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4.2 out of 5 stars59
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 12 July 2012
Someone compared these to Malazan books of the fallen and the latter series "Books of the South" indeed has some resemblance.

However, the first three books of the Black Company; compiled in this novel are the true gems of the series. They predate Eriksson by 10-15 years. I think back then editors were a lot better; the books are spare, well-constructed novels with a little twist.

If I had to compare writing style I would say that Glen Cook's is much simpler than Eriksson but more accessible.

The big bonus is that after reading this trilogy you can read the Silver Spike. Which is an absolutely fantastic novel that closes the Black Company's northern adventures.
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on 16 November 2014
I picked this up after a recommendation from Steven Erikson (author of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series) and found it not only met all expectations, but (in my humble opinion) surpassed anything that Mr Erikson has ever written by a long shot.

Ok, so it's not nearly as ambitious and expansive as the Malazan world, nor is it chock-full of philosophical insights. But it has great characterisation (that Erikson sometimes struggles with) and spins a damn good yarn without overwhelming us with description or extremely confusing storylines. Not that I don't enjoy Erikson - he just has a habit of going off on a tangent for hundreds of pages before actually progressing the story!

Anyway, here are some of the things I liked about this trilogy:

> The aforementioned great characterisation - morally ambiguous characters unrestricted by good guy/bad guy tropes. Especially good old cynical Croaker, who narrates this tale with surprising honesty, particularly when it comes to the motivations of his comrades serving with him in the Black Company, some of which are not very nice!
> A Dark world with equally dark humour - a gritty, realistic world which, despite its grimness, provides many laugh out loud moments that gives the reader a nice break between the epic battles and general despair.
> Glen Cooks willingness to take risks - rather than play it safe and stick to the same formula of the first book (each chapter detailing a mission, with an overarching story developing throughout) Cook decides to shake things up by sacking that formula completely and adding an additional 3rd person POV independent of Croaker, but interrelated with the rest of the story. In addition, Cook is more than willing to unceremoniously kill off major characters in the blink of an eyelid. There are no heroic deaths in these books.

It is a crime that these books are not given the recognition they deserve. Especially considering they were released in the 80's, a period infested with Tolkien clones and the like. A must buy if you like GRRM, Abercrombie, Lynch or Erikson. Gritty fantasy at its grittiest. The revolution in fantasy that no one noticed.
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on 2 April 2013
first of all I would like to give you a warning: the style of the writing is somewhat confusing at the beginning since you are thrown right into the thick of it. I could not follow the story at the beginning and I was frustrated, but don't worry! this feeling quickly fades, just keep on reading, it will get better! things will start to make sense and unravel, you will understand the world in the background and the story will start to fall into place. as soon as this happens I was not able to put the book down any more, staying up late into the night not wanting to go to sleep to just keep on reading, wanting to know how the story continues and what is going to happen next.

about the story: it's about the usual struggle between good and evil, while an even bigger evil lingers in the shadows of the world. the story of the world is unfolding through the eyes of the annalist/historian/physician of the Black Company; as such, I can understand why the writing style was chosen the way it was. it makes sense that someone who is in a military unit, being dragged along at breakneck pace through the events of the story, will not have the time to describe too much detail. there isn't much description of unnecessary clutter, it kind of expects you to "know" the world and the history of it. it describes what is needed to follow the story, although I do find that sometimes the author was jumping a bit too quickly, but it may be forgiven because the style makes kind of sense to me. I love the characters of the book, Croaker, Goblin, One-Eye and Raven especially, they are my favourites by far.

the fantasy world portrayed, even though it isn't described in as much detail sometimes, is still full of wonders and very imaginative. the supposedly evil character of the Lady although she is the lesser of two evils, the Ten Who Were Taken, the lingering Dominator...I actually got scared with the events around the Black Castle, those creatures gave me the creeps and I found myself cheering Croaker &Co on, turning the pages hoping all of them would pull through...

I ordered the next book in the series already (the books of the south), I just hope it arrives here in time before I get to the end of this one...

the only negative point I would like to make is that at least in the Kindle version of the book there are loads of typos and I wish someone had done a better job at editing the book.

