Glen Cook – She Is The Darkness

Gradually I’m nearing the end of the (current) books about the Black Company by Glen Cook. The eight book, named She Is The Darkness (1997), is a treat, as it is almost 400 pages in size, while all the previous novels have been just over 200 pages. Such a longer size also leaves a different feel than before because it just doesn’t end as soon as you were used to.

She Is The Darkness picks up immediately after Bleak Seasons. Cook made the cut between the two because Bleak Seasons is more a connecting story with flashbacks while She Is The Darkness takes place in the now. The eight books about the mercenaries of the Black Company finally gives us an all out war campaign. In the earlier books we got mainly fragments, summaries or final battles but now we get full details. This in no means slows the story down. Cook keeps on his usual fast pace, but simply spends more time on the actual fighting. In the war campaign he deftly avoids events turning repetitive and provides great ingenuity with surprising twists and turns.

The narrative remains the same first person view as in Bleak Seasons. As usual Cook manages to presents us with many clearly defined characters even as they play only a minor role. Either good or bad, all of them are likeable in a certain way. They are a joy to read.

Cook’s prose remains smooth, relatively simple and easy to read. After reading several novels in a row I do noticed that Cook has some standard way of phrasing things when describing certain scenes. I don’t see this is an issue as one should describe it as it would fit, not change it just to keep your prose variating more.

She Is The Darkness is one of the best books of the Black Company. The war campaign is a joy to read. Still it is not the best book (currently for me the first book). The problem of She Is The Darkness is that it is still part of a greater story (book two of Glittering Stone) and apparently Cook did not have an apt ending for it as he had with the first two books. Up till three quarters the story will blow your mind out but it does not lead to a peak but somewhat of a cliffhanger (yes, I need to spoil a bit here if I’m able to add some lesser points, but I’m not giving anything really away). It is an ending of sorts, but compared to the first three quarter of the book it is a bit slower with less action, which is somewhat unusual compared to the usual setup of a fantasy story.

I was already wondering about how Cook would manage the end of the story when I got halfway. So much had happened already and I knew two more books would follow. The ending is interesting but lacks in some ways, but it is more a setup for the next stage than a certain closure of the events of the book. As I haven’t read the next book yet, I cannot say if Cook could have done it differently. I expect not. This is sometimes the choice a writer has to make when he wants to tell a large story. He has to cut it up to get it published while still making the books stand sufficiently on their own. This was certainly the case with books 4 (Shadow Games) and 7 (Bleak Seasons). Because of this She Is The Darkness can only claim spot 2 on my best Black Company list. Nevertheless this book get my full recommendation. Even with so much backstory She Is The Darkness would still be able to stand on its own (not counting the final part).

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