Top critical review
Time changes all things (possible spoilers inside)
on 19 April 1999
Since long before Glen Cook began writing the Annals of the Black Company, I've been a fan of his work, but it wasn't until the inaugural book of the series that I truly came to know his genius. Now, 20+ years and thousands of miles later, it seems that the Company has worn itself away into an empty shadow of what it was.
Where do I start? I miss Croaker. He is by far the greatest narrative voice in the series. A physician with the eyes of a molester, the mind of a tactitian, and the soul of a poet, he alone has been able to touch upon the heart of what makes the Company what it is.
As the years pass, and other Annalists (it seems we have a new one every book) take up the pen, the Company sheds a little of the character which made it distinct. I understand and applaud Mr. Cook's decision not to halt the ravages of time -- as old, dear members of the Company fall, it is only natural that new characters be introduced. Yet none of these characters resonate with the power of old... off hand, I couldn't name a single one of them. As for the Old Guard? Mercy, Elmo, Tom-Tom, Goblin, One-Eye, Otto, Hagop, Silent. The names come so easily, because the characters who bore them meant something, given life and colour with the passion of Croaker's pen.
And now? Of the Brothers listed, only two remain. Meanwhile Murgen faces a wife whose youth and beauty faded while he slept. Croaker and the Lady retreat ever further into the shadows on the outskirts of the Company. And who is there to replace the "Old Crew"? People we know nothing about, people we care nothing about.
"They are the future." But what good is such a future when the fire inside has burned itself out. Like One-Eye, it seems that the heart of the Company is withering quietly into senility, leaving nothing of value behind.
All in all, I give it 3 stars. It was a well-written story, and thankfully tied up a number of loose ends. But the narrative voice was so empty, so ignorant of the Black Company's soul, that I was left with only sadness, that so fabulous a group of characters could come to this.