Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself. The hardbitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must, burying their doubts with their dead.
Until the prophesy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more.
There must be a way for the Black Company to find her...
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
About the Author
Born in 1944, Glen Cook grew up in northern California, served in the U.S. Navy, attended the University of Missouri, and was one of the earliest graduates of the well-known "Clarion" workshop SF writers. Since 1971 he has published a large number of SF and fantasy novels, including the "Dread Empire" series, the occult-detective "Garrett" novels, and the very popular "Black Company" sequence that began with the publication of The Black Company in 1984. Among his SF novels is A Passage at Arms.
After working many years for General Motors, Cook now writes full-time. He lives near St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife Carol.
Born in 1944, Glen Cook grew up in northern California, served in the U.S. Navy, attended the University of Missouri, and was one of the earliest graduates of the well-known "Clarion" workshop SF writers. Since 1971 he has published a large number of Science Fiction and fantasy novels, including the "Dread Empire" series, the occult-detective "Garrett" novels, and the very popular "Black Company" sequence that began with the publication of The Black Company in 1984. Among his science fiction novels is A Passage at Arms.
After working many years for General Motors, Cook now writes full-time. He lives near St. Louis, Missouri, with his wife Carol.
Date of Birth:July 9, 1944
Place of Birth:New York City, New York
Read an Excerpt
The Black Company
By Glen Cook
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1984 Glen Cook
All rights reserved.
There were prodigies and portents enough, One-Eye says. We must blame ourselves for misinterpreting them. One-Eye's handicap in no way impairs his marvelous hindsight.
Lightning from a clear sky smote the Necropolitan Hill. One bolt struck the bronze plaque sealing the tomb of the forvalaka, obliterating half the spell of confinement. It rained stones. Statues bled. Priests at several temples reported sacrificial victims without hearts or livers. One victim escaped after its bowels were opened and was not recaptured. At the Fork Barracks, where the Urban Cohorts were billeted, the image of Teux turned completely around. For nine evenings running, ten black vultures circled the Bastion. Then one evicted the eagle which lived atop the Paper Tower.
Astrologers refused readings, fearing for their lives. A mad soothsayer wandered the streets proclaiming the imminent end of the world. At the Bastion, the eagle not only departed, the ivy on the outer ramparts withered and gave way to a creeper which appeared black in all but the most intense sunlight.
But that happens every year. Fools can make an omen of anything in retrospect.
We should have been better prepared. We did have four modestly accomplished wizards to stand sentinel against predatory tomorrows—though never by any means as sophisticated as divining through sheeps' entrails.
Still, the best augurs are those who divine from the portents of the past. They compile phenomenal records.
Beryl totters perpetually, ready to stumble over a precipice into chaos. The Queen of the Jewel Cities was old and decadent and mad, filled with the stench of degeneracy and moral dryrot. Only a fool would be surprised by anything found creeping its night streets.
* * *
I had every shutter thrown wide, praying for a breath off the harbor, rotting fish and all. There wasn't enough breeze to stir a cobweb. I mopped my face and grimaced at my first patient. "Crabs again, Curly?"
He grinned feebly. His face was pale. "It's my stomach, Croaker." His pate looks like a polished ostrich egg. Thus the name. I checked the watch schedule and duty roster. Nothing there he would want to avoid. "It's bad, Croaker. Really."
"Uhm." I assumed my professional demeanor, sure what it was. His skin was clammy, despite the heat. "Eaten outside the commissary lately, Curly?" A fly landed on his head, strutted like a conqueror. He didn't notice.
"Yeah. Three, four times."
"Uhm." I mixed a nasty, milky concoction. "Drink this. All of it."
His whole face puckered at the first taste. "Look, Croaker, I...."
The smell of the stuff revolted me. "Drink, friend. Two men died before I came up with that. Then Pokey took it and lived." Word was out about that.
"You mean it's poison? The damned Blues slipped me something?"
"Take it easy. You'll be okay. Yeah. It looks that way." I'd had to open up Walleye and Wild Bruce to learn the truth. It was a subtle poison. "Get over there on the cot where the breeze will hit you—if the son of a bitch ever comes up. And lie still. Let the stuff work." I settled him down.
