Ok, so I finally finished all ten books of the "Black Company" series by Glen Cook, which I've mentioned previously here and here and here. I'll try to avoid spoilers here. Obviously, the first three books are the best. This trilogy is the classic Black Company story, about a band of mercenaries and their adventures in service to and in opposition to various kinds of evil things. You can't go wrong with "The Black Company", "Shadows Linger" and "The White Rose" as a series worth reading. "The Silver Spike" is a worthwhile follow-up as the 4th book in the series.
In the fifth book ("Shadow Games"), circumstances change dramatically, and the Company (and the story) moves to a completely different part of the world. This is a bit of a drop in quality, but still a logical extension of the story. But it has a bit of a cliff-hanger that sort of compels you to read the sixth book ("Dreams of Steel"), which is a bit of a step up from the fifth book and definitely interesting because of the new narrator and her perspective on everything.
Unfortunately, another cliff-hanger leads one into the seventh book ("Bleak Seasons"), which is the weakest of the ten, told from yet another perspective. I found this one confusing, depressing and apathy inspiring. By the time the 8th book rolls around ("She Is the Darkness"), the situation is slightly improved and much more interesting, and it is clear that Cook has his second wind. I found this one a better read, but not up to the level of the original trilogy. Very neat ending, as the world expands into new, exotic areas (I'm a big fan of interesting world set-ups).
In the 9th book ("Water Sleeps"), it's all depressing again, and we get another huge shift in perspective. But even though the situation is bleak, the story is a lot better than in the 7th book, and I found myself more and more engrossed as the book went on. Another neat ending, and a lot of surprises along the way.
The 10th book ("Soldiers Live") is as good as the 9th, and it is more like the first trilogy than any of the others (probably intentional on the part of Cook). As the 10th book wound down, though, I found there to be a *lot* of character deaths, characters I had developed a bit of a liking for, and these deaths were given very short shrift. It felt rushed. Still, the overall ending was fitting, and I was satisfied with the way everything turned out. Not a happy ending, obviously, but lots of little silver linings that I thought were really cool.
So my advice is: If you really, really like the first trilogy, read all ten books. If you kinda like the first trilogy, maybe read the fourth, but then that's it. I think the first trilogy is worth reading regardless of the rest of the ten books. It ranks up there with some of the best fantasy ever written.Posted by Observer at April 23, 2003 07:04 AM
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