on 16 January 2011
I have been a massive Glen Cook fan for as long as I can remember and have read everything of that I can obtain (including the "one offs" like the Dragon Never Sleeps and Sung in Blood"). This series is as good as anything that he has ever written.
We have been a bit "stylistically" conditioned as to what to expect from him by the Black Company - which I rate as one of the "all time great" series, rightly defined as changing the nature of this type of fiction. This series is different, but shaping up to be as good as the original. Without trying to second guess the approach, I get the sense that some of it is trying to address things that he would like to have done with the Dark Company, including a rather deeper analysis of the interplay between personalities and, indeed, some of the personality dysfunctions that quite often come to dominate actions.
I can't quite get a take on the historiocal period it is based on (albeit loosely) - in fact I suspect that it is actually based on "blurring through" a relatively long time period rather than allegorical to a specific set of events. However, it seems to reside around late Holy Roman Empire, Italian City State, Turkish imperial power, Mameluke times - but has characters drawn from other periods (i.e. Saladdin - which I know is not the correct spelling) and introduces rather more effective gunpowder artillery and, of course, magical disciplines. It is almost, but not really, an alternative history type book. All-in-all I love it!!
My only complaint is that its a long time between periods (I seem to recall the Black Company books coming quicker, which may be my memory misleading me) but each volume of this series is much denser and, I suspect, requires rather more research and validation to fit within a coherent framework.
This is not the place to start reading Glen Cook, or even the Instrumentalities of the Night series: its book 3 of a planned 4 volume series which is densely plotted and involves a lot of jaw-breaking names. If you want to try Glen Cook, start with The Black Company or Garrett PI (depending how much humor you like). I think that this "Night" series is closest in spirit to the Black Company of all the other Cook stuff I have read, so if you liked that, you will probably like this.
This is the continuing story of Piper Hecht, commander of the armies of the Brothen, locked in a tussel with the Pramans over the Holy Land where the magical Wells of Ihrian are failing. However, Piper Hecht is in fact Else Tage, the Praman Sha-Lug janissary captain on a secret mission to the West. Except that's not his real name either, and his Western family have recovered him, and they all turn out to be sorcerors who have congress with the Night (ie various demons, devils, spirits, imps and gods). Confused yet? You will be. And that's the background of the last few books, not any of this one.
Like all the Night series, it's a struggle to get through the first 50 pages, but after that it all starts to make a little sense. While the focus is on Piper Hects and his godslaying antics, it now widens to include his family, including his sister Heris, who may turn out to eclipse Piper in all of this. We also get to see the continuing diversions in the Connec, largely via Brother Candle, a Maysaylean Perfect who tends to have strange things happen around him, and also the disputed Holy Land, via an old friend of Piper's.
There are major quests, political disputes at 30 paces, changes of employment, requited but infulfilled love and unwanted unrequited intercourse. This is all set in a world that looks suspicously like the medieval to renaissance Europe and mid-East, complete with religious and political differences, and the added complication of sorcery and old gods wishing to plunge the world into eternal winter. Then, to top it all off, the book ends on a huge cliffhanger. Characters here are well-written and realistic: they do stupid things whether they want to or not, make mistakes, and don't know what they don't know.
For all I loved it, I feel a little bad giving it 5 stars: there were a few too many digressions that occasionally disrupted the flow of the story. But everything Cook writes turns out relevant in the end, and I could not put the book down. So I am waiting for Working the Gods Mischief sooner rather than later. You have to read this closely - there is a lot of information in dialogue - but its worth it. You can't skim read this stuff and enjoy it, so settle in and enjoy the ride.
on 16 December 2011
Having read through the black company series and then the dread empire books, I was looking forward to more of the same quality. This series has a wide range of characters and at times incomprehensible geography. A map or glossary of characters would make it so much easier to understand the politics and tensions between religions and kingdoms. I can see the parallels with the papacy, holy roman empire, middle east etc but the editor could have made it much more readable. I'll still complete the series, and it's getting easier to understand by book 2 but I think this is one for the Glen Cook enthusiast.