SHADOWS LINGER – Glen Cook (1984)

Shadows Linger Cooke BerdakGlen Cook was already an experienced writer when he published The Black Company in May 1984: I counted 9 novels. The Black Company would spawn 11 novels and a bunch of short fiction. Shadows Linger, the second book of the first trilogy, appeared a few months later in October. That same year Cook also published The Fire in His Hands, which started the Dread Empire series.

In 1985, when the third Black Company title appeared, Cook put out no less than 6 novels. Most of those seem to have gotten only one print run in the 80ies, and yet around 2010 Night Shade Books did reprint them.

That might be on the strength of The Black Company: the series that had a profound influence on Steven Erikson and The Mazalan Book of the Fallen. Cook was a very busy writer, but so far The Black Company remains very, very readable. I enjoyed Shadows Linger a lot.

Most of what I’ve written in my review of the first book holds for this sequel too. And yet this is a different book altogether.

Mind you: it is not different in quality or appeal. Cook still deploys solid prose & snappy writing, and spoon feeds nothing. The pacing is excellent, and there’s no frills or attention to immersive details – demonish enemies are just referred to as “creatures” and Cook doesn’t waste pages nor paragraphs explaining how they look: they are creatures, they are dark, and they attack. It’s a breath of fresh air in today’s fat fantasy market. More importantly: it gives the reader agency.

The same thing goes for the violence: while there’s genuinely scary stuff here, and Cook surely doesn’t flinch from writing blood, again his focus isn’t on detail. The focus is first and foremost on plot, and a bit on character too.

What makes this book different from The Black Company is its smaller setting. The Black Company arrive at the small town of Juniper, and there’s dealings with a mysterious black castle, raided catacombs and an innkeeper that owes somebody money. It’s less epic, yet the story works and retains everything that made the first book a success.

And most notably: Shadows Linger doesn’t suffer from what lesser writers get a lot in reviews these days: middle book syndrome. Many trilogies basically being one long bloated book chopped in three, Cook plays a different game: he writes a new story with its own arc. While I don’t think it could be read as a standalone, the overall arc of the full trilogy is nearly absent even though he masterfully manages to set-up for the next book. Cook gets the reader and the mercenaries from point A to B to C: lots of miles, yet it flies by.

Another difference with The Black Company is that this very much feels like one story, one book, while the first book was more a collection of 7 subsequent short stories. We’ll see if Cook can keep up such formal variation in the final book, but even if he can’t, I’m sure I’ll enjoy The White Rose a lot.

Shadows Linger is entertaining, but surpasses the pulp level easily. There’s a honest feeling to Cook’s writing, a depth that underlies it all. He doesn’t seem concerned with gimmicks and just writes what the story needs.

A final question to wrap things up: could this have been even better? What if Cook had focused his attention solely on this series, instead of writing 8 other novels in the same years? I’m sure it could have been – but not a whole lot. Probably the arc of Marron Shed, the innkeeper, could have been worked on a bit more. That said: that probably would have required more pages, chipping away of one of this series’ main qualities: sharp, lean writing.



In 2007 Tor published the first trilogy as Chronicles of the Black Company. It forms one story arc, after its 700 pages there’s an endpoint if you don’t want to commit to the full series. In 1986 both Nelson Doubleday & the Science Fiction Book Club published hardcover editions of The Books of the North as Annals of the Black Company – which confusingly is also the title of a 2018 Tor e-book omnibus that comprises almost the entire 11 book series.

A final note for the completionist: Port of Shadows was published in 2018 and is set in the 6 years in between book 1 and 2.

Annals of the Black Company Cook Kidd

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9 responses to “SHADOWS LINGER – Glen Cook (1984)

  1. I read his Dread Empire series as well and have no desire to ever re-read it. But I can see re-reading BC in a couple more years. It’ll help soothe the sting I felt upon my first read when I realized how much malazan outright stole from it. That kind of ruined my initial impressions.

    But I thought BC as a series was good stuff and enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cool! A few weeks ago I bought the Chronicles of the Black Company omnibus, which has the first three novels. I’m looking forward to reading them soon! Then we can compare notes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Cook is one of the authors I mean to read one of these days, and now that your review rekindled my curiosity, I might try to add one of his books to my reading queue for the approaching Wyrd&Wonder in May…
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m very happy you’re enjoying Cook’s Black Company. I’d say I liked White Rose the least of the first three, but I loved some of the later books much, much more than the first trilogy. It gets more SF/mythology oriented in the later books, but it remains lean and lethal, and very much in the vein of Vietnam War memoirs. One of my all-time favorite series 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to read that, I was hoping you would comment about how these first ones compare to the full series. Have you read The Dragon Never Sleeps?

      And thanks for pointing me in Cook’s direction, wouldn’t have started this series otherwise.


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