Review: The Black Company
The Black Company I have decided is not a story, as such. It’s much more a history. The choice of narrator, Croaker the chronicler and medic of the titular military group, makes for something that moves back and forth from diary to textbook.
None of that unfortunately make for a very good novel. The events of the Black Company moving from bloody battlefield to bloody battlefield are reported with the oft complaining tone of a man who’d like nothing more than to leave his responsibilities are rarely relatable or even obnoxious as horrible acts of violence are reported with the emotional level of an accountant ledger.
Though the book is full of a lot of well thought out and believable details that give no question of what it must be like to see a military band move through the world sowing chaos and death wherever they are paid to do so. The problem is that the choice of narrator means that watching is all that we are ever allowed to do. The emotion of the moment and the power of the scene is never conveyed because we are always removed from the words on the page by the perspective of the narrator.
The events of the book are also disconnected. The huge world changing forces that move the Black Company along never really touch the narrator who is, not exactly happy to be, pulled along by the powerful magic and political forces at work. There’s also a vampire for some reason.
The world presented is fascinating. The way magic works and the system that exists for wizards and mages to operate in a military capacity is really interesting, but never put to practical use except in the report of the outcome of a battle or maneuver. There is a glimmer of the larger world with an evil queen and the forces she works even at a personal level with the narrator, and yet it seems to go nowhere and eventually be irrelevant to the outcome of the plot, which is left to later books we are left to assume.
The characters of the Company are also interesting, far more than the narrator, but they are left to live and die off screen often, and so never evolve beyond interesting so that no connection can really be made beyond an appreciation for their odd physical quirks and mental ticks.
The Black Company gets two stars out of five.