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Glen Cook

book review Glen Cook author(1944- )
Glen Cook is an American science fiction and fantasy author, best known for his fantasy series, The Black Company. Cook currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Swordbearer: Read The Black Company instead

The Swordbearer by Glen Cook

The Swordbearer is an early standalone novel by Glen Cook, originally published in 1982 and re-released by Nightshade Books in 2009. If you're a fan of Glen Cook, whose CHRONICLES OF THE BLACK COMPANY are classics of the genre, this would probably be an interesting read, as you'll be able to see some of the author's themes and quirks taking shape. However, taken on its own, The Swordbearer isn't anywhere near as good as some of Glen Cook's other works.

Gathrid, the main character, is the youngest son of a noble family who lives on the border with a growing empire. He wants to become a warrior like his older brothers, but isn't allowed because of his relative weakness which was caused by a childhood illness. When his childhood home becomes the latest front in the war with the east, he flees and stumbles upon the magic sword Daubendiek. The sword is, in a nutshell, a direct descendant of... Read More

The Black Company: Fantastical, anti-heroic fog of war

The Black Company by Glen Cook

The Black Company is an ancient mercenary brotherhood, its members as hard-bitten as skilled. As their ongoing commission in the city of Beryl disintegrates, they escape through the "trap-door" (in its fullest sense) of new employment by a mysterious northern sorcerer; and they soon find themselves the elite unit in the army of the Lady — a legendary figure who, in the eyes of the opposing Rebels, is the embodiment of evil.

The first of Glen Cook's Black Company novels, this one is narrated by Croaker, the company's chief medic and historian. His first-person, PG-13+ account is often vivid — though rarely with regard to settings — and moves quickly (though, due to his hard-boiled voice, not as quickly as one might expect from a paperback barely topping 300 pages); but at the same time, he makes few allowances fo... Read More

Shadows Linger: Hard boiled fantasy

Shadows Linger by Glen Cook

“Hard science fiction” focuses on the science of the story, often at the cost of character and plot. “Hard-boiled fiction” often features a cynical, jaded protagonist steadily battling against the forces of evil, but making little overall progress. The Black Company books are often categorized as military or dark fantasy, but perhaps “hard fantasy” would be more accurate, as Glen Cook combines the hard-boiled voice with classic fantasy tropes that we might expect to see in a board game.

The setting could not be any more “sword and sorcery” if it tried. There are ancient emperors of evil struggling to return from the dead. Meanwhile, Croaker and his company are an elite mercenary unit constantly battling for… well, not for good. If anything, they are fighting for an evil sorceress. Humanity is little more ... Read More

The White Rose: Cook’s dare pays off

The White Rose by Glen Cook

The final entry in a trilogy requires something special. In fantasy, that usually means finding godly machinery and amassing armies that will face each other on some distant, volcanic plain while a small band of covert heroes pull off a daring, one-in-a-million scheme.

However, up to this point, Glen Cook’s Black Company series has stood out for its noir atmosphere more than its epic company of mercenaries. Surprisingly, in The White Rose, Cook sacrifices his hard-boiled narrative for an epic fantasy storyline. It’s a daring, one-in-a-million scheme.

But it pays off.

Certainly Cook wastes no time trading in the noir for the epic: The White Rose opens in the Plain of Fear with Darling, now the White Rose and a general of her own unusual ar... Read More

Shadow Games: The Black Company regroups

Shadow Games by Glen Cook

It’s been so long since the Black Company left Khatovar that the annals of that time are lost. Now, the campaigns in the North against the Dominator and the Taken — powerful sorcerers that vied against one another for world domination — destroyed everything but a handful of the Company’s soldiers. It’s time to regroup.

Croaker, a former physician and Company annalist, is now the Company’s Captain. The Company retains its history and its merciless tactics. Its two wizards, Goblin and One-Eye, are still alive, and they still hate each other. And then there’s Lady. Lady had been one of the Taken, but she has now lost her power. There might be something between Lady and Croaker, but they have to take care of their responsibilities before they can figure out whether their shared attraction can turn into a relationship. Looking at his exhausted troops, Croaker decides to return to the distant Sout... Read More

Port of Shadows: A disappointing return to a fan-favorite series

Port of Shadows by Glen Cook

After nearly two decades, Glen Cook has finally returned to his beloved BLACK COMPANY series with an eleventh novel — Port of Shadows (2018) — set between books one and two (The Black Company and Shadows Linger, respectively). I loved this series when I read it ages ago and therefore approached news of a new addition with both excitement and trepidation, as I’ve had some bad experience with authors revisiting beloved series after a long absence. I wish I could say my excitement was rewarded, but unfortunately my trepidation turns out to have been the more accurate response. I’m going to assume r... Read More

