Friday, May 1, 2009

Review: The Silver Spike

2009 continues to be the year of Glen Cook for me as I jump back into his Black Company series with The Silver Spike, a transitional novel set between The Books of the North and the Books of the South. The story begins directly after the events of The White Rose and we’re quickly reintroduced to some old friends. So as not to spoil anything for people who haven’t read Cook’s earlier Black Company novels all I’ll say is that Croaker is noticeable by his absence.

After reading the original three novels you can’t help but begin to feel an affinity for Croaker and the narrative he weaves throughout the stories. His perspective on things is cynical and grounded. To put it frankly Croaker doesn’t bullshit. He tells it like it is. So while his blunt narrative is missed Cook introduces some great new characters to the fold which pick-up the slack in the narrative department.

It has become apparent to me after reading many of Cook’s work that the author has a talent for bringing background characters to the forefront as well as introducing interesting new characters to each book he pens. In this novel Case, a friend of Raven’s from the Barrowlands takes front and center and we watch the story unfold through his eyes. He’s a bit uncouth some might even say dimwitted but his voice is similar to Croakers if not as witty. Case lends a nice sense of continuity to the novel as he’s able to shed some light on the events which occurred in The White Rose and also the history of the enigma known as Raven.

Besides Case, we’re also introduced to a foursome of some of the most interesting characters you’ll ever have the pleasure to read about. They go by the names Smeds, Tully, Timmy and Old Man Fish respectively. They play a central role in this book and each time they were the focal point of a chapter it was a true pleasure reading about their exploits. Their plan for retrieving the Silver Spike from the tree was so simple it was genius. By the time the book ended these characters ranked right up there with Marron Shed from Shadows Linger, which is saying something as Marron Shed is one of my most beloved characters of all-time.

While the characters were fantastic as always, the beginning of this book didn’t capture my heart right a way. It took me quite some time to warm up to this novel as the first fifty pages appeared to be nothing more than a rehash of the previous Black Company stories. As the characters began to take on more depth and the narratives began to weave together, I felt a bit ashamed for ever having doubted Mr. Cook for even a second. The story had me completely engrossed until I finished the last page.

Cook writes in such a way that you never know what’s going to happen. Characters don’t do what you expect them to they do what’s logical to them. The characters feel as if they’re making decisions for themselves rather than having the man with the pen making the decisions for them. There’s just certain free flow in his writing that I find lacking in so many other fantasy novels out there.

So if you haven’t picked up any Glen Cook novels yet, I suggest you get cracking and find yourself the first three novels of the Black Company or the Dread Empire novels as they’re both just incredible reads.


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