Alchemical Words reviews Water Sleeps; the ninth book in the epic military fantasy series, The Black Company, by author Glen Cook.
I know a lot of reading orders for this fantasy book series do not count The Silver Spike as part of the reading order, listing Water Sleeps as eighth in the series, but I disagree. I think The Silver Spike ties up a lot of loose ends and serves a necessary purpose in the overall progression of the series.
I’m going to try to do this synopsis with as few spoilers as possible. In Water Sleeps, we have a new narrator, Sleepy. I was surprised by her fast rise through the Company rank and file. In previous books, Sleepy is a young girl posing as a man. Her true gender is revealed at the end of She is the Darkness and she is mentioned as being considered for the position of Annalist, replacing Murgen.
After the debacle at the end of She is the Darkness, Sleepy becomes the leader the remnants of The Black Company and the primary POV character. Other characters occasionally have a chapter devoted to their point of view, which provides a nice mix of viewpoints.
Synopsis of Water Sleeps:
Regrouping in Taglios, the surviving members of the Black Company are determined to free their fellow warriors held in stasis beneath the glittering plain. Journeying there under terrible conditions, they arrive just in time for a magical conflagration in which the bones of the world will be revealed, the history of the Company unveiled, and new world gained and lost…all at a terrible price.
The book starts roughly fifteen years after She is the Darkness. Sleepy and Sahra had joint command of the remaining members of The Black Company. They start their campaign of revenge against Radisha Drah and Soulcatcher with their ultimate goal being the rescue of those Company members trapped in stasis on the Glittering Plain. Narayan Singh and the Daughter of Night are still trying to bring on The Year of the Skulls and the dark goddess Kina is still out there.
I have to take a moment to tell on myself. I first started reading The Black Company series as part of a quest to read epic fantasy book series that always seem to crop up on most people’s list of their Top 10 Fantasy Books or Top 25 Fantasy Books.
While I didn’t care much for the first couple of books in the series, I grew to enjoy the series as it progressed. I liked the voice of Sleepy as narrator as much as I liked Murgen and, if anything, she’s an even bigger badass that he was. She’s wicked smart and manages to utilize the Company’s minimal resources to their fullest advantage against greater power and numbers. Like I said, she’s one smart cookie. It is also this book that finally reveals the secreted origins of The Black Company in Khatovar. (Woot! Woot!)
In this installment, Cook delves further into the religions and cultures of the region, in particular the ideas of reincarnation and the afterlife or lack there of, depending on the religion.
One theme Cook explores is growing old. I really didn’t pick up on this fully until this book. Fifteen years has passed since the events of She is the Darkness. Murgen and Sahra’s son Tobo is mostly grown, everyone is getting older and slower and they know it.
This installment in The Black Company series has a lot going on but at the same time, it is a much faster read than some of the previous books. I enjoyed this book a lot. It is fast paced and intense with lots and lots of new characters and places. Loose ends are starting to be tied up in a way that makes good, logical sense. There’s no deux ex machina here.
I am impressed with Cook’s continued creativity in a world that’s already occupied several books and his ability to create moving characters that I wanted to care about. Overall, I’m giving Water Sleeps a 4.5 out 5.