The Black Company: A Dark Fantasy Series About Mercenaries, Vile Sorcery, and Epic War
Growing up I was lucky enough to begin delving into reading fantasy right as the Harry Potter novels were being written. J.K. Rowling’s books taught me to love the magic of fantasy. To enjoy the clever spells, how magical culture could be cleverly integrated into the everyday world of the non-magic. They taught me to appreciate the fantastic creatures and people who have preserved their ways of life in, what seems to me, to be ever shrinking areas of the world. Most importantly these books instilled within me an everlasting appreciate of fantasy novels and stories in all their shapes and forms.
That being said, as an adult, it is sometimes hard to enjoy Harry Potter for what it was to a younger me. Given my profession, I pay a lot of attention to darker world events, such as incidents of terrorism, the possibility of war breaking out, and to what degree human rights are under threat in any given country. At some point, I dont know exactly when, I decided to give Dark Fantasy novels a try. Not much clicked with me, until I came across the work of Glen Cook.
At the tender age of 25 I came across a dogged-eared copy of The Black Company, published in May of 1984. A combination of epic fantasy and dark fantasy, it follows the doings of an elite mercenary unit as it abandons its employer, called the Syndic of Beryl, and instead enter into the employment of a dark wizard called Soultaker who is under the control of an evil Empire to the north led by the beautiful and deadly Lady. In the pages to follow Croaker, the main character and source of the novel’s viewpoint, exposes us to some of the most horrible events and people one might expect in a fantastical medieval setting. Without giving too much away, the reader is exposed to war crimes, assassination, intrigue, dark battles, and some of the worst motivations to which a fictional character might adhere. Uniquely, it also shows how individuals and groups will compromise on morals for the sake of survival. There are many shades of grey in this novel and those characters that live within it.
I bought each brand new omnibus once I could, and I eagerly devoured them all. Even though I have Kindle Unlimited, which I use to read the thousands of different kinds of fantasy books on Amazon for the small price of a monthly subscription to the service, I have still opted to buy the physical copies of each of the books. There is just something about holding these works of dark fantasy in your hands that makes the words and plots have that much more weight. To be that much more real. Moreover, I have recently learned that The Black Company is well on its way to becoming a TV show with Eliza Dushky playing the part of the Lady, perhaps as a result of how successful Game of Thrones was for HBO. Needless to say I am very excited for the prospect of see the words in the books coming visually to life.
If you want to experience the gritty magic that is The Black Company series, check out their books:
- The Chronicles of The Black Company: Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more… Includes: The Black Company; Shadows Linger; and The White Rose
- The Books of the South: Marching south after the ghastly battle at the Tower of Charm, the Black Company is hounded by shadowy figures every inch of the way. The game is on: the Company versus the Shadowmasters, deadly creatures that deal in darkness and sorrow. When hope dies, there’s still survival. And there’s still the Black Company. Includes: The Silver Spike; Shadow Games; and Dreams of Steel
- The Return of The Black Company: Taking place in part during Dreams of Steel, told from the point of view of Lady and sharing the events surrounding Murgen. She Is The Darkness marks the halfway point in the Books of the Glittering Stone in the Books on the Black Company. Includes: Bleak Seasons and She Is The Darkness
- The Many Deaths of The Black Company: Following disaster, the survivors regroup in Taglios and set out to free their comrades. In the second book of the volume, Croaker, who is no longer dictator of Taglios or Captain, resumes his old role as Annalist of the Company. Sleepy is now Captain, and no Black Company member has died in battle for four years. But when the Company’s old adversaries try to bring about the apocalyptic Year of the Skulls, the Company is brought to the edge of destruction. Includes: Water Sleeps and Soldiers Live
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