The Malazan books are said to owe a great debt to Glen Cook’s Black Company series so it was fitting, in a way, that I first became aware of the books whilst browsing Amazon and trying to decide whether to kick off my Malazan reading with Memories of Ice. (By the way, in case you’re wondering, do not start reading the Malazan books with Memories of Ice; it just doesn’t work and you only end up with a headache.) But back to the books that I actually want to talk about….
The “Black Company” was a name that hooked me right from the start, simple yet very powerful. I had to find out more about this hard-bitten band of mercenaries, signed up for a dirty war where political infighting could see them attacked by their own side just as easily as the enemy. Each book made it clear that these men were no saints themselves. Morals are easy to put down when you’re in the middle of a war and just want to survive another day; some of the Black Company though… Well, they have no morals in the first place and see war as a great way to get paid for doing what they enjoy. There is a chance at redemption though; will any of the Company take that chance and where will it lead them? Ultimately, down a long dusty road into their own past and an origin long forgotten….
It took me a while to read the Black Company books (it’s more of a challenge to hunt books down rather than order them en masse online) but read them I did and it’s an experience that has stayed with me ever since. It’s been a few years now since I last picked them up so I’m way overdue for a reread. Care to join me? Not only are the Black Company books a more than worthwhile read in their own right but it’s also a great opportunity to take a little step back in time and read a series that was doing “grim and dark” long before anyone thought of sticking the two words together. These days, the influence of the Black Company series can be seen every time a soldier in epic fantasy takes a cigarette break and ponders his own mortality, in those interminable moments before the attack and whenever that same soldier attempts to fight his own demons… and loses. Lets go back and see how it all began.
The plan then, starting next Monday, will be to read through one book a week until the series is done. That’s ten books over the next ten weeks then unless I can find any short stories (other than “Tides Elba” which will fit quite nicely in my first post) that need mentioning. They are all fairly short reads so I reckon that a week each should just about do it. If you want to come along for the whole trip then that’s brilliant, it will be great to have you along! It’s not a problem if you don’t though, the nature of the plot arcs mean that you pretty much have a choice of where you want to jump on board. If that’s what you want to do, I’ll meet you at either The Black Company, The Silver Spike, Shadow Games or Bleak Seasons. I’ll try and keep spoilers to a minimum but this is a re-read so some spoilers may well be unavoidable, we’ll see how it goes.
So then, who fancies taking a little trip to Khatovar with me?
Graeme Flory is a London-based writer and lover of fantasy and science fiction literature. Read his book reviews at Graeme’s Fantasy Book Review.