Port of Shadows by Glen Cook
When it was announced that Glen Cook would be penning his first new The Black Company novel in seventeen years the hype was, understandably, at fever pitch. There are very few authors who have revolutionised a literary genre like Glen Cook did for fantasy fiction. Steven Erikson, the author of the renowned Malazan Book of the Fallen series is most often quoted regarding Cook, saying that Cook “single-handedly changed the face of fantasy … He brought the story down to a human level, dispensing with the cliché archetypes of princes, kings, and evil sorcerers. Reading his stuff was like reading Vietnam War fiction on peyote.”
You can see the impact of Cook’s contribution to fantasy literature in the works of authors like Steven Erikson, to name but one great author. So, when Glen Cook announced that he would be publishing his first new Black Company novel in seventeen years, one would certainly have hoped for something that lived up to the genre-breaking days of yore.
Unfortunately, all that hype – justified though it may have been – has led to, what I believe, is a growing trend in the publishing industry. We have seen it with authors like Neal Stephenson, Brandon Sanderson, and others, and now I think we see a glimpse of it with Glen Cook; In short, the level of fan hype and critical success gives the author too much control and, in turn, relieves an editor of the necessary tools and influence to do their job properly. In the end, therefore, we end up with a book that needed an editor’s firm hand on the tiller.
For those intent on going in to reading Port of Shadows with a critical eye, an unfortunate harbinger of trouble is seen on one of the very first pages of the book under the heading “Copyright Acknowledgements”. Specifically, three chapters from the book have already been published as standalone short-stories – and, regardless of whether you have read them before or not, you can certainly tell this is the case.
In fact, the whole book feels very much as if it is a collection of short stories, desperately wrangled into a full-length book through a semi-coherent framing device which, while interesting – and certainly in line with Cook’s desire to never shirk the dirty realities of humanity at war – seems both contrived and plodding.
Which is disappointing in the extreme because, in my opinion, this is where the lack of proper editorial control can be most vividly seen. All of the parts which went in to making Port of Shadows are pure Cook: the Black Company are contracted for a job which puts them at the heart of mammoth political intrigue, spun out and manipulated by the Lady; Croaker is close to his very best as an unintentionally biased observer, and his bias allows for the author to sneak some clever plot lines past the reader; and the overall plot of the main story – which isn’t, really, clearly seen until halfway through the book, due primarily to the use of three pre-written short stories being dragged kicking and screaming in to form the first half – is captivating, shadowy, and much in line with other Black Company stories.
So, in the end, while Port of Shadows is by no means a failure or a flop, it is nevertheless disappointing, in that it seems Cook did not allow for the sort of editorial control which might have smoothed out many of the crinkles and warps.
A minor note for fans of The Black Company series, there is an intentional attempt on the part of the author to convey the idea of untrustworthy narrators and historical inaccuracies, as passed down through later compilers. This leaves the reader of previous Black Company books baffled and thinking that a mistake has been made in editorial, rather than some clever literary ploy. For those wanting to avoid this, there is a Postscript at the very end which, if read first, might smooth matters out.
While Glen Cook’s contribution to the fantasy genre can never really be overstated, and the thrill of reading another Black Company book remains, Port of Shadows will likely not go down as one of Cook’s better entries. With a more involved editor and a willingness to rely less on previously-published short stories, Port of Shadows could have been a thrilling, captivating, and twisting addition to the series. Instead, it ends up just being mostly confusing and out of place.
This Port of Shadows book review was written by Joshua S Hill
All reviews for: Chronicles of the Black Company
Port of Shadows
Chronicles of the Black Company
The soldiers of the Black Company don't ask questions, they get paid. But being "The Lady's favored" is attracting the wrong kind of attention and has put...
The Silver Spike
Chronicles of the Black Company: Barrowlands, Book 1
...embedded in the trunk of the scion of the godtree, it contains the essence of the maddest of the Ten Who Were Taken...The Dominator. Defeated by the Lady and cast from t...
The Black Company
Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 1
Darkness wars with darkness as the hard-bitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must. They bury their doubts with their dead. Then comes the prophec...
Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 2
Mercenary soldiers in the service of the Lady, the Black Company stands against the rebels of the White Rose. They are tough men, proud of honoring their contracts. The Lad...
The White Rose
Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 3
She is the last hope of good in the war against the evil sorceress known as the Lady. From a secret base on the Plains of Fear, where even the Lady hesitates to go, the Bla...
Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the South, Book 1
After the devastating battle at the Tower of Charm, Croaker leads the greatly diminished Black Company south, in search of the lost Annals. The Annals will be returned to K...
Dreams of Steel
Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the South, Book 2
After the Company's defeat at Dejagore, Lady, one of the few survivors, sets out to avenge herself and the Company against the Shadowmasters, and she joins forces with ...
Have you read Port of Shadows?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
Port of Shadows reader reviews
6/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
A Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen
Bled dry by interminable warfare, infighting and bloody confrontations with Lord Anomander Rake and his Tiste Andii, the vast, sprawling Malazan empire simmers with discont...
A Brightness Long Ago
Guy Gavriel Kay
International bestselling author Guy Gavriel Kay's latest work is set in a world evoking early Renaissance Italy and offers an extraordinary cast of characters whose li...
On the world of Kuf, the Macht are a mystery, a seldom-seen people of extraordinary ferocity and discipline whose prowess on the battlefield is the stuff of legend. For cen...
Shadow Ops series
Army Officer. Fugitive. Sorcerer. Across the country and in every nation, people are waking up with magical talents. Untrained and panicked, they summon storms, raise the d...
The Divine Cities Trilogy
Robert Jackson Bennett
A special omnibus edition, collecting all three books of Robert Jackson Bennett’s acclaimed Divine Cities trilogy in a single volume. &nbs...
The Rigante Novels
Born in the storm that doomed his father, Connavar grows to manhood among the mist-covered mountains of Caer Druagh, where the Rigante tribe dwell in harmony with the land ...
The First Law
Inquisitor Glokta, a crippled and increasingly bitter relic of the last war, former fencing champion turned torturer extraordinaire, is trapped in a twisted and broken body...
The Ascendants of Estorea
The Estorean Conquord has stood for 850 years. Its Advocate, Herine Del Aglios, knows that she presides over the greatest civilisation in history. But she wants more. And i...
The Drenai Novels
The Legend Druss, Captain of the Axe: the stories of his life were told everywhere. Instead of the wealth and fame he could have claimed, he had chosen a mountain lair, hig...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages: