Alchemical Words reviews She Is The Darkness, the eighth book of the best selling epic fantasy book series, The Black Company by Glen Cook.
This epic military fantasy series was started in 1984 and currently consists of 10 books published over a period of 16 years. There are continuing rumors of an additional two books and the current book gossip suggests that these will come out in late 2014 or 2015. This entry into the series continues in the mixed format of some chapters written through the POV of a first person narrator mixed with chapters with a third person POV. Cook also continues with Murgen as the first person narrator.
The Company is still in the employ of Taglios. Murgen, is still the Standardbearer of the Black Company. Croaker, not frequently referred to as The Old Man, is still determined to return the Company Annals to Khatovar. Lady is now his Lieutenant and second in command. The Lady has reformed her evil ways to some degree and has become the Old Man’s lover. And though we saw her lose her formidable sorcerous powers at the end of The White Rose, Lady has mysteriously regained her powers.
The returning cast from previous books include the Company wizards, One-Eye and Goblin, though they are separated for most of the book. The surviving Nyeung Bao have attached themselves to the Black Company in repayment of a debt of honor incurred during the siege of Dejagore. Murgen, though now married to Ky Sahra, begins to have suspicions about their motivations for staying with the Company.
The main focus for She is the Darkness is the building conflict between the Company and their employer, the Prince of Taglios and his sister and the battle for Overlook and it’s killer shadows, pitting the Black Company against the sorcerer Longshadow, the Taken, Howler and Mogaba, once part of the Black Company, who is now working for the sorcerer Longshadow.
Murgen still has the ability to move through time, becoming something of al all-seeing eye. This allows him to collect all the information he needs or even go back and double check events, enabling him to write a virtually complete account of the Black Company’s adventures. It also gives the Black Company a unique resource in dealing with intelligence on the enemy. Having an omnipotent character like Murgen also means the reader sees everything that is going on in a world where multiple factions are working on different fronts.
Synopsis of She Is The Darkness:
The wind whines and howls with bitter breath. Lightning snarls and barks. Rage is an animate force upon the plain of glittering stone. Even shadows are afraid. At the heart of the plain stands a vast grey stronghold, unknown, older than any written memory. One ancient tower has collapsed across the fissure. From the heart of the fastness comes a great deep slow breath like that of a slumbering world-heart, cracking the olden silence. Death is eternity. Eternity is stone. Stone is silence. Stone cannot speak but stone remembers.
So begins the next movement of Glittering Stone….The tale again comes to us from the pen of Murgen, Annalist and Standard Bearer of the Black Company, whose developing powers of travel through space and time give him a perspective like no other. Led by the wily commander, Croaker, and the Lady, the Company is working for the Taglian government, but neither the Company nor the Taglians are overflowing with trust for each other. Arrayed against both is a similarly tenuous alliance of sorcerers, including the diabolical Soulcatcher, the psychotic Howler, and a four-year-old child who may be the most powerful of all.
She is the Darkness is a solid addition to The Black Company series. Cook does a fine job in this volume, increasing the tension and paranoia on all three sides. This book is the first of the final trilogy of the series and Cook does an excellent job of creating a building sense of dread and despair. The battle scenes are excellent as is typical of Cook but he continues to also show us the softer side of the Black Company. Tired, jaded and broken men who have become disillusioned and even confused about what they are doing and why.
One interesting character development occurs with the character Croaker. The men have started calling him “The Old Man” The Old Man is not the same Croaker we have come to know. The Old Man is mean. He is devious and conniving in ways that he never was before. There is a sense of hard bitterness that has crept into this character and at times, he comes across as used up. Croaker’s sense of honor has taken a beating during their time in Taglios and it is the character Murgen that takes up the Company’s sense of honor.
When I first started this series, I had a hard time getting into the story. I didn’t care for the voice of Croaker as the narrator. But as the series has progressed and especially since Cook switched to using Murgen as narrator, the story has really taken off.
This series is not always an easy read. Not in the sense of easy as in reading level but in terms of subject matter. People die horrible deaths. There are betrayals and manipulations. It’s people at their worst in impossibly hard situations. It is violent, bloody and messy. I think Cook continues to do an excellent job, amping up the storyline without ever jumping the shark. Overall, I give She’s The Darkness 4.0 out of 5.0