The Books of the South

Better late than never, as they say. Last fall, I finally read Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company, the omnibus comprised of the first Black Company sequence. I loved how the author kicked the fantasy genre in the balls on more than one occasion, dispensing with most of the tropes which made the genre what it is.

I was eager to pick up the tale of this motley group of misfits and see where Cook would take Croaker and the rest of the gang. South, I supposed. . . Unfortunately, this next sequence was not as fun and entertaining as the first trilogy.

In Shadow Games, the story picks up right where The White Rose ended. Darling, Silent, and the Torque brothers go their own way, leaving the others behind. Croaker and the remnants of the Black Company head south to reclaim the Annals and discover the secrets of the Company's origins in Khatovar.

Croaker remains the narrator, and his witty and sardonic observations are one of the highlights of this book. The man is aware of his strengths and shortcomings, and it's always a joy to follow his narrative.

"Huh?" I come armed with a whole arsenal of such brilliant repartee.

Even though the sparring between One-Eye and Goblin is at times hilarious, and the relationship between Croaker and Lady interesting, the truth is that not much truly happens in this book other than seeing the Black Company travel south. The story picks up near the end and Cook closes the show with a bang. But to a certain extent, it's a case of too little, too late.

Dreams of Steel has more to offer, but it suffers from the change of main POV character. Croaker was, for me at least, the true voice of the Black Company and his prolonged absence took something away from this second volume. Relegating Croaker to a secondary role wouldn't have been too bad had we learned more about Lady and her past. This was the perfect opportunity to get in the head of what used to be the most powerful woman in the world, yet we learn next to nothing about her. That was disappointing, to say the least. . .

Be that as it may, Dreams of Steel remains the Black Company installment which showed the most depth thus far. The Deceivers, Kina, the Daughter of Night, etc, this one sets the stage for what will follow.

But to my dismay, the stage is set for the next Black Company sequence, not the next volume. Indeed, The Silver Spike follows the misadventures of a band of rogues who steal the silver spike from the tree in the Barrowland. And though it's nice to see Darling, Silent, and other characters again, the absence of the Black Company is sorely felt. Case's narrative is entertaining, and so is Smeds'. But again, there was something missing.

All in all, The Books of the South omnibus is a fun yet uneven read. But it certainly makes you want to find out what will take place in The Glittering Stone.

The final verdict: 7.25/10

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7 commentaires:

ediFanoB said...

Your review reminded my that I bought The Chronicles of the Black Company last year. And then it moved in the back rows of my shelf.
After reading your review I sifted through my shelves and finally found it. That means a big step forward on my reading list.

And to be honest: I also will buy and read The Books of the South.

Do you know whether there will be an omnibus of the Glittering Stone

Anonymous said...

I really don't think The Silver Spike goes with the other two, or was really ever supposed to.

As per your interview with him posted a few days ago, Cook doesn't like the omnibusses and it's all the publisher's doing.

They probably just added it into the omnibus because publishers love trilogies so very much...

Salt-Man Z said...

Yeah, I always recommend the people read The Silver Spike immediately after the first trilogy, as it really belongs there. After all, Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel, and the 4 Glittering Stone books make up a continuous 6-book arc.

As for a Glittering Stone omnibus, someone mentioned in the comments section of Pat's Glen Cook interview that Tor was going to be releasing Glittering Stone in 2 omnibus editions later this year. That makes sense, as the Glittering Stone books are much longer than the first 6 books (around 500-600 pages each.)

Marc said...

I think Dreams of Steel is actually my favorite of all the Black Company books. I like how the different narrators in later books shed light on the characters. And Dreams of Steel in particular I enjoy for watching Lady rise up from almost nothing to become head of an army.

I do think Cook reveals a lot about Lady in the book, but it is all subtle. You learn about her mindset, her approach to life, and then it makes sense how Dorotea Senjak was able to rise above her sisters and become so powerful, and to ultimately survive when the Dominator didn't.

I also applaud Cook for not writing the same book, over and over. That does throw off some readers, who expect repetition, but it makes for a better reading experience overall.

Anonymous said...

Mr Cook may not have liked the omnibus, but I could never find a copy of Shadow Games anywhere! If it was in print, it wasn't for sale anywhere near I live so I was very happy to find the omnibus edition of that - and it looks classy as well.

Anonymous said...

Ryan's correct about Shadow Games disappearing, and that's not the only Black Company volume that has been impossible to find. Despite what Cook said in the interview, several of his Black Company books were listed as out of print by multiple booksellers (I conducted pretty extensive research last year after the first omnibus was released). Even Amazon only stocks four of the ten books, and those are randomly spread throughout the sequence. I think the omnibus editions have become essential if a newcomer wishes to collect the entire series.

I also agree with Salt-Man that The Silver Spike fits in better immediately after the original trilogy, because the Books of the South lead directly into Glittering Stone. In fact, I felt that the distinction between these two "series" was entirely arbitrary and contrived. This is where Cook's comment about the publisher splitting his series into pieces really becomes apparent.

GoodOldSatan said...

Well, I pretty much agree that the Silver Spike belongs as an addenda to the first trilogy and that the Books of the South don't really begin until Glittering Stone.

I also must agree with Pat that Croaker (for as long as he lives) is the most relevant narrator of the series.

I can't say that Glittering Stone is any more comprehensible than the first two Books of the South, only that I was compelled to read them by the nature of the story through Dejagore. In all honesty, I'm not sure I'm looking forward to re-reading Glittering Stone in preparation for the next Black Company book ... but I damn well will.

And, despite the unremarkable observation that Glen Cook comes off as a cranky old man (in Pat's interview), I've got to say that I'll continue to buy everything he writes (except the Garrett stuff). He can run the Instrumentalities series forever - you should all buy it too.