Garrett for Hire: Collects three Garrett, P.I. adventures

Garrett for Hire by Glen Cook

Garrett for Hire is an omnibus edition of three books in Glen Cook’s popular GARRETT, P.I. series. These books are Deadly Quicksilver Lies, Petty Pewter Gods and Faded Steel Heat, books seven, eight and nine in the series, respectively. However, because each book fairly stands alone, I never felt that I was missing out on any important details by joining the series at the halfway point. Nor did I feel like I could have used a bit more background to fully appreciate the characters, events or location. Therefore, don’t let the fact that this omnibus isn’t comprised of books one, two and three keep you from reading it.

Garrett for Hire reads like a noir novel with a little bit of a Read More

The Tyranny of the Night: Give it time

The Tyranny of the Night by Glen Cook

The Tyranny of the Night has a lot of what one would expect from Glen Cook. A gritty atmosphere, a darkly wry sense of humor, a world-weary cynicism somehow melded with optimism, complex characters, a slowly engrossing story.

What doesn't it have? A map for one. Would it have killed the publishers to spend a few bucks having someone draw one? I'd have taken an editor's six-year-old kid's drawing of one if I could have. This book covers some serious geography and does so in such back-and-forth fashion that not having a map handy is almost unconscionable.

Almost as necessary — a glossary of characters. I almost never turn to them when they appear in other works, but in Tyranny Cook hop scotches among so many people — major characters, minor characters, minor characters who become major charac... Read More

Lord of the Silent Kingdom: Hugely complex

Lord of the Silent Kingdom by Glen Cook

In my review of Glen Cook’s first book in the Instrumentalities of the Night series, I bemoaned the lack of a map. Somehow, my opinion managed to go unheard and/or unheeded and so I’ll start again by asking if it would be too much to include a map in a book that jumps among a slew of kingdoms, countries, islands, and petty territories.

As a long-time fan of “epic” fantasy, I consider myself pretty well-versed in how to handle sweeping geography, but there were so many names of so many places playing a major role either in the active plot or in the backgrounds/motivations of characters that I became annoyingly bewildered by who was where and who was allying with whom.

The same is true of the names that get flashed by quite often, especially in the first third or so of the book, sometimes ... Read More

Surrender to the Will of the Night: Best Instrumentalities novel yet

Surrender to the Will of the Night by Glen Cook

PLOT SUMMARY: Piper Hecht’s first and greatest secret is that he knows how to kill gods. It is knowledge that makes him dangerous, but also puts him in danger — from his enemies, who fear what he might do, or who want revenge for what he has already done; and from his friends, who want to use his knowledge for their own purposes.

For example, Piper’s sister Heris and his living ancestor  Cloven Februaren, the Ninth Unknown, have made Hecht part of their fight against the return of the dark god, Kharoulke the Windwalker. At the same time, the half-mad Empress Katrin wants him to lead the armies of the Grail Empire eastward on a crusade into the Holy Lands against his fellow Pramans.

Meanwhile, all around them, the world is changing. The winters are growing longer and harder every year, and the seas are getting shallower. The far north and the high mountain rang... Read More

Working God’s Mischief: Nearly gave up

Working God’s Mischief by Glen Cook

Working God’s Mischief is Glen Cook’s fourth installment in his THE INSTRUMENTALITIES OF THE NIGHTseries. I had a mostly positive response to the opening novel, though it had its issues, but my pleasure waned somewhat through books two and three, leaving me to say at the end of my review of Surrender to the Will of Night that “the ratio between frustration and reward” was nearing the danger zone. Unfortunately, Working God’s Mischief did little to reverse that trend and in fact, for the first time in the series, I seriously considered giving it up. I persevered, but I’m not all that sure I’m happy I did so.

My irritation with the novel began off the bat. Perhaps it’s my readerly dotage, but I’m growing less and less patient with long-running series whose new installment don’t come with at least a little bit of a recap. For god’s sake, weekly ... Read More

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance is the best anthology I’ve ever read. These stories will be enjoyed by any SFF reader, but they’ll be ten times more fun if you’ve read Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth, because they are all written in honor of that fantastic work. Each tale is written in the style of Vance, which is quite amusing in itself, and each takes place on the Dying Earth, that far-future wasteland in which natural selection means survival of the cleverest, nastiest, sneakiest, and most self-serving.

