Glen Cook – Shadows Linger

Shadows Linger (1984) is the second book by Glen Cook about the Black Company. The first three books, combined in the omnibus edition The Chronicles Of The Black Company that I have, form a trilogy as events and characters in these books are related to each other.

In Shadows Linger years have passed since the epic events of the the first book. While The Black Company knew an impressive pace to combine the whole story, Cook now tells a simpler and more straightforward tale. He gives the plot more depth by following another narrative besides the one we know from the first book. We see things from a different point of view but Cook also provides the preparation and setting for when the two the story lines will come together. The slower pace is by no means weakening the story. The first book was a rush, but now we have time to explore and give the characters opportunity to build. Talking about characters, the lack of the rush allowed me to notice how little Cook describes most of his characters. For example, I still have no idea what the narrator himself looks like. Cook leaves it to the reader to imagine them themselves. I kind of like that.

Cook also is very capable of avoiding the typical fantasy cliches while his twists come far more naturally than others authors who use twists as a tool to surprise the reader. The twists in the story that Cook presents are always logical. In a development there are many forks to choose from. He simply picks one that you would not have expected. You would have thought it possible, but most writers would pick the choice which would be the most tough one, the one with the biggest conflict. As such, the story goes from conflict to conflict, it all happening together being a large chain of coincidences. Cook does it differently and uses the other fork to provide new twists of their own.

Are there weaknesses? It is hard to say. One thing is that Cook does not really explains. He makes things up for the plot, but the how or why sometimes remains a mystery. Of course it told from a first person point of view, so we don’t get to know more than the narrator, although he gets to know far more than others would have.

Character development, as explained in my review of the first book, plays a minor role for Cook. The story is most important and that parts is well done. With a book of only 200 pages he keeps putting in a lot of story where many authors these days need double or triple. Of course these are different times, so one could also say they are allowed to now.

Shadows Linger in itself forms a story of its own and although having read the first book would come in handy one would be able to read and enjoy the book separately. The book is not as powerful as the first one, but for a so-called middle book it is a great read. Another recommendation.

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