Monday, February 23, 2009


Well, I'm back from my trip to Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, and other associated weird places in south Texas. Spencer and I went hiking there with Grandma and Grandpa and had a blast, saw cool stuff, and were a heckuva lot warmer than we would have been had we remained in Michigan that week.

But, I'll make that the subject of another blog. With pictures. Right now, I'm just going to mention that I spent a fair amount of the time on planes and in airports (as you can probably imagine) and I took The Black Company with me. Anticipating that I might finish that and want to read some more, I took the follow-up book, Shadows Linger. Unexpectedly (at least, I didn't expect it) I nearly finished them both in just two days of travel.

I've read them both before (more than once even), but I've never read beyond the original three books of the Black Company series. A few months ago, however, I picked up the next three books in Omnibus format, and I decided that before I read them I'd re-acquaint myself with the original three. Right now, I'm about halfway through the third book, The White Rose after which I'll read the Ombibus Books of the South which includes the formerly solo novels Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel and the technically spin-off book, The Silver Spike.

I like these books. The style is not my favorite; it's too conversational, too Spartan, lacking in details, and generally not as fun to read (for me) because I'm always aware of the narrator and never completely "sink" into the text. Not that Croaker isn't a competent and interesting character to serve as a viewpoint character in a first person story (he plays around with that a bit by giving us other viewpoints in the second and third books: Shed the inkeeper turned murderer, Corbie the disguised version of an older Raven, and Bomanz, the too-curious wizard who kinda sorta started all the problems that the books chronicle) but I just don't prefer that style of writing.

However, the story itself is enough to win me over. As do the tropes and conventions that The Black Company sets up. The Black Company is often called the first "military fantasy"---taking military fiction and placing it in a fantasy setting. It's also unabashedly dark fantasy; not only does it contain a fair number of horror elements, but it also is grim, gritty, and focuses on the nastiness of human nature. It combines elements of Sword & Sorcery, namely the mundane vs. the rather nasty magical, the amoral viewpoint and the rather gritty nature of the stories, but has elements from High Fantasy as well, including the world-shaking consequences, Dark Lords, and epic battles. "The Lady"---revealed later to be Dorotea Senjak---is one of the more intriguing characters in fantasy; a Dark Lord who isn't really all that dark when you get down to it, and who is later very humanized and made sympathetic towards the end of the run (of what I've read so far; apparently that trend will continue as I get to the Books of the South and the Glittering Stone story arcs.)

Anyway; reviews of the "new" (to me, anyway) Black Company books when I'm done with them. Afterwards, I'm not sure what I'll read, but I'm kinda angling towards the second Malazan book, Deadhouse Gates.

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