Alchemical Words reviews the epic fantasy novel The Silver Spike by author Glen Cook.
The Silver Spike is the fourth book in The Black Company series by Glen Cook. Many consider this book to be an outrider story, a spin-off book rather than a continuation of the story line established in the first two books. It picks up the story of Raven and Darling after the events of Shadows Linger.
Synopsis of The Silver Spike:
…embedded in the trunk of the scion of the godtree, it contains the essence of the maddest of the Ten Who Were Taken…The Dominator. Defeated by the Lady and cast from this world, all that was left of him was a foul trace of lingering evil. But the graveyard that was once the Barrowland contains more secrets than dead. All who would possess the power of the Dominator are drawn to the spike. A foolhardy band of thieves is the first to reach it, and a rapacious and malign spirit is unleashed on an unwary world. The forces gather, sides are drawn, and mortal men can only die as the Dark Lords battle for domination.
Like Shadows Linger and The White Rose, The Silver Spike is told in a combination of third person POV and the first person POV of the character Philodendron Case. The Silver Spike is crime caper story centering on the planned theft of a silver spike – the same silver spike that was driven into the sapling god, the silver spike that contains the evil essence of the Dominator. Times are hard in the Barrowlands and there are those that would steal the spike, not for it’s power but simply for the value of the silver.
The focal point for this installment of The Black Company series is a group of men: Smeds, Tully, Timmy and Old Man Fish who plot and plan to steal the spike. While their plan for stealing the spike is simple and straightforward, things start to get complicated after every would be treasure hunter moves into the area along with assorted Taken, all with their eye on stealing the spike for themselves.
This particular story is dark, grim and gritty. True to The Black Company tradition established in the preceding books, no one is safe and people die left and right. There are new Taken and a few old Taken reappear in the battle for the spike. We are once again treated to the strange denizens of The Plain of Fear. The scenes that take place in the barrow itself were excellent and the climax of the story was an unexpected as it was satisfying in a dark way.
There’s interesting technology that’s not been seen before that equalizes the difference between those with magic and those without.
What I liked about this book is that it answered a lot of questions and filled in a lot of backstory. While I’m sure a lot of readers may have missed Croaker’s narration, I liked the narrator voice in this story. Case lacks Croaker’s sophistication but I found having the voice of an “everyman” to be a refreshing change. This is also one of those stories where there’s not really a “good guy” side and a “bad guy” side. The story is centers around a group of thieves, surrounded and challenged by even worse men and women. In this book, the distinction between good and evil is far more nuanced, drawn for the reader in shades of dark gray.
The pacing of this story is much faster than the previous books in the series and Cook does a good job showing the reader the darker side of humanity, especially when that dark side is driven by greed and the search for ultimate power. There’s a saying something along the lings of: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In my opinion, Cook has taken this saying and given it new life in the form of an epic fantasy/crime caper hybrid. Overall, I’m giving The Silver Spike a 4 out of 5.
Have you read this series? What are you’re thoughts about The Silver Spike?