"Tell me what you ate outside." I collected a pen and a chart tacked onto a board. I had done the same with Pokey, and with Wild Bruce before he died, and had had Walleye's platoon sergeant backtrack his movements. I was sure the poison had come from one of several nearby dives frequented by the Bastion garrison.
Curly produced one across-the-board match. "Bingo! We've got the bastards now."
"Who?" He was ready to go settle up himself.
"You rest. I'll see the Captain." I patted his shoulder, checked the next room. Curly was it for morning sick call.
I took the long route, along Trejan's Wall, which overlooks Beryl's harbor. Halfway over I paused, stared north, past the mole and lighthouse and Fortress Island, at the Sea of Torments. Particolored sails speckled the dingy grey-brown water as coastal dhows scooted out along the spiderweb of routes linking the Jewel Cities. The upper air was still and heavy and hazy. The horizon could not be discerned. But down on the water the air was in motion. There was always a breeze out around the Island, though it avoided the shore as if fearing leprosy. Closer at hand, the wheeling gulls were as surly and lackadaisical as the day promised to make most men.
Another summer in service to the Syndic of Beryl, sweating and grimy, thanklessly shielding him from political rivals and his undisciplined native troops. Another summer busting our butts for Curly's reward. The pay was good, but not in coin of the soul. Our forebrethren would be embarrassed to see us so diminished.
Beryl is misery curdled, but also ancient and intriguing. Its history is a bottomless well filled with murky water. I amuse myself plumbing its shadowy depths, trying to isolate fact from fiction, legend, and myth. No easy task, for the city's earlier historians wrote with an eye to pleasing the powers of their day.
The most interesting period, for me, is the ancient kingdom, which is the least satisfactorily chronicled. It was then, in the reign of Niam, that the forvalaka came, were overcome after a decade of terror, and were confined in their dark tomb atop the Necropolitan Hill. Echoes of that terror persist in folklore and matronly admonitions to unruly children. No one recalls what the forvalaka were, now.
I resumed walking, despairing of beating the heat. The sentries, in their shaded kiosks, wore towels draped around their necks.
A breeze startled me. I faced the harbor. A ship was rounding the Island, a great lumbering beast that dwarfed the dhows and feluccas. A silver skull bulged in the center of its full-bellied black sail. That skull's red eyes glowed. Fires flickered behind its broken teeth. A glittering silver band encircled the skull.
"What the hell is that?" a sentry asked.
"I don't know, Whitey." The ship's size impressed me more than did its flashy sail. The four minor wizards we had with the Company could match that showmanship. But I'd never seen a galley sporting five banks of oars.
I recalled my mission.
I knocked on the Captain's door. He did not respond. I invited myself inside, found him snoring in his big wooden chair. "Yo!" I hollered. "Fire! Riots in the Groan! Dancing at the Gate of Dawn!" Dancing was an old time general who nearly destroyed Beryl. People still shudder at his name.
The Captain was cool. He didn't crack an eyelid or smile. "You're presumptuous, Croaker. When are you going to learn to go through channels?" Channels meant bug the Lieutenant first. Don't interrupt his nap unless the Blues were storming the Bastion.
I explained about Curly and my chart.
He swung his feet off the desk. "Sounds like work for Mercy." His voice had a hard edge. The Black Company does not suffer malicious attacks upon its men.
* * *
Mercy was our nastiest platoon leader. He thought a dozen men would suffice, but let Silent and me tag along. I could patch the wounded. Silent would be useful if the Blues played rough. Silent held us up half a day while he made a quick trip to the woods.
"What the hell you up to?" I asked when he got back, lugging a ratty-looking sack.
He just grinned. Silent he is and silent he stays.
The place was called Mole Tavern. It was a comfortable hangout. I had passed many an evening there. Mercy assigned three men to the back door, and a pair each to the two windows. He sent another two to the roof. Every building in Beryl has a roof hatch. People sleep up top during the summer.
He led the rest of us through the Mole's front door.
Mercy was a smallish, cocky fellow, fond of the dramatic gesture. His entry should have been preceded by fanfares.
The crowd froze, stared at our shields and bared blades, at snatches of grim faces barely visible through gaps in our face guards. "Verus!" Mercy shouted. "Get your butt out here!"
The grandfather of the managing family appeared. He sidled toward us like a mutt expecting a kick. The customers began buzzing. "Silence!" Mercy thundered. He could get a big roar out of his small body.