Songs of the Dying Earth was written by “many high-echelon, top-drawer writers” (as Mr.... Read More

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery edited by Jonathan Strahan & Lou Anders

Swords & Dark Magic: The New Sword & Sorcery is a book I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since it was first announced in 2009. I was particularly excited about the anthology’s impressive list of contributors which includes several authors I enjoy reading like Glen Cook, Greg Keyes, Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie, Garth Nix, Tim Lebbon, Caitlin R. Kiern... Read More

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 2 edited by William Schafer

EDITOR INFORMATION: William K. Schafer is the head editor at Subterranean Press, which was founded in 1995. Schafer’s bibliography includes Embrace the Mutation: Fiction Inspired by the Art of J.K. Potter and the first Tales of Dark Fantasy anthology.

ABOUT SUBTERRANEAN: TALES OF DARK FANTASY 2: Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy — published in 2008 to widespread critical and popular acclaim — provided a unique showcase for some of our finest practitioners of dark, disturbing fiction. This much anticipated second volume more than meets the standards set by its predecessor, offering a diverse assortment of stories guaranteed to delight, unsettle, and enthrall. Volume two proper is a full 20,000 wo... Read More

Other books by Glen Cook

Dread Empire — (1979-2012) These have been reissued as omnibus editions. A Cruel Wind: A Chronicle Of The Dread Empire contains the main trilogy: A Shadow of All Night Falling, October’s Baby, All Darkness Met. A Fortress in Shadow: A Chronicle of the Dread Empire, contains the two prequel novels, The Fire in His Hands, With Mercy Toward None. An Empire Unacquainted with Defeat contains all of the short stories set in the DREAD EMPIRE world. Publisher: THE WAR THAT WIZARDS DREAD Across the mountains called Dragon’s Teeth, beyond the chill reach of the Werewind and the fires of the world’s beginning, above the walls of the castle Fangdred, stands Windtower. From this lonely keep the Star Rider calls forth the war that even wizards dread, fought for a woman’s hundred-lifetime love. A woman called Nepanthe, princess to the Stormkings…

Dread Empire A Cruel Wind, A fortress in shadow, Reap the East Wind, An Ill Fate MarshallingDread Empire A Cruel Wind, A fortress in shadow, Reap the East Wind, An Ill Fate MarshallingDread Empire A Cruel Wind, A fortress in shadow, Reap the East Wind, An Ill Fate MarshallingReap the East Wind Glen Cook Dread EmpireAn Ill Fate MarshallingAn Ill Fate Marshalling, A Path to Coldness of Heart

Starfishers — (1982-1985) Publisher: The vendetta in space had started centuries before “Mouse” Storm was born with his grandfather’s raid on the planet Prefactlas, the blood bath that freed the human slaves from their Sangaree masters. But one Sangaree survived — the young Norborn heir, the man who swore vengeance on the Storm family and their soldiers, in a carefully mapped plot that would take generations to fulfill. Now Mouse’s father Gneaus must fight for an El Dorado of wealth on the burning half of the planet Blackworld. As the great private armies of all space clash on the narrow Shadowline that divides inferno from life-sheltering shade, Gneaus’ half-brother Michael plays his traitorous games, and a man called Death pulls the deadly strings that threaten to entrap them all — as the Starfishers Trilogy begins.

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Dark War — (1985-1986) Publisher: The world grows colder with each passing year, the longer winters and ever-deepening snows awaking ancient fears within the Dengan Packstead, fears of invasion by armed and desperate nomads, attacks by the witchlike and mysterious Silth, able to kill with their minds alone, and of the Grauken, that desperate time when intellect gives way to buried cannibalistic instinct, when meth feeds upon meth. For Marika, a young pup of the Packstead, loyal to pack and family, times are dark indeed, for against these foes, the Packstead cannot prevail. But awakening within Marika is a power unmatched in all the world, a legendary power that may not just save her world, but allow her to grasp the stars themselves…

Glen Cook Dark War Doomstalker, Warlock, CeremonyGlen Cook Dark War Doomstalker, Warlock, CeremonyGlen Cook Dark War Doomstalker, Warlock, Ceremony


fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Heirs of Babylon — (1972) Publisher: It is the time of the gathering and all nations must pay tribute–Why Must They? Kurt wondered, as the decrepid destroyer JAGER wallowed through uncharted waters on its way to Gibralter, the Gathering of the fleet, and the final meeting with the Enemy. It was sad to think how man fad fallen from the days when such vessels as the JAGER had been built. Now the last men struggled on in isolated communities, maintaining machines they could no longer build, ruled wner by the distant Pllitical Office in the person of the much despised and universally feared Political Officers. These black phantoms ruled manking, telling one how to think, how to act, and when to obey the call to the Gathering. And now the call had come for Kurt to sail off to Gibraltar to the Gathering — the ritual massing of the fleet for the War, the Gathering from which no one had ever returned.

