Mercenary soldiers in the service of the Lady, the Black Company stands against the rebels of the White Rose. They are tough men, proud of honoring their contracts. The Lady is evil, but so, too, are those who falsely profess to follow the White Rose, reincarnation of a centuries-dead heroine. Yet now some of the Company have discovered that the mute girl they rescued and sheltered is truly the White Rose reborn. Now there may be a path to the light, even for such as they. If they can survive it.
Listen to more in the Black Company series.
©1990 Glen Cook (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
The second book in the now three-decades-old Black Company series, which still remains a good read. Cook did something innovative for the time, which was to unshackle himself from the usual good-vs-evil conventions of fantasy, and write something darker and more subjective. As the lead narrator, a soldier/healer/annalist named Croaker puts it: "I do not believe in evil... I believe in our side and theirs, with the good and evil decided after the fact, by those who survive. Among men you seldom find the good with one standard and the shadow with another."
Cook’s style here is similar to the first book, a hard-boiled account that doesn’t waste too much time on world-building or character backstories, but simply relates events as they seem important to Croaker. The background is a standard fantasy world, with castles, swordsmen, taverns, wizards, crypts, undead creatures, and powerful sorcerers, but there’s something about the world-weary, grunt-level view of it that I found refreshing. Croaker and his friends aren’t the heroes sitting at table with Elrond in Rivendell -- they’re the rank-and-file out patrolling the slums for masters they don’t love, putting down uprisings by unwashed rebels with their own dubious leaders, and the cynicism shows.
The first book wandered across a landscape of battlefields and took a while to cohere around a narrative, but this one has more continuity. The Black Company is now in a city in the far north, investigating a strange new threat to The Lady. However, Raven and his charge, Darling, a girl who may be the reincarnation of someone with the power to destroy the Lady, have come back into the picture, and Croaker is finding it harder to hide this secret from his powerful employer. There’s also a second storyline, which follows a cowardly, put-upon innkeeper named Maran Shed, who desperately needs money, and learns of a dark way of making it. Shed’s financial-management skills, however, leave something to be desired, and his actions soon create problems for everyone.
I enjoyed the Black Company storyline, which fills in some of the side characters a little more, and contains an eerie magic battle scene reminiscent of the first book. The Shed plotline, which has a bit of a horror story feel, is written in the third person, and I liked seeing Cook develop a flawed but not-entirely-unsympathetic character and give him an eventual shot at redemption. Naturally, the two storylines come together, and Croaker is forced to make choices about his own redemption. There are a few weak notes, in the form of a rushed climax, but I’m curious to see how things will play out in the next entry in the series.
In sum, if you’re in the mood for “gritty” fantasy that’s a little more streamlined and episodic than certain other hefty series, this one is a good, brisk read. I should also note that I’ve gotten to appreciate the “grizzled” voice of audiobook narrator Marc Vietor, who has come to be Croaker in my mind.
“I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia."
I enjoy listening to the audio version because I can take it with me when I am going for a walk or other activities that doesn't let me read, or if I am tired I can rest my eyes but still enjoy the story via audio. I wouldn't say the audio edition is better than the printed, as they both have their value, but I will say I enjoy the audio version greatly and am grateful for it.
This second installment, like the first, share similar themes that I enjoy. It continues to tell a tale of the necessities of sometimes having to commit acts of evil in order to survive, that desperation can drive a person to do things that are abhorrent under normal circumstances. And how one has to live and cope with these hard decisions, and one day, hoping for redemption and atonement.
Yes, I previously listened to the first installment of the Black Company series. I think Marc did a better job than before.
Marron Shed's journey and redemption.
One of my complaints in the first installment: "The Back Company" was the fact that it was somewhat difficult to follow at times, leaving the listener somewhat confused as to what is exactly happening in the story. Thus, I am happy to say that "Shadows Linger" did not have the same issues. From beginning to end, the story flow nicely with smooth transitions from one scene to the next, and from chapter to chapter it was very easy to listen to.
Again, Glen Cook gives a an adventure novel in trompe-l'oeil, situated eight years after the first book.The Black Company is present, of course. The narrator is still Croaker, the physician, warrior and chronicler, growing older and wearier; wondering about the souls of the Company and of his friends.
But the real subject of the book is an innkeeper, Maran Shed. Cowardly and irresolute, Shed consciously allows himself to be manipulated into the blackest evil. Cook's talent is in letting us follow Shed's own analysis of his descent, his own disgust with himself. Gradually that disgust grows to outweigh his fear, and he slowly climbs back up from the pit of his own soul. I haven't read as credible an incredible character in a long time.
Highly recommended. I'm now awaiting tome 3!
I found it to be quite different from the first book in scope and format. Not as broad. Not as epic. The story seems somewhat random to be completely honest, albeit entertaining and engaging. I enjoyed the first book more but this still served to continue the story. I'm pretty forgiving of a book if the overall series is well enough written so we'll have to see how it turns out. I might have to reconsider this opinion after finishing the series and seeing how it all ties together.
The second book of The Black Company seems intent on fixing some of the "issues" of the first book. The pov characters are slightly more involved in the events of the story, and the conflict, only really hinted at in the first book, starts to take further shape. In a way, the series starts becoming more traditional here, which can be kind of a mixed bag.
We are introduced now to a new pov character, who gives us a break from Croaker's sole first person narration of the story for some more conventional for the genre third. A character who becomes so unlikable by the end of the story that he makes the members of the company look like paragons of honor and integrity. And while his chapters were innocuous enough, he ultimately felt like an unnecessary distraction from the real events of the story.
Overall, the story is neat, but it feels a little bit like Glen Cook didn't save enough from the first book--particularly in the baddies department. No matter who the Lady finds to do her dirty work, filling the shoes of the original Ten is no easy task. Thankfully, there are some very cool ideas lurking in the dark corners to keep things interesting through most of the book.
Narration is more solid this time around, as Marc Vietor has become comfortable and familiar in the roles. That said, he won't change any minds for those who weren't used to his performance by the end of the first book.
I have a strange relationship with The Black Company series. I listen to them at work, the first pass always being a difficult listen as I struggle sometimes to differentiate characters audibly. Lucky for me these books all get multiple listens and with that the great story beneath the surface starts to come clear.
"Turning into something special"
Different from the first story – but not in a bad way at all
Story – 4.5/5
Where the first in the series has a constant retreat from an overwhelming rebellion force and regular epic fights and battles, this 2nd novel is centered around a less epic problem, which develops into an even bigger threat throughout the story. There is also an element of setting the story up for the next novel in the initial trilogy (out of the 10 books)
The narration/story telling is split between the only narrator of the first novel (Croaker) and a new character called Shed. Glen Cook shows his skill at character development as you see Shed (a timid inn owner) develop into a new confident man. At times I thought the development was too quick, but I had to keep reminding myself that months were passing between chapters at times, and not days, and in reflection, the pace was well balanced.
There are still plenty of fights, and a larger scale battle towards the end for those of us who love the action, but this series is really developing into something special, and the more familiar with the main band of characters that we become, the more enjoyment we get out of the story. The ending of this story leads very nicely into the 3rd novel, which I won’t waste my time in downloading.
The entire story flowed smoothly and at a nice pace, with no confusion for what was going on (like the beginning of the first story). Glen cook writes in a concise way, but this does not take away from his excellent use of the English language.
Performance – 4.5/5
I had a few minor issues with Marc Vietor in the first novel, which were ironed out by the end. In this novel, I had no issues with the voice acting or performance whatsoever - which could be due to being used to him by now. His dark and dramatic tone of voice suits the style of the story quite nicely.
Overall – 4.5/5
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