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....
©1984 Glen Cook (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
A refreshing romp through a gritty yet colorful medieval fantasy setting that follows a mercenary company recruited by the arch villain. They'll stick it to the rebel "good guys" all the way, often with cheerful deviousness. The story follows the sole 1'st person perspective of the Black Company's annalist/historian/medic giving it a distinct grunt's eye view of a much bigger conflict. There's also no shortage of likeable characters to get attached to; it's neither too serious or too somber.
The narrator definitely takes some getting used to though. At first he sounded like he was channeling Captain Kirk or something and it was most distracting; you'll see some hate on that topic in the other reviews. However, I think he settles into the role eventually and about 1/3 in I didn't even notice anymore. He manages the few female voices there are well enough. Certainly not so cringe worthy as other male narrators I've heard trying the same.
Commodities broker, father, husband, and avid scifi/fantasy/self help fan.
Here's a very interesting twist to the typical fantasy story.
What if the Lord of The Rings had been told from the BAD GUYS perspective, say, from Mordor's elite guard?
They'd tell a story of thirteen rebels sent from different kingdoms bent on destroying Lord Sauron's passion to bring order to the chaos of the world. This rebel fellowship carries an ultimate doom with them, a ring once held by their glorious leader to keep peace between the races. They now carry it to its ultimate destruction, which will not only destroy that one last hope for unity, but also to destroy their king, who will die when the ring is consumed in the fires of Mount Doom! The fellowship must be stopped from completing their master plan to disrupt the world and kill their lord!
Guess it's all about perspective.
Glen Cook has created such a series, although not tied to Tolkien's work. A similar situation, yet a different world, using different literary vehicles and tools to accomplish the task.
You'll come to know Croaker, chief physician and historian for the Black Company, and many others in the group, along with a dark queen who holds their world in sway. The company is pressed into various quests, deeds, and services for her majesty, and they begin to question the ethics and intent brought on by the influence of her rule.
Sound interesting? It definitely is, and I've enjoyed Cook's twist on the typical.
Descriptive, rich and story-driven, this is a pleasure to the ears of fantasy lovers everywhere. It's mature, thoughtful, dark and entertaining. Cook suspends reality and draws you in, and THAT, my Audible listener, makes for a good audiobook.
I liked this audiobook so much, that I now own the entire series (ten audiobooks to date, I believe).
And the rest are good listening, as is this first in the series.
Who'd have thought I'd saddle up with the BAD guys? And LIKED it?
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Glen Cook slaps a devastating battle magic spell on epic fantasy clich??s (e.g., evil empire, virtuous rebels, dark lord, blasted wasteland around his headquarters, & clear division of good from evil). He writes a hard-boiled fantasy about the heroic feats of human anti-heroes in a world in which, as in our own, the historians of the victors determine good and evil. His novel is by turns funny or scary, horrifying or moving, grotesque or beautiful. It's enjoyable to watch the memorable members of the mercenary Black Company playing cards or pranks and suspenseful to follow them going on dangerous missions. Cook vividly captures the way that men working together in intense situations indulge in petty resentments even as they bond into a family through shared adversity. The short story chapters--without transitions between them--are narrated by the company's doctor and historian Croaker to make a single compelling tale.
I sympathize with the reviewers who find the novel too ??? rawly written, but I liked most of the graphic similes and the in medias res openings of each chapter-story and appreciate how each new chapter adds a few more pieces to the dramatic situation of the fantasy world.
I can't understand why some reviewers dislike Marc Vietor's reading of the novel. I feel that he does a fine job, enhancing Croaker's hard-boiled exterior and sensitive interior, as well as modifying his voice appropriately for the other characters, from the hysterical high-pitched mage Goblin to the laconic Clint Eastwood-like killer Raven. Vietor's reading of each of the very different voices of Soulcatcher's different souls is fun, creepy, and impressive.
The novel, first in a long series of Black Company annals, feels complete enough at its conclusion and at the same time promises an eventful, long future for Croaker and his mercenary brothers. A vivid and satisfying audiobook.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
The Black Company is gritty-as-can-be swords-and-sorcery fantasy, written years before that became a trendy idea. The “Company” of the book is a group of mercenaries that hires on with a powerful sorceress known as The Lady, and does various unpleasant jobs for her high command, a circle of grotesque and generally nasty wizards called The Taken. Imagine if the Lord of the Rings were told from the perspective of a group of Sauron’s hirelings, and you might have a sense of what to expect. Except, here, there isn’t much chivalry from anyone -- the “rebels”, while less defined, aren’t much more savory than the Lady’s minions.
The writing, accordingly, has a bracingly hard-boiled flavor. The story’s narrator is the Black Company’s chief medic and historian, a man named Croaker. He entertains few illusions that his brothers in arms are “nice people”, as they go from territory to territory, pacifying the inhabitants in the traditional manner, but there’s a sort of professional honor code that holds the company of rogues, fallen men, weirdos, and thugs together. They might be fighting for money, but they operate with discipline, take care of their own, and display occasional human decency. In a world where the unimportant often end up dead in piles as the armies sweep through, that’s better than nothing.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Platoon-meets-Lord of the Rings feel. The writing is a little choppy, though, often skipping past major events with a terse summary, or dropping in new characters with minimal introduction. But, the style fits well -- Croaker isn’t a guy who believes in the glory or righteousness of the cause and he’s patched up the wounded so many battles, he has little taste for describing what happens on the field, but, at the same time, he feels that what happens to him and his comrades ought to be recorded. I found the simple immediacy refreshing -- even in a fantasy world, the experience of ground soldiers might be universal, including their distance from the politics of everything. That said, some of the anachronisms got a little annoying: I wouldn’t expect someone in this world to know about biological evolution or use the term “sandbagging”. On the other hand, I suppose the use of spellcasters in the lines would enable soldiers to employ somewhat more “modern” tactics.
