July 6, 2014

Book: The Black Company by Glenn Cook

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 11:17 am

imagesGlenn Cook is a prolific fantasy writer but this is my first book by the author. I was underwhelmed by the book.


The Black Company comes across as some kind of guardians, administering a city. They seem to be a police with supernatural powers, for a city where supernatural things happen as a matter of course. The story starts with their investigating a poisoning and a rebellion.


Syndic is the boss of the Company but seems to be universally reviled. Mercy is ruthless – the name is intended to be ironic, which makes it a kind of cheap humour.


They suppress a rebellion but withdraw, much to the anger of Syndic, an old crone.


Then there is an animal that goes through the town causing rampage. It is the evil Black Leopard, which is so strong and fast that you cannot see it even when it comes to attack you, let alone capture or vanquish it. Somehow, the leopard is captured by the Black Company. You ask, ‘Wait, is this anyhow related to the rebellion? I do not see a connection.’  Now you begin to see how the story goes. Yes, there is no connection and will not be, and this theme is also immediately abandoned. Read on.


Black Company goes to work for evil Lady, because they have been banished from the city and have nowhere else to go. They know that the Lady is evil but they decide to work for her anyway. By now you stop being surprised, possibly, as you know what you have let yourself in for.


Add to it, the sense of the storytelling style being too childish. Add a dash of magic and mysterious (even for the Black Company, that is)  Raven and his seemingly random killings but always with a purpose, as you are fated to learn later.


There is Lady who seems to be some kind of a Super Witch (as in the female form for a Wizard, not the cackling, cauldron stirring, broom stick riding variety). The story also features the Ten Who Were Taken. This seems to be the Top Ten club of Wizards captured and brainwashed by Lady to work for her. The names are pretty much self explanatory – Soulcatcher, Stormbringer; Limper (OK, this is not very indicative of what he can do), There is also Hanged Man – no prizes for guessing why.


Each one feels like a short story with Croaker, the medic, being the centre ground and who writes “Annals” which are not any deep historic chronicles as you would expect but simply a chapter in this juvenile story.


Can anyone write a lighter historical narrative? I doubt it.


The wizards are One Eye and Goblin (don’t laugh). Croaker, as we have seen,  is the medic and the scribe (retains the “history” of wizards through the Annals).

The Taken and the Rebel Circle are higher wizards with grotesque sidebar characteristics. Lady is the supreme wizard and so is her even more cruel husband the Dominator! (Wait, go slow; what? Where did he come from?)


With so much power, you would think that they would have conquered all without resistance long ago, right? But all of them seem powerless in battles and have stupid weaknesses.


Some “men” turn out to be girls. Big twist, wow! There are some weird twists – if you do not consider the ones so far narrated as weird –  like Soulcatcher being a girl and what’s more, Lady’s own sister.


The ending has a tiny twist that is mildly interesting but by then you are so jaded with the lightweight narration that it barely registers.


Let us say, 3/10


–        – Krishna


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