"How may we help you, honored sirs?" the old man asked.
"You can get your sons and grandsons out here, Blue."
Chairs squeaked. A soldier slammed his blade into a tabletop.
"Sit still," Mercy said. "You're just having lunch, fine. You'll be loose in an hour."
The old man began shaking. "I don't understand, sir. What have we done?"
Mercy grinned evilly. "He plays the innocent well. It's murder, Verus. Two charges of murder by poisoning. Two of attempted murder by poisoning. The magistrates decreed the punishment of slaves." He was having fun.
Mercy wasn't one of my favorite people. He never stopped being the boy who pulled wings off flies.
The punishment of slaves meant being left up for scavenger birds after public crucifixion. In Beryl only criminals are buried uncremated, or not buried at all.
An uproar rose in the kitchen. Somebody was trying to get out the back door. Our men were objecting.
The public room exploded. A wave of dagger-brandishing humanity hit us.
They forced us back to the door. Those who were not guilty obviously feared they would be condemned with those who were. Beryl's justice is fast, crude, and harsh, and seldom gives a defendant opportunity to clear himself.
A dagger slipped past a shield. One of our men went down. I am not much as a fighter, but I stepped into his place. Mercy said something snide that I did not catch. "That's your chance at heaven wasted," I countered. "You're out of the Annals forever."
"Crap. You don't leave out anything."
A dozen citizens went down. Blood pooled in low places on the floor. Spectators gathered outside. Soon some adventurer would hit us from behind.
A dagger nicked Mercy. He lost patience. "Silent!"
Silent was on the job already, but he was Silent. That meant no sound, and very little flash or fury.
Mole patrons began slapping their faces and pawing the air, forsaking us. They hopped and danced, grabbed their backs and behinds, squealed and howled piteously. Several collapsed.
"What the hell did you do?" I asked.
Silent grinned, exposing sharp teeth. He passed a dusky paw across my eyes. I saw the Mole from a slightly altered perspective.
The bag he had lugged in from out of town proved to be one of those hornets' nests you can, if you're unlucky, run into in the woods south of Beryl. Its tenants were the bumblebee-looking monsters peasants call bald-faced hornets. They have a foul temper unrivalled anywhere in Nature. They cowed the Mole crowd fast, without bothering our lads.
"Fine work, Silent," Mercy said, after having vented his fury on several hapless patrons. He herded the survivors into the street.
I examined our injured brother while the unharmed soldier finished the wounded. Saving the Syndic the cost of a trial and a hangman, Mercy called that. Silent looked on, still grinning. He's not nice either, though he seldom participates directly.
* * *
We took more prisoners than expected. "Was a bunch of them." Mercy's eyes twinkled. "Thanks, Silent." The line stretched a block.
Fate is a fickle bitch. She'd led us to Mole Tavern at a critical moment. Poking around, our witch man had unearthed a prize, a crowd concealed in a hideout beneath the wine cellar. Among them were some of the best known Blues.
Mercy chattered, wondering aloud how large a reward our informant deserved. No such informant existed. The yammer was meant to save our tame wizards from becoming prime targets. Our enemies would scurry around looking for phantom spies.
"Move them out," Mercy ordered. Still grinning, he eyed the sullen crowd. "Think they'll try something?" They did not. His supreme confidence cowed anyone who had ideas.
We wound through mazelike streets half as old as the world, our prisoners shuffling listlessly. I gawked. My comrades are indifferent to the past, but I cannot help being awed—and occasionally intimidated—by how time-deep Beryl's history runs.
Mercy called an unexpected halt. We had come to the Avenue of the Syndics, which winds from the Customs House uptown to the Bastion's main gate. There was a procession on the Avenue. Though we reached the intersection first, Mercy yielded the right-of-way.
The procession consisted of a hundred armed men. They looked tougher than anyone in Beryl but us. At their head rode a dark figure on the biggest black stallion I've ever seen. The rider was small, effeminately slim, and clad in worn black leather. He wore a black morion which concealed his head entirely. Black gloves concealed his hands. He seemed to be unarmed.
"Damn me," Mercy whispered.
