Quick review: Think Malazan Book of the Fallen, but focusing only on the marines. Sounds good right?
Especially given the fact that MBotF is one of my all-time favorite series and the marines were always my favorite parts. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I enjoyed this more, but I can't help but make the comparison and think it a good one. Don't ask me how my mind works, I obviously don't have a clue.
The comparison also makes sense because this series was influential on Erikson's MBotF. They're completely different, but the cynicism is definitely there in this mercenary band (I'm talking about The Black Company now) and it doesn't hold your hand as you're getting acquainted with the book.
As a big Malazan fan, I'm also a huge fan of authors that let you struggle. Authors that trust the intelligence of their readers, that they'll get it, they'll figure things out, and they'll be rewarded by it as well.
I think the part where The Black Company diverges quite a bit from the Malazan world is that where Malazan is vast, The Black Company is not. The limited viewpoint, following the first person account of Croaker (Crokus anyone?) who's both the company healer and historian, definitely holds back the worldbuilding, but I'm not complaining either. Just noting. And that's not to say it's not vast, you just don't get a sense of the world as much when you only follow a single person. I'm sure the world expands as the series progresses.
Overall, this was a really fun book. It's not black and white, you don't even really know if The Black Company is fighting for the right side, but that's what makes it good. They're just trying to make it through their commission.
Plus, there are some great, zany characters, like One-Eye and Goblin, who magically duel each other constantly, pranking each other with the most ridiculous things and then having more ridiculous things gobble up the previous ridiculous things. It's just great fun.
Croaker, the narrator as I mentioned, has a great voice. He takes his job seriously, but there's no pretense either. I can't wait to read more from the annals of the Black Company.
4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)
The Player of Games
7 hours ago