Fast-reading adventure story. Narrator has a laconic, soldierly way of telling the story. Sometimes I really liked this understated manner, but it often made it difficult for me to connect with the characters, which were fairly one-dimensional. The Black Company runs through a lot of adventures, but it is clearly the build-up to the story told in subsequent books. I enjoyed it while it was reading it, but ended up feeling dissatisfied and uninterested in seeing what happens to the characters.
"We are the last of the Twelve True Companies. We have out-endured the others by more than a century, but I fear we're into our twilight days. I fear this may be the Company's final commission. A page of history is about to turn. Once it does, the great warrior brotherhoods will be gone and forgotten."
Thus begins this chapter in the chronicles of The Black Company. They are a band of mercenaries. They care not on which side they fight. But they are honorable, and will fight to the death for whomever has commissioned them. They are also a brotherhood that has survived more than a millenium, as is testified in their annals.
Croaker is the current Annalist, and he believes he will be the last when the company takes a commission to serve The Soulcatcher, one of the Twelve, in defense of The Lady, as she trys to claim rule of the world from the followers of The White Rose, and the Circle of Eighteen.
This is a good dark fantasy novel pitting good, evil, and The Company against each other. The reader will cheer the brothers and find it difficult to determine what is good and what is not outside the eyes of the narrator. There is lots of barbarism and magic, with some comic relief. I really enjoyed this story, and can't wait to read the next in the series.
The Black Company is a fresh perspective on a typical fantasy story. Like most fantasy, there are evil villains and rebel forces that are trying to overthrow an evil sorceress that is ruling the land as a tyrant. What makes this book different is that it is told from the point of view of a member of a group of mercenaries that is working for the evil sorceress. The story takes place in the trenches and the reader does not know any more about what is going on than the main character knows (the story is told in first person). I found the new (to me) point of view interesting. I liked many of the characters in the black company and I found myself rooting for them, even though they were on the bad guy's side. The book was a slow read for me. I think this is because it was written from this perspective. At times it was frustrating that there were holes in the story, but that is because the character telling the story did not know what was going on either. Overall I am glad I read the book and I will be picking up the next book in the series soon.
When I first started reading this book, I didn't care for it much at all. My initial reaction was to fling it away from me and start something else. The reason for this reaction, I think, was because the writing is somewhat rough and unpolished. Later it became clear (or at least possible) that the writing was supposed to be this way. The story is told in the first-person from the point of view of a soldier-physician in a mercenary army in some fantasy setting. On top of his other duties, he is in charge of writing the Annals, or keeping records of what this mercenary army does, and it turns out that the book you are reading is actually the Annals. Once this is explained so that I couldn't entirely blame the roughness on a young writer's ineptitude, I was able to tolerate the writing style. Or else I just got used to it.
As the story opens, the author writes as though you already know all the background, as though you've been reading hundreds of years worth of the Annals already. I found it hard to understand the politics behind the battles, who was fighting who, and even what each of the characters was supposed to be. Despite this, I managed to get pulled into the story. This story had an entirely unacceptable ending, and although this book didn't distinguish itself much at all, I find that I must read the sequel so I can find out what happens next. Perhaps this feeling will fade.
The most interesting aspect of the book was the main character. He doesn't tell us any of his past besides hinting that it's a bad one, but he seems to be a genuinely good-hearted guy mixed up in a world where everyone else is a scoundrel to the worst degree. Yet he manages to flourish and tell his stories from a somewhat original point of view. Unfortunately, although he cares about the other characters, I could never bring myself to.
Despite all of these drawbacks, this was definitely an action-packed adventure. As long as you're willing to not need to think much and as long as you have no actual desire for any character development or any actual description of a setting, this is not a bad book.
I enjoyed this first book of the Black Company series. I especially liked how the members learned about the White Rose and the powers of the Circle of Eighteen. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Shadows Linger.
Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself. The hardbitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must, burying their boubts with their dead.
Until the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more. There must be a way for the Black Company to find her . . .
Sword and Sorcery with a vengeance!
I agree with the other reviewers. The writing style does take some getting used to. You are dropped into the middle of the story, and have to figure out the background as you go along. But stick with it! The story does take off in the next book (which I found and read first) and the series is a love-it-or-hate-it kinda series. I personally loved it!