Series: Chronicles of the Black Company #1
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Size: 320 pages
Availability: Paperback, Ebook, Audiobook, Omnibus
Read with the Fantasy Faction Book Club.
Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself. The hardbitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must, burying their doubts with their dead.
Until the prophesy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more.
There must be a way for the Black Company to find her…
The Black Company was first published in 1984 and one of the first of its’ kind, influencing such fantasy authors as Steven Erikson. Yet somehow, I hadn’t heard of it until it was chosen as the Fantasy Faction Book Club’s book of choice for February. As it’s described as being a dark and gritty epic fantasy, as well as such an influential novel, I went ahead and found a decently priced second hand copy of the omnibus to join in.
It is a story about a company of mercenaries called ‘The Black Company’ who do what they are paid to do, and in this case end up in commission to the so called bad guys, the Ten Who Were Taken led by the enigmatic Lady. It twists black and end epic fantasy on its’ head, making us wonder if good and evil are really quite what they seem. The members of the Black Company are men running away from their pasts and prefer to keep these unfortunate histories to themselves. They are very human. They get bored, cold, uncomfortable, stuffy. They aren’t superheroes able to ride horses for days on end, cooking up a stew in the space of about half an hour. They struggle. And there’s this unspoken camaraderie which makes you root for them.
Dat Writing Style
I found the writing style immediately jarring which made it quite difficult to get into as it felt as though many things were being skipped over, and there is no real flow to the prose. In fact, if this weren’t a book club read I might have put it down but thankfully the story picked up in chapters 3-4 so it is worth sticking with it. And once you get used to the style, it feels as though Croaker, our protagonist, is telling you all about this section of the Company’s history in a very direct and to the point way.
There were many twisting revelations towards the end which cemented The Chronicles of the Black Company as a series I will keep reading because I now need to know what happens next. Though the final battle really fell flat with this no-nonsense prose style, it just felt boring. The Black Company‘s strengths lie with its’ characters and their relationships with each other.
Characters Worth Mentioning
Croaker is our main guy. The Company’s Physician and keeper of the Annals, the histories of The Black Company. And he more or less writes Lady fan-fiction. Nobody sees her apart from the Taken and as she is so mysterious, Croaker finds himself garnering quite an obsession with her. While he wasn’t the most interesting of characters, we stick with him regardless as he sees so much more than anybody else in the Company.
One-Eye and Goblin are two of the Company’s wizards and we can often find them bickering and pulling epic pranks on each other, constantly trying to one-up each other. While I have seen a few say that this annoyed them, I found it a nice excursion from the Company’s boredom, and it’s pretty funny as well in an otherwise dark novel.
Raven is an immediately interesting character, promising to do away with his past issues before joining the Company. Once he has done so he is oddly quiet, always fiddling with his knives and being friendly with the Captain. It’s almost as though he doesn’t wish to become too close to the Company, keeping his ruthlessness to himself.
Soulcatcher was perhaps the most interesting of the Taken. Covered from head to toe and speaking with many different voices, we don’t know if Catcher is a man or a woman or something else entirely. Most intriguing is those voices. It is said that they are the voices of all of the souls Catcher has taken but it is never quite covered. All in all, an enigma of a character and the member of the Ten who most seems likely to side with the Black Company.
Overall, I liked it. It’s not a new favourite by any means but I would definitely recommend The Black Company to epic fantasy readers.
The Chronicles of the Black Company:
1. The Black Company
2. Shadows Linger
3. The White Rose
4. The Silver Spike
5. Shadow Games
6. Dreams of Steel
7. Bleak Seasons
8. She is the Darkness
9. Water Sleeps
10. Soldiers Live