“More evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way.”
- Glen Cook, Dreams of Steel
- Glen Cook, Dreams of Steel
The Black Company is a series of books that redefined the fantasy genre. It challenged the line between good and evil, warped its trajectory with pulls from postmodernism. This series became a source of inspiration for many modern day fantasy authors. The book publisher, Tor, re-issued The Black Company series in a set of 4 omnibus collections. I have read the first omnibus and deeply enjoyed it. Today, I will review the second omnibus, titled “The Books of the South”.
At the Battle of Charm, The Black Company prevailed against the Dominator, the victory was bitter sweet. During the battle, many brothers in the Black Company were lost, it's numbers cut down to mere 7 people. After the battle, Croaker, the new captain of the Black Company, decided to take what's remained of the company south, starting a quest to bring the Annals of the Black Company back to its birth place. As the Black Company goes south, what was thought to be a home-coming journey led to surprising encounters and a series of dark revelations...
What I think about this book:
The Books of the South collects 3 books; Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel, and The Silver Spike. While Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel are direct sequels to the first 3 volumes in the series, The Silver Spike, however, is not.
Overall, I like the books collected in this omnibus, but I did not enjoy this omnibus as much as the first one. For the most part, Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel mostly followed The Black Company's journey south, back to its place of origin. There are a lot of army marching in these 2 books, and I feel this hindered the pace of the story. Although, the mysteries surrounding the origin of The Black Company is interesting enough to keep me reading. Towards the end of Dreams of Steel, the story crescendoed into a torrent of dramas and actions, and finished with a cliff hanger, leaving the readers wanting for more.
The major characters in Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel are Croaker and The Lady, the budding relationship between these two is interesting. In Dreams of Steel, the narrator (POV) changed from Croaker to The Lady. I liked this change, because Dreams of Steel explored The Lady's history, her thoughts and motivations which were shrouded in mystery in the previous books. In this book, The Lady began to recover her powers, and with it she did some pretty nasty things to achieve her goals. This makes the characterization very interesting, because it explored the theme of moral ambiguity by implanting provoking afterthoughts. Meanwhile, The Lady remains a very likable character despite some of her morally questionable endeavors. In general, Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel are worthy sequels despite being slower in pace compared to their predecessors.
The last book in this omnibus is The Silver Spike. This book is not a direct sequel to the main story of The Black Company. The Silver Spike follows the journey of Darling, Raven and Silent, and it revolves around the events in the north which followed the battle at Charms. The narrator (POV) in this book, is an army officer called Case. I find Case to be a very interesting character, he is an excellent POV for the story, because he is just a normal guy who got sucked into conflicts too big for him. It's interesting to see his take on the people, and events as they unfold around him. In many ways, it is good to know the eventual fates of Darling, Raven and Silent since they were major characters in the first omnibus collection. However, I did not like the type of character Raven became in The Silver Spike, and the ending of this book is somewhat anti-climatic. In comparison, I did not like The Silver Spike as much as Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel, nevertheless, I was glad The Silver Spike concluded the story arch of Darling and Raven.
In the end, while I do not think the second omnibus is as good as the first, but the books collected in this omnibus are still rated above average compared to many fantasy books. I was most intrigued by the mysteries surrounding the origin of The Black Company, which is only beginning to unfold here. I am eager to find out what's in store for Croaker, The Lady, and the rest of the Black Company in the next omnibus, titled “The Return of the Black Company”.