Glen Cook – Shadow Games

Shadow Games (1989) by Glen Cook starts immediately after the events of The White Rose. Unlike the previous novels about the Black Company this fourth installment does require some knowledge of the previous events. What starts as a brand new chapter quickly becomes a true sequel series. This series about a band of soldiers getting into the mids of epic events and fighting at almost invincible sorcerers has kept me going for more and I am lucky that I discovered him so late: I don’t have to wait that long for the next book.

In Shadow Games Cook makes a break in his style. While the first series was told from a first person narrator with one or two other viewpoints added it based on information provided afterwards. Although the first person narrative remains, there are now several other ones which don’t feel like being a recollection told afterwards. There are too many unnecessary details or details of which chances are too low to have been told to the narrator at some point.

The setting of the story is also different. More time is spent on travel and the action is much less. What is actually really different is that we for the first time get to see some full scale battles. These were often tuned-down or summarized in the previous book as the narrator rarely spent time at the frontline.

Shadow Games clearly isn’t a standalone novel. The book ends in a big cliffhanger (doesn’t hurt to spoil that) and luckily I have the next book to read (that’s why I spoil: make sure you have the next book already!) or else times would have been tense. The previous books all had a sort of ending, albeit some open threads for the next story.

As the book is still only about 200 pages long Cook could have just written a bigger novel with the complete story. Shadow Games connects and provides the new setting and although it entertains it lacks the power and momentum of the previous novels because of this reason. Like the Black Company the reader is detached from familiar surroundings. The style is different, old characters are gone and many new ones are added. Still, with only so few pages Cook fill its with plenty of story, more than we are used to these days, so it is impossible to say it is weak. The familiar characters hold our heart and the typical Cook humor and settings are as we know them. This book is still much better than most fantasy. It is only weaker compared to its predecessors. The next book will tell where things will really go. This book will be recommended, just make sure to read it after the previous ones.

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