February 12, 2011

The Black Company

I finally finished reading the entire series of the Black Company novels by Glen Cook. These have finally been released in four omnibus editions meaning that they are much easier to get your hands on. I got into them on the recommendation of Steven Erikkson, author of the Malazan books of the fallen. In his foreword he mentions Glen's books often so I picked up the first one shown here. This is a strange blend of fantasy and warfare. The author focuses very much on the lives of the soldiers rather than on descriptive text. Often locations are given a very cursory description while the blisters on the feet of the marching soldiers are given more space! Still this makes for some very interesting reading and is definitely removed from the standard fantasy tropes. In fact the fantasy is kept to a minimum and while there is ever present magic in the world there are no races of Elves, Dwarves or even Orks. There are monsters mentioned from time to time but to me at least it was never clear if these were created via magic or an actual race in the world.

The entire series deals with the Black Company, a ruthless band of mercenaries, with a long past. Exactly what their past is and what they did in history is one of the main subjects of the series and as they travel the author reveals more snippets of this. This is generally more prevalent in the later books than the early ones. The first book deals with a war where the mercenary band find themselves eventually fighting on both sides of the action.

The later books in the series discuss how the fortunes of the Black Company wax and wane and it finds them moving southwards into lands styled heavily after the Indian subcontinent. This again provides some really interesting backdrops for the action. While some more descriptions of this land would be great we are left with not much. The religions are discussed sporadically but in enough detail to satisfy. The Thuggi cult, Hindus and Buddhists all get transfer in some forms to this setting. Even Physical locations such as the Khyber Pass and Afgahnistan are transposed. They are altered enough though to be enjoyable and you won't immediately identify everything.

2 comments:

  1. You know I've been waiting impatiently for the next book from George RR Martin, and since I reread the entire series a second time, I was looking for something to fill the gap. I tried Erickson first novel, didn't really care for it. So I thought I would try Cook or Abercrombie. I chose Abercrombie and am reading a Blade Itself. So far its pretty decent.

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  2. Funnily enough thats exactly the book I am now reading. It was also recommended to me and although I am only 150 pages in I am enjoying it so far.

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