The overall feel of the novel can best be described as Grimdark Epic Fantasy. This isn’t to say that the book is some sort of blood and gore romp, but simply that the characters of the company themselves are amoral. The technical greatest evil in the book is The Lady whom employs the company to help her oust a rebellion. Though the company only holds themselves to the standards of their paying customer, they do have the redeeming quality of finding little enjoyment in their service to The Lady and much of the novel’s plot is the company’s attempt to free themselves from her service without marring the company’s reputation of no broken contracts.
The company’s war against The Lady’s rebellion thrusts them into a desperate stand which instantly became one of my favorite epic battles in fantasy literature. Glen Cook’s writing is tight and his descriptions of battles and skirmishes are nothing short of excellent. The only drawback I had in this story was the apparent lack of setting. The company moves around quite a bit in this tale but Cook rarely goes into any description of setting, not even much of a groundwork for the imagination.
The greatest strength of The Black Company is the interesting and well developed characters and their relationships with the other members of the company. Many of the men in the story have crooked backgrounds, yet when a man joins the company he is joining a brotherhood. Everyone is equal and has a voice, even if they are not an officer. The first chronicle of The Black Company is more than a mission, it’s the journey of an army of men who live and die for their brothers and for the legacy of their company.
The Black Company is a worthwhile read for any fantasy fan interested in the origins of the subgenre Grimdark or military fantasy in general.
Guest Review by Eric Fomley of Grimdark Alliance