The Silver Spike by Glen Cook (Chronicles of the Black Company: Barrowlands, Book 1)

9/10 Glen Cook is a master storyteller of the fantasy genre.

If there were two things that J.K. Rowling did with her Harry Potter books, it was that she cared about her readers and she gave them a decent epilogue at the very end of the series. Having just finished ‘The Silver Spike’ by Glen Cook, I can say with some certainty that Glen Cook does not have the same regard for his readers as Rowling does.

Which, let’s be fair, is not his job. Cook has no obligation to coddle me and provide me with a happy ending, or, if he does provide me with a happy ending, he has no obligation to ensure that it is to my required specifications.

It would have been nice, but it’s not his job.

The Silver Spike is another prime example of why Glen Cook is a master storyteller of the fantasy genre, but one that doesn’t care to elaborate on the happy aspects of life. My experience of Cook is relegated to the Black Company series, and so I do not know how he treats his characters in other settings. But in these books, they are very disposable, though not needlessly.

And I think that may be one of the strong points of Cook’s writing. He does not throw away a characters life because solely to prove a point, or to be the hero. He provides us with a realistic view of how war takes place, with men and women dying for no cause at all, through no fault of their own, and just because that is what happens. War is bloody and a bastard of a place, and people will die for no reason. Some authors don’t write like that because it’s not ‘nice’. Cook obviously doesn’t care about what’s nice. He writes what is realistic, bringing us to the ground level of the conflict, allowing us to feel the shit and blood clogging up the ground beneath out feet, and seeing our friends die for no reason whatsoever.

Needless to say, this book didn’t end with everyone whole and hearty.

But I was impressed with the way Cook told a sort of one and done story. Though it does continue on from the preceding books, it bears utterly no impact on the continuing story that he is telling in the books which follow Croaker and Lady (or, if it does, I’m not aware of it yet).

The new characters that I got to interact with were really interesting. The bastards are truly bastards, but you still feel for them in some places. You want to see them escape, except for that one who deserves to die and you feel a certain satisfaction when … well, you’ll see.

In the end, I was really stoked with reading this book. It did leave me wanting a bit more of an epilogue, but that’s just me and my desire to see things fleshed out, never finished, etc. And I’d guess that you could probably pick this book up without having read any of the previous Black Company books, though I don’t know why you’d want to miss out on them.

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Glen Cook's Chronicles of the Black Company series

The Black Company

Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 1

Shadows Linger

Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 2

The White Rose

Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the North, Book 3

Shadow Games

Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the South, Book 1

The Silver Spike

Chronicles of the Black Company: Barrowlands, Book 1

Dreams of Steel

Chronicles of the Black Company: Books of the South, Book 2

Port of Shadows

Chronicles of the Black Company

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