Bleak Seasons by Glen Cook
Review by Joshua S Hill
You may simply have to suck it up and realise that not all books will be written in the same style or with the same flow as the majority. This does not mean they are any less brilliant, it just means you have to stop for a moment and think.
With each book of Glen Cook’s The Black Company series this is a mantra I would suggest to anyone who thinks the author is dragging the story out. Just because something doesn’t make immediate sense does not mean the book is poorly written or slow; Cook is just writing in a way that serves the purpose of the story he wants to tell.
So if you don’t like his story, go away!, because I am seriously loving every instalment.
‘Bleak Seasons’ takes place concurrently with ‘Dreams of Steel’ but is told from Murgen’s point of view, while also jumping forward four years for half of the book. Murgen, the Company’s Standard Bearer and new Annalist, is jumping through time, with no control and no understanding as to the greater purpose of it. So the reader is treated to two stories that are unfolding simultaneously, but are separated by four years which are only hinted at as the book weaves on.
Glen Cook once again brings us the realistic point of view of the soldier. The horror that was only hinted at during Dreams of Steel in Dejagore is experienced vividly and horrifically here in Bleak Seasons. Those stuck within Dejagore and the terrible actions they are witness too are enough to scar any man, and do so. And again Cook doesn’t spare us, with the actions of soldiers in battle seeming to severe them completely from the rest of humanity, if only for a little while.
This horror is juxtaposed with extreme joy which, in turn, is brought to terrible ruin by the end of the book. I was not so much shocked – as Cook has somewhat inured me to the death of characters I love – but I was desperately saddened.
I really find myself unable to get enough of Cook’s writing. The desperate horror of war as seen from the soldier’s point of view paints a new picture of the epic fantasy we so often fawn over. It changes your opinion of all that you read from that point on, leaving you craving a portion of the experience you see below you from the height of your heroes. And it changes the way you think of the nature of humanity, exposing its fragility and clarifying just how close to barbarism humanity exists.
Glen Cook has the reputation he has today for a reason; he’s a marvellous storyteller with an eye for detail that captures the attention rather than bores it, and focuses the attention down onto ground level where the hardest choices are made. You’ll be exhausted, emotionally drained, and probably really sad, but Bleak Seasons is definitely worth the read.
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