I was disturbed. That rider chilled me. Something primitive deep inside me wanted to run. But curiosity plagued me more. Who was he? Had he come off that strange ship in the harbor? Why was he here?
The eyeless gaze of the rider swept across us indifferently, as though passing over a flock of sheep. Then it jerked back, fixing on Silent.
Silent met stare for stare, and showed no fear. And still he seemed somehow diminished.
The column passed on, hardened, disciplined. Shaken, Mercy got our mob moving again. We entered the Bastion only yards behind the strangers.
* * *
We had arrested most of the more conservative Blue leadership. When word of the raid spread, the volatile types decided to flex their muscles. They sparked something monstrous.
The perpetually abrasive weather does things to men's reason. The Beryl mob is savage. Riots occur almost without provocation. When things go bad the dead number in the thousands. This was one of the worst times.
The army is half the problem. A parade of weak, short-term Syndics let discipline lapse. The troops are beyond control now. Generally, though, they will act against rioters. They see riot suppression as license to loot.
The worst happened. Several cohorts from the Fork Barracks demanded a special donative before they would respond to a directive to restore order. The Syndic refused to pay.
The cohorts mutinied.
Mercy's platoon hastily established a strongpoint near the Rubbish Gate and held off all three cohorts. Most of our men were killed, but none ran. Mercy himself lost an eye, a finger, was wounded in shoulder and hip, and had more than a hundred holes in his shield when help arrived. He came to me more dead than alive.
In the end, the mutineers scattered rather than face the rest of the Black Company.
The riots were the worst in memory. We lost almost a hundred brethren trying to suppress them. We could ill afford the loss of one. In the Groan the streets were carpetted with corpses. The rats grew fat. Clouds of vultures and ravens migrated from the countryside.
The Captain ordered the Company into the Bastion. "Let it run its course," he said. "We've done enough." His disposition had gone beyond sour, disgusted. "Our commission doesn't require us to commit suicide."
Somebody made a crack about us falling on our swords.
"Seems to be what the Syndic expects."
Beryl had ground our spirits down, but had left none so disillusioned as the Captain. He blamed himself for our losses. He did, in fact, try to resign.
* * *
The mob had fallen into a sullen, grudging, desultory effort to sustain chaos, interfering with any attempt to fight fires or prevent looting, but otherwise just roamed. The mutinous cohorts, fattened by deserters from other units, were systematizing the murder and plunder.
The third night I stood a watch on Trejan's Wall, beneath the carping stars, a fool of a volunteer sentinel. The city was strangely quiet. I might have been more anxious had I not been so tired. It was all I could do to stay awake.
Tom-Tom came by. "What are you doing out here, Croaker?"
"You look like death on a stick. Get some rest."
"You don't look good yourself, runt."
He shrugged. "How's Mercy?"
"Not out of the woods yet." I had little hope for him, really. I pointed. "You know anything about that out there?" An isolated scream echoed in the distance. It had a quality which set it aside from other recent screams. Those had been filled with pain, rage, and fear. This one was redolent of something darker.
He hemmed and hawed in that way he and his brother One-Eye have. If you don't know, they figure it's a secret worth keeping. Wizards! "There's a rumor that the mutineers broke the seals on the tomb of the forvalaka while they were plundering the Necropolitan Hill."
"Uh? Those things are loose?"
"The Syndic thinks so. The Captain don't take it seriously."
I didn't either, though Tom-Tom looked concerned. "They looked tough. The ones who were here the other day."
"Ought to have recruited them," he said, with an undertone of sadness. He and One-Eye have been with the Company a long time. They have seen much of its decline.
"Why were they here?"
He shrugged. "Get some rest, Croaker. Don't kill yourself. Won't make a bit of difference in the end." He ambled away, lost in the wilderness of his thoughts.
I lifted an eyebrow. He was way down. I turned back to the fires and lights and disturbing absence of racket. My eyes kept crossing, my vision clouding. Tom-Tom was right. I needed sleep.
From the darkness came another of those strange, hopeless cries. This one was closer.
* * *
"Up, Croaker." The Lieutenant was not gentle. "Captain wants you in the officers' mess."
I groaned. I cursed. I threatened mayhem in the first degree. He grinned, pinched the nerve in my elbow, rolled me onto the floor. "I'm up already," I grumbled, feeling around for my boots. "What's it about?"