Other aspects of the book aren’t as ground-breaking. Once you get past Cook’s different take, the world-building and plot fall into familiar molds. But the action, initially aimless, begins to take on a purpose, and I got caught up in the story around the midpoint of the novel. The climax features an epic siege battle as good (and ghastly) as any in fantasy. I also enjoyed the endless bickering between two rank-and-file wizards, who seem to devote more energy to petty magical squabbles with each other than doing their jobs. I don’t know how well Cook maintains the strengths of his grunt-level perspective in subsequent books, but I’ll have to check out the next one. You can certainly enjoy this entry as a standalone work, if you choose not to go further.
Audiobook notes: I thought the narrator did a competent if uninspiring job. He sounds a little “older” than I would expect Croaker to be, but, then, it’s not clear how many years after the fact he’s supposed to be telling his story.
Glen Cook's The Black Company is one of the best series ever written. I've been waiting years for Audible to carry these books! The Black Company stories have been described as Vietnam War on peyote. The fantasy genre told by soldiers, sign up today to become a member of Black Company.
Six year old's father.
Glen Cook's *Chronicles of The Black Company* are, bar Tolkien, some of the finest works of fantasy ever written. With exceptional atmosphere, a fascinating and tangled plot line, a bleak but abundant, trenchant, wit and an anti-hero narrator who I can relate too all to well... these books, especially the first three (particularly 1&2) are something special.
Sadly the narrator was, IMO, wrong for these books. He never seemed to get the feel for Croaker's voice, at least as I hear it in MY head. He brings plenty of drama and feeling to his readings, and that is the problem. Croaker, and his cohorts, call for a certain laconic quality this reader didn't seen to feel in the text. Maybe that's just my feel for the books (I've read them 20x, if that matters, and I am career Army Infantry, which also probably influences my ideas, for good and ill.) Veitor's Croaker is certainly hearfelt. It's just that really, most of the time, Croaker doesn't DO heartfelt, and since he's the predominant voice, it doesn't ring right. IMCO Real shame-- these are fantastic novels.
If you like swords,wizards,magic, and a good story line you won't be disapointed. I read the books years ago and was always hoping someone would do an audio version. Marc Vietor did a excellent read and I think caught the book and characters flavor nicely.
Top-notch. By far my favorite, and the one I've listened to most often.
The Black Company is to fantasy what Aliens was to sci-fi. Take away the shiny, the outre, the epic. This is gritty for real - people die regularly, everything is dirty, and even when the big magic appears, it scares the little people.
An awesome version of Soulcatcher. Vietor has both a grasp of the character and enough voice talent to make the Taken's ever-changing voice panoply a joy to listen to. The best characterization by voice I've yet heard from an Audible book title (that's not counting dramatized performances like the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio show).
Get it. If you at all like fantasy, get this title. It's so well done.
Listening to audiobooks has gotten me through 3 years and counting at work. Yay Audible!
This is true military fiction that is hybridized with a very original fantasy setting. The characters feel like real soldiers, forced by honor, duty, and loyalty to one another into fighting on despite a nightmare situation. The style is simple and declarative; you won't have any trouble following The Black Company. But the characters and story are rich, despite the fairly bare bones nature of the text itself.
The skeleton of the story is this: The Black Company, a mercenary company over five hundred years old, is taken into the service of the archvillain, a sorceress referred to only as the Lady, a title spoken as if she were a god. But there is no black and white in the world of the Black Company. The characters are tough, hard-boiled soldiers, most of them with nothing else to live for beyond the curious brotherhood the Company offers. They are relentlessly competent, devious, and unburdened by the kind of pride that so-often causes terrible downfalls.
Some people will be turned off by the style. As I said, it is a bare bones sort of narrative, that skips long stretches of time (the narrative device is that these are the Annals of the deeds of the Black Company, recorded by the Annalist, Croaker. He only records things that he thinks are worth the telling) and often lands us in media res. There is no flowery Wheel of Time or Song of Ice and Fire scripting here, and no grand world building. We learn the setting, as much as the characters, places, and events, as we go. Still, this work is satisfying, and that's a fine thing.
Having read all of the Black Company series years ago, and wanting to enjoy them as a time-passer while commuting and working, I have to say... Marc Vietor did a commendable job to me of capturing the voice of the central character, Croaker. He's spared a multitude of female voices to deal with in this particular text, but does a good job of differentiating the other characters from one another, and does an exceptional job capturing the unsettling and varying voice of Soulcatcher.
indy filmmaker and bearded ogre
wizards! battles! history!
i have read none like it yet
where Oneeye and Goblin were 'dueling'
an epic tale of the greatest mercenaries the world has ever seen.
I had to read this book twice as the writing style is completely different than what I am used to (George RR Martin, and Terry Goodkind). After the second read, I want to be enlisted in The Black Company now.
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