Two nights ago, I finished Glen Cook’s The Black Company: Chronicles of the North. It was just ok. The short, clipped style I referenced before didn’t entirely disappear, but it definitely calmed down as the stories went on. Throughout it all, you still lacked a sense of what was really going on. Well, perhaps in the third book you got a bit of that, but then what you knew misled you from what was really going on. That sort of a twist only works well for me if it was set up properly; as in, looking back through the book there was evidence that the twist was either coming or plausible, even if you didn’t recognize it at the time. In this case, there was neither.
In the end, I liked the second book the best (a strange trend for me – my favorites in their respective series’ are The Two Towers, and The Empire Strikes Back). It had the most coherent plot, the most well defined supporting characters, and the best scary/oppressive bad guy device – the black castle. I really enjoyed that.
By the end of the third book, I felt like I had really grown to know Croaker a lot more than I anticipated at the beginning, but I wish we had seen more of him as the surgeon, and more of the narrative developing from his perspective in the battlefield operating room, but that didn’t happen. All in all, it was an ok read, but not one I would consider mandatory by fantasy fans.
After I finished that book, I looked over my “to-read” pile and settled on Blood of Ambrose by James Enge. But I was too tired to start it. When I got up in the morning, I went to pick it up but found myself far more interested in Mark Chadbourn’s Age of Misrule: World’s End. Funny how one’s preference can change like that over night. Maybe Blood of Ambrose sounded too much like the Black Company or something.
Well, I immediately liked it upon commencing it. The style was approachable and I just like the way British authors use the language – like they’re more practiced at it, oh, wait, they are. The cover admittedly is a bit young-adultish, but so far the novel hasn’t struck me as that way at all. Putting that aside, that big green guy looks cool! Good cover art, though I could do without the shadows of the (I guess they are the) heroes. I get that the big green guy is a bad guy and that he is likely the causer of hopeless situations, so I don’t need the futilely small human figures to help me figure that out, thank you.
The story, so far, actually has some nice horror elements to it, and ones that I actually found frightening, which is always a surprise. I found myself looking forward to being able to pick it up again, which is always a great sign when starting a new book. The other great sign was that both of the next two in the trilogy were available on half.com for a total of $9 and change, shipping and all. Ordered.
Some lines have already stuck out to me, which didn’t happen in The Black Company. This means I like the style, which is great, but I already mentioned that. Here’s my two favorites so far:
“lulled by the whirring of disk drives…”
“She didn’t have much in the way of a social life. It was like she was holding her breath, waiting for something to happen.”