He was gone.
"Will Mercy pull through, Croaker?" the Captain asked.
"I don't think so, but I've seen bigger miracles."
The officers and sergeants were all there. "You want to know what's happening," the Captain said. "The visitor the other day was an envoy from overseas. He offered an alliance. The north's military resources in exchange for the support of Beryl's fleets. Sounded reasonable to me. But the Syndic is being stubborn. He's still upset about the conquest of Opal. I suggested he be more flexible. If these northerners are villains then the alliance option could be the least of several evils. Better an ally than a tributary. Our problem is, where do we stand if the legate presses?"
Excerpted from The Black Company by Glen Cook. Copyright © 1984 Glen Cook. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Hunting The Great Whales,
Chapter One: Legate,
Chapter Two: Raven,
Chapter Three: Raker,
Chapter Four: Whisper,
Chapter Five: Harden,
Chapter Six: Lady,
Chapter Seven: Rose,
Tor Books by Glen Cook,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Black Company is a dark fantasy about the last company of elite mercenaries who, having failed their last contract must flee from their home country or be killed. Finding themselves under the employment of some kind of zombie-wizard thing who in turn is under the control of an even greater zombie wizard thing.. The characters are interesting in that they are only known by nicknames or titles, The Captain while being a somewhat important character is known only as the Captain. Apparently this is because a true name is incredible powerful in some way. But this can get confusing as for a while I didn't know there was actually a character that was named the Rebel and assumed for a while they were referring to the rebel army. the lack of back-story for almost all of the characters is somewhat off-putting when trying to understand them at first but becomes quickly irrelevant as they begin to grow on you as, through the main character Croaker, you feel the strong brotherhood between members of the Company The story itself is presented through the eyes of the Company's Doctor and recorder Croaker, who does much less doctoring and a great deal more investigating and writing. As such the reader only knows what Croaker knows and at some points thats not a whole lot, at one confusing part where i thought i lost a few pages, a character is presumed dead one second and just a few paragraphs later is sitting at the table playing cards with no mention on what happened in between. Other times the amount of things happening all at once increases and feels fast paced and exciting. All in all a great and interesting story that had me stuck til the end, and already getting ready to continue on in the next book.
Reviewer: Eric Fraga The Black Company Review Glen Cook has written something special, that's for sure. When critics say that he redefined the genre of fantasy epic, they weren't kidding. Cook writes a thrilling tale about The Black Company, an elite mercenary group. Throughout the tale, the group is hired, fired, betrayed, and praised by friends, foes, and strangers alike. Interestingly enough, the story follows a physician (and historian) for the Company, as we see through his eyes, the hardships of war and the dark sides of humanity. That is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book. There is no good and evil. There is only humans being humans, doing what they do best, and that's surviving. To survive, the Company finds that they may have to give up something greater than just morals or reputation though, but perhaps their own souls. By being driven to ally themselves with the enemy of the world, they find themselves being used to quell uprisings, assassinate rebel wizards, and fight in epic battles that span many different battlefields. But when is it too much? Who is the true enemy in this world of magic and darkness? Can evil with good intentions be not all that bad? These are all questions that are left to the reader to find out for themselves. What I can tell you though, is that this is an excellent book and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the fantasy epic genre, military genre, or even history genre. The scope of this epic is beyond anything I have ever read. Cheers and happy reading!
This is a great dark fantasy series, I couldn't recommend it enough. I've given my copy out to so many people and now they're all fans.
This is by far the best, most entertaining dark fantasy series since it's inception. This is awesome reading, 1st book a little slow in the beginning, but it picks up till soon you cant put it down. This book has all that makes the best of a dark fantasy story : Lich's, Revenant's & Necromancers galore, intrigue & Skullduggery. The entire series kicks butt, get's a little overly narrative and political by book 8-10, but it's worth it! Personal note: Silver Spike is awesome and very creepy. This series stands side to side with the likes of J. R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings, among many others, it's a shame the series ended by book 10(which I am still reading) but all good things do have an ending.