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsA Matter of Time  — (1985) Publisher: May 1975. St. Louis. In a snow-swept street, a cop finds the body of a man who died fifty years ago. It’s still warm. July 1866, Lidice, Bohemia: A teenage girl calmly watches her parents die as another being takes control of her body. August 2058, Prague: Three political rebels flee in to the past, taking with them a terrible secret. As past, present, and future collide, one man holds the key to the puzzle. And if he doesn’t fit it together, the world he knows will fall to pieces. It’s just A Matter of Time!

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThe Dragon Never Sleeps — (1988) Publisher: Glen Cook (The Black Company, The Dread Empire) delivers a masterpiece of galaxy spanning space opera! For four thousand years, the Guardships ruled Canon Space with an iron fist. Immortal ships with an immortal crew roaming the galaxy, dealing swiftly and harshly with any mercantile houses or alien races that threatened the status quo. But now the House Tregesser believes they have an edge; a force from outside Canon Space offers them the resources to throw off Guardship rule. Their initial gambits precipitate an avalanche of unexpected outcomes, the most unpredicted of which is the emergence of Kez Maefele, one of the few remaining generals of the Ku Warrior race – the only race to ever seriously threaten Guardship hegemony. Kez Maefele and a motley group of mysterious aliens, biological constructs, and scheming aristocrats find themselves at the center of the conflict. Maefele must choose which side he will support; the Guardships, who defeated and destroyed his race, or the unknown forces from outside Canon Space that promise more death and destruction.

Glen Cook Tower of Fear review The Tower of Fear — (1989) Publisher: The City of Qushmarrah is uneasy under the rule of the Herodians -short, balding men whose armies would never have conquered the city had not the great and evil wizard Narkar been killed and sealed in his citadel; had not the savage nomad Datars turned coat and sided with the invaders; had not some traitor opened the fortress to them.Not many would welcome the return of the old religion, the bloody return of wizardry… but there are some patriots who would accept the return of the devil they know, if it meant the return of independence.

Glen Cook review Sung n BloodSung in Blood — (1990) Publisher: Protector Jerhke has kept Shasessrre peaceful for hundreds of years. After his brutal murder, his son Rider tries to discover his father’s murderer. Rider is helped in his search by his companions, as they battle against the agents of the mysterious Kralj Odehnal. But the murderous dwarf turns out to be an introduction to greater terror, as they match wits with Shai Khe, the powerful sorcerer who wants to rule Shaess

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsWinter’s Dreams — (2012) Publisher: Glen Cook is, of course, best known for his enormously popular series fiction, which includes the Garrett P.I. and Dread Empire sequences, as well as the internationally acclaimed Chronicles of the Black Company. Readers familiar only with this aspect of Cook’s career will find a great many pleasures — and an equal number of surprises — in his vibrant new collection, Winter’s Dreams. The fourteen standalone stories in Winter’s Dreams range in length from vignettes (‘Appointment in Samarkand’) to novellas (‘In the Wind’). Together, they encompass an astonishing variety of themes, tones, styles, and settings. Not one of these stories bears the slightest resemblance to the others. Each one manages to enchant, illuminate, and entertain in its own distinctive fashion. In the near future America of ‘Song from a Forgotten Hill,’ the nations’ tragic racial history replays itself in an all too familiar form. ‘The Seventh Fool’ recounts the comic misadventures of a charming con man who outsmarts both his gullible target–and himself. ‘The Waiting Sea’ encapsulates the entire life history of a navy veteran haunted by the sea — and by the faceless voices only he can hear. In ‘Ponce,’ a poverty stricken St. Louis family encounters a mysterious blue-eyed dog — a dog that serves as a conduit to the undisclosed secrets of the universe. ‘The Recruiter’ presents a powerfully disturbing portrait of an ultra-violent future and asks the question: How far will a man go in order to survive? Equally suitable both for newcomers and for long-time Glen Cook fans, Winter’s Dreams is something special, a consistently enthralling volume that claims new imaginative territory at every turn.