise comes across as loose and frivolous, lack of definition or rules taken much too far, until it's less a mysterious force and more just stuff happening - it doesn't help that wizards seem fairly common in the setting. All these things can certainly be taken to the other extreme, where the story chokes under hundreds of pages of worldbuilding and magical rules - just read anything by Sanderson - but the reader needs something to evoke his imagination and help him fill the blanks in his mind.

As for the characters... the big problem with them is that the book does not dwell much in their own histories or desires or secret dreams: in the Black Company, they're all without a past, without a future, just looking to survive through the day. That sort of a thing can be very well, but it means you'll need to work all the harder with their personalities and opinions and descriptions in order to make them memorable, distinctive, and relatable - and there's very little of any of this, just the few quirks I mentioned above (plus the edgy knife-guy's quest for vengeance, that's mostly done with before halfway point of the book anyway). Sometimes something more is told of them, but never really shown. There's almost no character growth across the book. If the entire cast had been killed off in some terrible battle, I doubt I'd have batted an eye.

On the whole, while I could read the book well enough once I started and didn't dislike any of it too much, nothing's particularly drawing me into picking up the next in the series.
Profile Image for Laura.
1,013 reviews13 followers
May 14, 2018
4.75 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Buddy read with the FBR Company

A great action-packed read with tough kick-ass characters of questionable moral compass.

It did take a while for me to get adjusted to the abrupt jarring writing style (which is why I also took off quarter of a star) but the characters and the plot drew me fastly in and by the end of Chapter 3 I couldn't set it down anymore.

Cook writes as if he's just a regular army guy telling a story to his friends. You don't really read a book but listen to a tough man as he explains how something went down - and he will just start his story without giving you all the details you need to properly understand it. You'll have to put the pieces together one by one as the story develops and because it is so very good you'll end up forgetting everything about the way the story is told and concentrate only on what happens next.

The characters are great, though some do seem to take a while to warm up to. I swear at times I didn't know if I should laugh out loud or spill my dinner while reading about some of their antics.
Their banter is easy and whitty and the bond between them would make anyone wish to be a part of their team.

All in all, a dark and gritty, thumping good read that I highly recommend!
Profile Image for Eric.
404 reviews73 followers
July 2, 2017
After finishing each of the first three novels in Chronicles of the Black Company , the so-called Books of the North, I was left with that indescribable sense of satisfaction that comes with finishing a great story, but I was also left with a question. That question reached the height of it's baffling power after finishing The Black Company, and though I had the answer to it the question still lingered while reading Shadows Linger and The White Rose .

That question? Why have so many modern day fantasy novels chosen not to follow in the footsteps of one of the classics of modern fantasy?

Don't get me wrong: when it comes to dark, deconstructionist fantasy Cook's influence can easily be recognized. But too few modern fantasies, even the dark ones, have the same kind of grit that The Black Company has. The type of grit that comes from the in-the-trenches type of military literature, regardless of being fiction or non-fiction. Looking at the other reviews on Goodreads I learned that Glen Cook had actually served in the U.S. Navy (apparently he even came close to being deployed to Vietnam). Oh, I thought, that explains everything.

In the middle of a dead end commission for a minor lord of Beryl the Black Company, the last of the Free Companies of Khatovar, are given an offer from a mysterious, unsettling sorcerer called Soulcatcher to enter his employ, and subsequently the employ of his superior, the Lady, in her campaign of conquest in the North. The Black Company values two thing and two things only; fulfilling their contract to the best of their abilities , and looking out for their fellow Black Company brothers. After terminating their current contract in a way that some would describe as dishonorable, this modest-sized band of mercenaries seeks to fulfill their latest one to the letter, no matter how despicable the military force they've attached themselves to turns out to be. Considering that that military force is commanded by a centuries-old sorceress known simply as the Lady who is as terrifyingly powerful as she is breathtakingly beautiful... and that her subordinates are the Taken, twelve sorcerers who possess a scary amount of power in their own right, and whose individual evil and cruelty can match and sometimes even surpass that of their mistress... well, let's just say it can get pretty damn despicable.

The Black Company and the various warriors, rogues, jokers, hardasses, and scoundrels that make up its' membership are soldiers through and through. They're as professional, cynical, unpolitical, diabolically clever, and brutally efficient on the battlefield as you would expect career soldiers in a medieval fantasy world wracked with war and dark magic to be on the battlefield. And they're as unprofessional, immature, greedy, ignorant, violent, and bleakly humorous as you would expect career soldiers in a medieval fantasy world wracked with war and dark magic to be off the battlefield. A military campaign in fantasy world from the point of view of a soldier was a novel concept back when Cook first published this, and to this day it remains so. When it comes to war and battles in the majority of fantasy stories you're in the head of the movers and shakers; the kings, lords, commanders, and Chosen Ones. Even then its usually one or two battles in a few of the books in the series. It makes sense since for many it would be rather difficult to capture that military grit without doing a ton of research on military campaigns and how historians, journalists, and soldiers typically describe them, and how soldiers typically behave when doing their job. Glen Cook had personal experience so he knew could do the latter, and he had been an avid writer since his youth so he could certainly do the former if he put his mind to it.

I do not exaggerate when I say this novel reads like the surreal, nightmare correspondence of a war journalist in a medieval fantasy war. Our narrator Croaker, the sole physician in the Company, is even the record-keeper for the Black Company's Annals. For all intents and purposes he is war journalist! (He even fancies himself an amateur historian!) It's his job to record every crucial mission (reconnaissance, assassination, ambush, sneaking, you name it), every battle (even if its only one sentence), and every interaction with the movers and shakers of the war and the Black Company itself, even if it requires his involvement. Which it frequently does, to his displeasure.

Unless it concerns the Lady. Then Croaker is at full attention. Even though he's self-aware and self-deprecating enough to know how troubling and idiotic (to put it mildly) his infatuation with the Lady is he can't help himself. Unfortunately for him (but fortunately for us) his crush catches the attention and amusement of the queen-bitch of the universe, and She gives him unprecedented access to Her person that no mortal has had before. Her reason for doing so is a surprising one: She wants Croaker to present Her war as it is in all its' brutal, black-and-grey complexity.

He succeeds.

There are no self-proclaimed villains, only regiments of self-proclaimed saints. Victorious historians rule where good or evil lies. We abjure labels. We fight for money and an indefinable pride. The politics, the ethics, the moralities, are irrelevant.

4 1/2 stars
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