Review: The Black Company by Glen Cook

Hello World.


‘Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take they pay and do what they must.  They bury their doubts with their dead.  Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn somewhere, to embody good once more’

‘The Black Company’ is the first novel in the ‘Chronicles of the Black Company’ series.  It was written by Glen Cook and published in 1984.  It is seen by many, such as the fantasy author Steven Erikson, as a classic fantasy that changed the genre.   As a reader of fantasy I found this book quite interesting.  My knowledge of fantasy through the years is quite small, but I have heard it said that many writers followed the style of Tolkien up until the ninties.  ‘The Black Company’ is not one of those books.  The black company is a large group of sellswords, containing mainly men who are running away from the law.  However, the men in charge seem to have developed, if not morals, then at least some form of  conscience and discipline.  The text follows Croaker, the record-keeping doctor of the group as they go about their latest job which takes them to a new country.  In my opinion the country could be called ‘Fantasy-land with a twist’.  The black company have been hired by the bad guys as their foot soldiers.  The ‘big bad’ in question is the aptly title ‘Lady’ and ‘The Taken’ who have been recently released from the hell they were sent to by the White Rose many eons before, for the greater good.

As a reader I found the language quite hard to get into, but once I did I thought it was worth it.  I found myself thinking several times that usually I would want  the bad guys to die, but it this book, I really wanted them to live.  Not because they were nice or anything, but because I grew very fond of the main characters in the black company itself.  Irony is evident throughout the book, espeically when it comes to the names of the characters.  For instance names like Elmo, Mercy, One-eye, Silent and Darling.  Even though the book has a dark atmosphere and title, it could be seen as black comedy too.  Additionally,  I appreciated the shortness of the text – just over two-hundred pages, and the way violence was avoided in the text – Croaker admits to leaving out a lot of the gore or warfare.

Overall I really liked this book.  I was interested in the twists the plot took, and perhaps more importantly, I cared about many of the characters.  I think it has a refreshing outlook on the concept of corruption – people are corrupt in the text, sometimes without knowing it, or even against their will.  The good side is not as good as it thinks it is, nor are all the villains on the same level of evilness.

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