This is the first installment of a series of Black Company novels and it also happens to be the best. Cook easily conveys a 'you are there' sense of first-person realism that eludes so many of today's fantasy authors. He is content to weave a masterful, fast-paced, and addictive plot--one driven by deep character developement and rich, flavorfull dialogue--and leaves mundane descriptions of the local flora and fauna to the readers imagination. Afterall, once you've seen one 'Boars Head Inn,' you really have seen them all. The bottom line? If you are looking for a Tolken-esk experience, forget it. Cook's Black Company is all about plot and action. It's a hard-boiled, pan-fried look at life in a brotherhood of mercenaries as the men strive to meet the obligations of their duty, their employers, and their stomachs, and still get out of town alive! It's not just about 'humpin and lumpin' though. Cook's primary villans have vast reserves of magical power at their command, but don't expect any high-brow, mumbo-jumbo approach to magic in THIS book. The mages found in 'The Black Company' are frighteningly powerful, and they wield that power with a casual brutality that underscores their no-nonsense approach to world domination. Yes, THIS IS IT fantasy fans! This is the breath of fresh air we have all been looking for! 'The Black Company' is a raw and invigorating departure from classic fantasy. It's hard, it's gritty, and once you start reading, you WILL NOT be able to stop until you have completed the entire series! Buy it now, worry about the addiction later.
Who says heroes have to be on the side of the righteous? This is a story of a mercenary company enlisted to serve the Empire of an evil Sorceror-Empress. It is told through Croaker, the Company Annalist, and holds you right from the get go, as he charts the Company's course. Along the way we see a memorable Empire, a ruinous war, a titanic battle, and very little traditional heroism. A great read.
Love this series was hooked from the first chapter
One of my all time favorite fantasy series. Great characters, lots of humor and evil wizards out smarted by a band of brothers. I recommend reading all of the black company books.
It hits just enough familiar elements that you fall right into the world but has enough interesting twists that it's new and exciting. The writing style is unusual: clipped, to the point, but effective at painting brilliant pictures. How I missed this series for this long is beyond me but, if it stays this good, I've got several long, adventure-filled nights ahead!
Brief Summary: The mercenary, rough sailors of the Black Company find themselves under the command of a new employer—a woman called The Lady, who may have darker plans for them than they could have ever imagined. The Tsundoku Scale: Middle of the Pile, 7 out of 10. The Good: The tale of the Black Company is an interesting one, told by Croaker, the Black Company’s doctor and annals keeper. It is a fast-paced book of short sentences, and even shorter tempers, as war rages on with the Black Company stuck right in the middle of it, holding on to their lives only by their own cunning. Croaker is really a splendid character, with his wry and dry humor. He is the quintessential unreliable narrator; for, while he writes the annals of the narrative that the reader is reading, he often chooses to omit and include details at his own whims. He even mentions at one point that he has chosen to omit many of the atrocities that the Black Company commits because he does not like to show them in a negative light. You like the characters, you sympathize the characters, and yet you still get the feeling that you don’t really know them. Cook does a great job pushing and pulling the reader between familiarity and aloofness with the characters. What’s also oddly thrilling about this book is that there is no real back story. There are prophecies, supernatural beings, and magic, but the reader is only granted slight glimpses of this history. Croaker seems to neglect to tell the reader of certain facts mostly becaus these facts are already common knowledge to those characters in the story. It takes a while to get used to things just happening matter of factly without much explanation, but, in this way, the reader is never caught up in the epic of good against evil. Instead, this otherworldly battle is but a side note to Croaker’s and the Black Company’s story, and for once the reader is truly controlled by the whims of the narrator, and Croaker gives the reader’s a thrilling ride. The Bad: Many praise the Black Company for its divergence from a typical fantasy book. The book filters out the high-end, elaborate telling of most general fantasies from the dirty trenches of war, but unlike most fantasies, it wants to leave you with the dregs. Nonetheless, this praise is not particularly justifiable. For “just an average person,” Croaker plays quite a role from the weight his opinion has in the Black Company’s decision-making, to the fact that The Lady, the most powerful being in the world, takes a special interest in him, going as far to contact him personally. Croaker may be a normal man without magic or special abilities, but his life is certainly anything from normal, and the idea of this book being a different kind of fantasy is certainly misleading. What’s more, it can often be frustrating how little Cook stays within the limits of his own narration. Though Croaker is supposed to be telling the story through the annals that he has written, often those rules of the story are broken and instead the story transforms into a present narrative, rather than the re-telling it is supposed to be.