What happens when your main character gets enthralled by the bad guy girl and no one knows? You swap to another character and have her tell the story until the main character is healthy enough to add his own perspective to the story.
Which is exactly what happens with Dreams of Steel by Glen Cook, the fifth (?) novel in The Black Company series.
Croaker is, for lack of a better word, out of it, for the better part of this story. As with most of Cook’s storytelling, the job of annalist falls to another character but still leaves room for other points of view to add varying bits of detail as necessary.
Unlike authors like Hobb and Carmody, Cook doesn’t seem to mind randomly jumping from one character to another to help tell the story. As long as it continues apace and everyone is enjoying themselves, I think he is probably happy.
And I must admit I find Cook’s style refreshing. The complete absence of a need to keep one narrative train going and ensure that you never deviate from it can get a little tedious and, when an author finds themselves only able to tell a part of the story through dream sequence or telepathy, they’ve gone and messed it up anyway.
Cook doesn’t start out trying to keep a narrative continuity, so it doesn’t matter when he does swap from bad guy to good guy to morally grey character back to good guy.
The story in this is really thrilling, and you really do become even further attached to the character of Lady. She’s determined, brilliant, and deadly, while still managing to be the most naïve character in the entire book. It is a great counterpoint, and makes her enthralling to read and someone you really care for by the end of the book.
I always worry a little when the majority of your main characters disappear for a book. I worry whether I’ll like the new characters or whether I’ll just be missing the old ones the whole time. Cook does it really well, leaving four main characters hidden for almost the entire book, their exploits only vaguely referenced at all. They are alive and are doing stuff, but we just don’t get to see them at all.
I wish that everyone had a chance to read these books. The omnibus editions that I’ve been reading are really quite beautiful to handle, even if they are a bit big and floppy. It’s nice to have the next book to jump straight in to right over the next page. I’d definitely recommend them to anyone who is interested in reading The Black Company series.
And I would recommend you read the series. Dreams of Steel is simply another example of Cook’s ability to write a story that doesn’t come anywhere near the grandiose mythic tales of Tolkien and Jordan, while still having all those same elements embedded within the story.
Review by Joshua S Hill
9.4/10 from 1 reviews
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