A refreshing romp through a gritty yet colorful medieval fantasy setting that follows a mercenary company recruited by the arch villain. They'll stic..Show More »k 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.
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 ..Show More »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've been listening to a few audio books lately that while were good always felt like a bit of work to get through, that was not the case with Shadow ..Show More »Games.
First off let me say you really don't want to start your Black Company experience here. While Cook does a very good job of allowing this book to be an intro to the series it really will shine in it's proper place as #4.
Following Croaker from book 1 to now you really get a great feel for the guy and are either really interested in his journey or have given up before now. This books picks up right from 3 and does a good job of answering a lot of lingering questions you may have had.
It has as much action as the previous books and brings back enough of the past characters to keep you attached to the events while also adding in enough new gems to keeps things fresh.
Don't get me wrong there book is not perfect. My main gripe relates to the mystery surrounding the villains. It makes some sense but it also is annoying that Cook couldn't come up with better.
Vietor does a great job as always of voicing Croaker and I always felt his performance fit. I have more to add but I want to avoid spoilers even the most obvious ones.
All in all this is a fun read and if you are into the Black Company or this kind of military fantasy style you would really enjoy it.
I just downloaded all the Glen Cook novels and am loving them. I'm a huge George RR Martin fan so I like the grittier side of fantasy. Jonathan Davi..Show More »s does a awesome job reading this one, even though Marc V., who read the first three was good, I just like Davis better, wish he read them all (especially the Rachel Butera fiasco).
Since there is no other audio book edition of the Black Company novels, and I thought the others in the series thus far lived up to expectation (Mark ..Show More »Vietor has a good handle on Croaker, so how far wrong can they go.) I don't fancy myself a critic, and after all the audio books I've enjoyed (even some I've greedily devoured,) I'm a bit ashamed to make my 1st book review a bad one. I'm sort of hoping someone at Audio-Frontiers is reading. The book isn't, at least in my opinion, the strongest in the series, but it is still very good. That is, of course, a back-handed complement. When Mr. Cook is really "on" his books refuse to be put down and I can remember the first time I read the series sitting up in bed to 4am, "Work in the morning be damned, I'd survive.." Ms. Butera, however was a big disappointment. I could waste time on a flame, ( a reading of something like "the carnage was great" describing a battlefield - "great" being interpreted with relish like Tony the Tiger saying "They're Great!" as opposed to describing the scope and breadth of the carnage, comes to mind as a vividly cringe-worthy and toe-curling moment. I guess you could make an argument that is what Mr. Cook intended, but...) suffice it to say, I felt, that she came across as false and at times even bored with what she was reading. Mechanically manipulating her voice in reaction to words, but seemingly uncaring or unaware of the whole. It was continually jarring. She did have a few character voices that were subtle enough to be believed, and "rang true," but as the main character and narrator rarely fell into this category, they are not what sticks in my mind. (Unfortunately, there were also a few doozies that sounded like they were right out of a bad cartoon, and sadly they are hard to forget.) I'm sure I'll listen to the Black Company novels again, they are that good, but I'll either skip this one, or more likely pull out my old paper version.
If you have gotten this far in the Black Company series, you are listening because you are committed to finding out their final fate. In case you came..Show More » to this book without reading the previous 7 books, this book is in the middle of a very long story line, and even though you can read it as a standalone book, much of the references to prior events won't make sense. As a story, this is not the best nor is it the worst of the series. It is certainly worth a credit. though.
My main problem with this book and its predecessor in the series, Bleak Seasons, is the reader. Jonathan Davis is not the worst reader I have ever heard, and I am not unhappy enough to stop listening. He is, however, uninspiring as a reader. There is very little nuance to his voice, and it is incredibly hard to tell when the main character is thinking to himself or speaking to someone. There is just no aural cue to distinguish between the two. There are some characters where he uses nearly the same accents, so telling who is speaking is only possible by context clues in the dialogue. I would definitely not seek him out as a reader in other books. That said, I haven't been so annoyed that I felt the need to read the paperback copy I have on my bookshelf. So maybe a 5 out of 10.
It had been a while since I had read the Black Company series, and this audible re-introduction was a pure delight. McLeod Andrews is one of the best ..Show More »narrators I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. The sheer dexterity of his voice allowed the diverse characters to fully come to life in this tale.