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The Black Company

Chronicles of The Black Company, Book 1
Written by: Glen Cook
Narrated by: Marc Vietor
Length: 10 hrs and 54 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (38 ratings)
Price: CDN$ 33.54
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Publisher's Summary

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....

©1984 Glen Cook (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

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Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great story

Beautifully written and told. One of my favorite. As good as fantasy gets. Worth every penny

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Boring Pulp

Read like a dnd campaign by a "lovecraft fan" who haddent ever actually read lovecraft.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Jefferson
  • 2011-03-18

Hard Boiled Morally Ambiguous Epic Fantasy

Glen Cook slaps a devastating battle magic spell on epic fantasy clich??s (e.g., evil empire, virtuous rebels, dark lord, blasted wasteland around his headquarters, & clear division of good from evil). He writes a hard-boiled fantasy about the heroic feats of human anti-heroes in a world in which, as in our own, the historians of the victors determine good and evil. His novel is by turns funny or scary, horrifying or moving, grotesque or beautiful. It's enjoyable to watch the memorable members of the mercenary Black Company playing cards or pranks and suspenseful to follow them going on dangerous missions. Cook vividly captures the way that men working together in intense situations indulge in petty resentments even as they bond into a family through shared adversity. The short story chapters--without transitions between them--are narrated by the company's doctor and historian Croaker to make a single compelling tale.

I sympathize with the reviewers who find the novel too ??? rawly written, but I liked most of the graphic similes and the in medias res openings of each chapter-story and appreciate how each new chapter adds a few more pieces to the dramatic situation of the fantasy world.

I can't understand why some reviewers dislike Marc Vietor's reading of the novel. I feel that he does a fine job, enhancing Croaker's hard-boiled exterior and sensitive interior, as well as modifying his voice appropriately for the other characters, from the hysterical high-pitched mage Goblin to the laconic Clint Eastwood-like killer Raven. Vietor's reading of each of the very different voices of Soulcatcher's different souls is fun, creepy, and impressive.

The novel, first in a long series of Black Company annals, feels complete enough at its conclusion and at the same time promises an eventful, long future for Croaker and his mercenary brothers. A vivid and satisfying audiobook.

42 of 44 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Peter
  • 2011-09-21

Great Story, Narrator Takes Getting Used To

A refreshing romp through a gritty yet colorful medieval fantasy setting that follows a mercenary company recruited by the arch villain. They'll stick it to the rebel "good guys" all the way, often with cheerful deviousness. The story follows the sole 1'st person perspective of the Black Company's annalist/historian/medic giving it a distinct grunt's eye view of a much bigger conflict. There's also no shortage of likeable characters to get attached to; it's neither too serious or too somber.

The narrator definitely takes some getting used to though. At first he sounded like he was channeling Captain Kirk or something and it was most distracting; you'll see some hate on that topic in the other reviews. However, I think he settles into the role eventually and about 1/3 in I didn't even notice anymore. He manages the few female voices there are well enough. Certainly not so cringe worthy as other male narrators I've heard trying the same.

33 of 36 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Ryan
  • 2012-10-05

Lord of the Rings meets Platoon

The Black Company is gritty-as-can-be swords-and-sorcery fantasy, written years before that became a trendy idea. The “Company” of the book is a group of mercenaries that hires on with a powerful sorceress known as The Lady, and does various unpleasant jobs for her high command, a circle of grotesque and generally nasty wizards called The Taken. Imagine if the Lord of the Rings were told from the perspective of a group of Sauron’s hirelings, and you might have a sense of what to expect. Except, here, there isn’t much chivalry from anyone -- the “rebels”, while less defined, aren’t much more savory than the Lady’s minions.

The writing, accordingly, has a bracingly hard-boiled flavor. The story’s narrator is the Black Company’s chief medic and historian, a man named Croaker. He entertains few illusions that his brothers in arms are “nice people”, as they go from territory to territory, pacifying the inhabitants in the traditional manner, but there’s a sort of professional honor code that holds the company of rogues, fallen men, weirdos, and thugs together. They might be fighting for money, but they operate with discipline, take care of their own, and display occasional human decency. In a world where the unimportant often end up dead in piles as the armies sweep through, that’s better than nothing.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Platoon-meets-Lord of the Rings feel. The writing is a little choppy, though, often skipping past major events with a terse summary, or dropping in new characters with minimal introduction. But, the style fits well -- Croaker isn’t a guy who believes in the glory or righteousness of the cause and he’s patched up the wounded so many battles, he has little taste for describing what happens on the field, but, at the same time, he feels that what happens to him and his comrades ought to be recorded. I found the simple immediacy refreshing -- even in a fantasy world, the experience of ground soldiers might be universal, including their distance from the politics of everything. That said, some of the anachronisms got a little annoying: I wouldn’t expect someone in this world to know about biological evolution or use the term “sandbagging”. On the other hand, I suppose the use of spellcasters in the lines would enable soldiers to employ somewhat more “modern” tactics.

Other aspects of the book aren’t as ground-breaking. Once you get past Cook’s different take, the world-building and plot fall into familiar molds. But the action, initially aimless, begins to take on a purpose, and I got caught up in the story around the midpoint of the novel. The climax features an epic siege battle as good (and ghastly) as any in fantasy. I also enjoyed the endless bickering between two rank-and-file wizards, who seem to devote more energy to petty magical squabbles with each other than doing their jobs. I don’t know how well Cook maintains the strengths of his grunt-level perspective in subsequent books, but I’ll have to check out the next one. You can certainly enjoy this entry as a standalone work, if you choose not to go further.

