Books of the South: Tales of the Black Company
Tor, Jun 2008, $15.95
“Shadow Games”. The Black Company took heavy losses at the battle of the Tower of Charm. Croaker leads what is left of his comrades in arms on a quest to find the lost Annals in order to bring it to the free companies’ birth city Khatovar that may not exist outside of ancient history or perhaps mythos. The expedition is dangerous from the natural predators, but they must deal with shadowmaster wizards who believe humans are expendable at a time the squad still hurts.
“Dreams of Steel”. Following another devastating battle at Degajore, Croaker is missing and probably dead. A former brutal wizard-empress, Lady is in charge of those members of the Black Company that escaped the city’s death trap. She struggles to rally her force as they must make a desperate attack on the seemingly invincible shadowmaster wizards.
“The Silver Spike”. As much of the Black Company survivors trek south in search of legendary Khatovar, some depart. Darling rejects Raven, who becomes bitter and an alcoholic until Philodendron Case begins to help him. Darling and Silent return to their underground haven. Others are also in retreat and hiding.
This omnibus contains books 4-6 and is a natural follow-up to the first omnibus reprint (see CHRONICLES OF THE BLACK COMPANY containing the first three tales - The Black Company, Shadows Linger, and The White Rose). The fine military fantasy saga holds up well through books 4 and 5 and the twists appear plausible as Glen Cook provides the full impact of war on people. However, the Omnibus edition enhances flaws as Lady seems to have the same command voice as Croaker that is blatantly obvious when reading Shadow Games and Dreams of Steel and The Silver Spike is a fascinating sidebar tying up some dangling threads, but feels out of place (though it is my personal favorite). Still the Black Company remains strong military fantasy.