Tag Archives: Annals of the Black Company

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.

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THE BLACK COMPANY – Glen Cook (1984)

While the goofy 80ies cover by Keith Berdak to the left suggests otherwise, The Black Company hardly feels dated.

Or maybe scrap that, as it is the first book in a long standing dark fantasy series – 10 novels, some short stories, a spin-off – that has only 217 pages. Only two hundred seventeen, indeed.

It features none of the things most publishers demand of fantasy in the 21st century: no impressionistic descriptions of exotic fragrances of herbs & spices on the local market, no 400 pages of set-up for the next book to sell. In short: this is the real deal, not some streamlined version of what generic fantasy has become.

More so, The Black Company is seminal, if we have to believe Steven ‘Mazalan’ Erikson: “With the Black Company series Glen Cook single-handedly changed the face of fantasy – something a lot of people didn’t notice and maybe still don’t. He brought the story down to a human level, dispensing with the cliché archetypes of princes, kings, and evil sorcerers. Reading his stuff was like reading Vietnam War fiction on peyote.”

Cook’s series is also often described as a precursor to grimdark – even if violence doesn’t take center stage in this first book. What takes center stage is plot: Cook wrote a fast paced story about a group of mercenaries involved in a continent-wide battle.

But characters aren’t unimportant either – this indeed is the story of a band of brothers, and while there isn’t that much psychological depth at display in this first book, I suspect that I will end up caring a lot about these men by the time the series is finished – even if most of them probably will be dead by then.

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