other than that, I love it
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on 6 February 2012
I can't get enough of Glen Cook and his Black Company at the moment but fortunately I have another 3 Chronicles to go! I have read a fair amount of fantasy through the years but these books totally hit the spot for me. They are (IMHO) very accessible, very human and with lot of 'fantastic' action, without the author trying too hard to be different or creative or write brilliantly or anything else. They just hit the spot with a natural ease.
The main protagonists are the Black Company, a legendary mercenary army full of veteran soldiers who are tough, resilient and resourceful. And a little bit quirky too. Very much the early model for Steven Erikson's Bridgeburners.
Initially it takes a couple of chapters to get used to the authors style (the dots aren't all joined for you, and characters aren't always introduced gently to help the reader out - for a little while you think whoa - slow down) but that makes you think a bit harder and makes the ride more enjoyable when you are tuned in. The pace is fast and not high-detail, and events just keep happening relentlessly and the story keeps evolving without long passages becalmed with pages of descriptions or painfully slow intrigue. In all, the books are non-stop slightly crazy, fantasy action with very human central characters and an old school feel to them. The books get straight into the action and keep it up all the way through. No slow pretty beginning, gripping middle and then wind-down for the twist at the end - with Glen Cook it is non-stop and tons of it. And I love the books. The are like a huge plate of home-made lasagne - very comforting, very very good and there is always plenty more waiting for you. Sure there may be technically better out there but you know, these are the best!
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on 24 October 2011
This volume is composed of The Black Company, Shadows Linger and The White Rose. The trilogy tells the story of The Black Company, the last of the Free Companies of Khatovar, as told by its annalist and physician, Croaker.

It's a remarkable trilogy. The Black Company are mercenaries, brutal men who leave their pasts behind when they join the company. And yet none of them felt like caricatures. Some are vicious thugs or violent cowards, but others are halfway decent, or have a spark of decency left inside them somewhere, and they let the grim world they live in mostly subsume it. It contains a number of fantasy tropes, but it feels like you're discovering them when they were first created.

They begin the story employed in the defence of a city called Beryl. When an emissary arrives from the lands across the sea to the north, the Black Company heads that way. They find themselves in the employ of the Lady and her sorcerer minions, the Taken, undying nightmares who have escaped their barrow prisons to blight the world once more. And still, there are no simply-painted black and white characters here. Everyone has a story. Everyone is interesting.

The trilogy is rightly considered a dark classic.

The ebook version is clearly a scan, and it's far from perfect. There are all sorts of instances in which OCR has gotten a little mixed up and no one has bothered to fix it. Nevertheless, I consider this volume to be well worth the money.
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on 1 September 2011
Long overdue republishing of a classic series which practically invented the genre on which the likes of Stephen Erikson now ply their thousand-page epics. Admittedly confusing in places due to the blunt prose and limited character viewpoint, it is deliciously dark, and unbelievably epic in scale (though claustrophobic in scope). And that cover just makes me wanna read it again...
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on 30 December 2013
If you never read another book again, read this one. It really is that good. Glen Cook writes about what he knows; the soldiers on the ground, the poor bloody infantry, following orders and drawing their pay and just trying to live from day to day. Glen was writing this when frankly no one else was ; Gemmel was at least a decade or more later, and Ericsson even later still whilst also claiming Cook as a major influence. Modern fantasy, with its rich diversity of characters and heroes from all social strata would look very different had he not broken the mould of Princesses, Knights and Kings (Fellowshipped or otherwise !) and taken us into the world of those expected to do the killing and dying for such characters. These are characters we can relate to. Even see ourselves in. It was a courageous departure from the mainstream of the time, and a cult classic that has inspired succeeding generations since. Very few books are worthy of the old cliche "must read" : this one is.
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on 2 September 2014
Love the stories but the kindle edition is quite bad. Lots of misplaced words due to bad scans.
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on 6 February 2014
Interesting book, well, trilogy really, though to be honest I'm not sure I really noticed it was three separate books the first time I read it. The language is dispassionate, and reads almost like I imagine the annals which the main character Croaker is responsible for updating, almost documentary-esque. What stop it being a "I love it" 5 stars - 1) flying carpets always make me think of Aladdin, 2) the taken seem a bit interchangeable and replaceable 3) the difference in magical ability between the "heroes" and the "villains" seemed so marked that it almost seemed implausible that the black company prevailed 4) wasn't totally fascinated by the alternative first person viewpoints, would have preferred someone else in the black company.

But hey - I reread it a year later and I definitely liked it, so it gets 4 stars.
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on 30 November 2011
I remember reading these first Black Company novels way back when they were first published. They were a kick in the teeth for the useless rubbish that was being passed off as fantasy in the 80s and 90s. They still make for a decent read now although those people who are not used to the first person narrative in fantasy novels will struggle because as a consequence you get an authentic and convincing pared down narrative as opposed to a 1000+ pages of irrelevant detail and overblown stodge.

These book have clearly been an influence on key current fantasy writers like Abercrombie, Erikson & Lynch.

When I saw this omnibus edition for Kindle I decided to buy it because it was a reasonable £7.99 and undemanding entertainment during some hefty work related train journeys over the next couple of week. However the quality of the proof-reading is awful. This is published by a major publisher and I think that it isn't too much to ask for a text that isn't riddled with typos. For the books alone I'd probably give 4 stars but this Kindle version is only worth 2.
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