Water Sleeps by Glen Cook

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Rating 8.5/10
Another great addition to one of the hallmarks of fantasy literature.

Glen Cook’s “The Black Company” series has been oft-heralded as a landmark in fantasy writing, thanks primarily for its turn towards gritty realism and ground-level storytelling. In many ways, ‘Water Sleeps’, the eighth novel in the series, is the book that most captures this idea.

Narrated by Sleepy, the book continues the ever-evolving nature of the Annalist by passing the role on to yet another young, inexperienced character. But this time, and unlike Murgen’s sometimes confusing narrative, Sleepy brings the story back to basics.

The story is yet another in the long continuation of the Black Company’s attempts to reach Khatovar, so if you haven’t read the other books, this is not going to be a starting point. In many ways, Glen Cook has written one long story that just happens to be accidentally broken up into book-sized pieces. There is almost no “standalone-ness” to his work, which is not a problem if you are willing to hang around for the lengthy waits between books.

Published in 1999, the book is the second last book in the series so far published – but not the second last in the series, with at least two more still to come (with no signs of ever seeing them, yet).

Sleepy is probably my favourite character so far from the whole series. She’s the perfect combination of smart, bookish, isolated, and nervous that I respond very well to her. Her exploits are brilliantly written and imagined, and the world in which she has been forced to inhabit causes her to react in ways that really grow the character.

There is not much more that can be said about this series that has not already been said. It’s gritty, dark, sometimes morbid but always fascinating, and nothing is ever really resolved – just temporarily satiated.

Water Sleeps is another great addition to one of the hallmarks of fantasy literature.

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