Audiobook notes: I thought the narrator did a competent if uninspiring job. He sounds a little “older” than I would expect Croaker to be, but, then, it’s not clear how many years after the fact he’s supposed to be telling his story.

20 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kim D Sabourin
  • 2010-09-03

Finally - The Ten who were Taken!

Glen Cook's The Black Company is one of the best series ever written. I've been waiting years for Audible to carry these books! The Black Company stories have been described as Vietnam War on peyote. The fantasy genre told by soldiers, sign up today to become a member of Black Company.

45 of 55 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Toby
  • 2012-12-30

The origin of dark, gritty, epic fantasy

Would you listen to The Black Company again? Why?

Yes, it is a fantastic book with characters that are easy to love. Though the narration takes maybe a chapter to get used it really starts to work after that point

Who was your favorite character and why?

One-Eye and Goblin, they squabble like children are just very entertaining to read about

What about Marc Vietor’s performance did you like?

Marc Vietor perfectly embodied Croaker, the main character. His performance and delivery did justice to the dry wit and cynicism contained within the story. Most importantly he did not distract the listener from the story

If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

Not sure it could be made into a film. Audiences would probably not appreciate main characters who are mercenaries...the whole raping and pillaging thing probably wouldn't go over well

Any additional comments?

A common complaint about this book is that it is not descriptive enough. This may be true, but it is actually a strength. Rather than inserting a few hundred pages to add descriptions of every tree the company walk by the story focuses on characters and event. This book is only 350 pages, a mere short story in today's world of tomes. It includes whats necessary and not superfluous words added simply for the sake of being there.Also, in today's world of epic fantasy this book is good, but not quite as dark as the First Law Trilogy or aSoIaF. What makes it stand out is that it predates those series by decades. This was possibly the first book in the genre that did not have the ultra good vs the ultra bad, and in that way it was revolutionary. For this reason alone, let alone the great story and wonderful characters, this book is an important read/listen to any true fan of the genre

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael
  • 2012-10-13

I Saddled Up With The BAD Guys. And LIKED it.

Here's a very interesting twist to the typical fantasy story.

What if the Lord of The Rings had been told from the BAD GUYS perspective, say, from Mordor's elite guard?

They'd tell a story of thirteen rebels sent from different kingdoms bent on destroying Lord Sauron's passion to bring order to the chaos of the world. This rebel fellowship carries an ultimate doom with them, a ring once held by their glorious leader to keep peace between the races. They now carry it to its ultimate destruction, which will not only destroy that one last hope for unity, but also to destroy their king, who will die when the ring is consumed in the fires of Mount Doom! The fellowship must be stopped from completing their master plan to disrupt the world and kill their lord!

Guess it's all about perspective.

Glen Cook has created such a series, although not tied to Tolkien's work. A similar situation, yet a different world, using different literary vehicles and tools to accomplish the task.

You'll come to know Croaker, chief physician and historian for the Black Company, and many others in the group, along with a dark queen who holds their world in sway. The company is pressed into various quests, deeds, and services for her majesty, and they begin to question the ethics and intent brought on by the influence of her rule.

Sound interesting? It definitely is, and I've enjoyed Cook's twist on the typical.

Descriptive, rich and story-driven, this is a pleasure to the ears of fantasy lovers everywhere. It's mature, thoughtful, dark and entertaining. Cook suspends reality and draws you in, and THAT, my Audible listener, makes for a good audiobook.

I liked this audiobook so much, that I now own the entire series (ten audiobooks to date, I believe).

And the rest are good listening, as is this first in the series.

Who'd have thought I'd saddle up with the BAD guys? And LIKED it?

13 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Evan Karns
  • 2011-02-21

Good Book Rough Start

So i'm not really that particular when it comes to fantasy books...I don't need the book to change my life...i'm okay with cheesy...i'm listening for the diversion. That said i'm a pretty easy grader...and my goodness I could not get into the first couple of hours and I really wanted too! i'm not sure if it was the narrator but i really couldn't follow what was going on. I listen to audio books all the time tend to follow them when i'm doing many activities driving, cleaning the house etc but i couldn't follow it! HOWEVER i'm glad that i ran out of credits and didn't have anything else to listen to because about 3/4 of the way into the 1st download I really started to get into it and now i'm hooked. When I finish the book i will probably start it over to try to put the pieces together on the first couple hours :)

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • DDTAN
  • 2012-10-21

A Pleasant Rose in a Thorny World.

What made the experience of listening to The Black Company the most enjoyable?

I enjoyed this story of imperfect characters struggling to find meaning, in a dark, and often times, savage and merciless world, through their brotherly bond shaped by their union: The Black Company.

Who was your favorite character and why?

My favorite character is Croaker: The Black Company's doctor and annalist. He, to me, is the embodiment, and the voice of the The Black Company and what it represents; though out the story, Croaker's struggles and attempts at finding some good in a very dark world, where to survive one must often times ignore the incessant inner voice that is always telling us to do what is morally right, seems to mirror The Black Company's struggles to do what is honorable, yet at the same time, do what it needs to do to survive; and what it needs to do to survive is not always the right or moral thing to do.

Have you listened to any of Marc Vietor’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have not.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

There were several moments throughout the book that moved me. I love the way the author would pull the characters down to the point of utter despair, where all there is left is the brutal task of surviving at all cost; but when it appears this harsh and bleak world had reduce all the inhabitants to savage beasts, these same beasts/characters would pleasantly surprise you with their acts of kindness.

Any additional comments?

My only complaint with the Black Company is that the authors style of writing takes getting used to. At times, it was difficult to follow and determine what was going on. It seemed to me, that the author would transition from one point to the next without any transitional glues. Sometimes, I had no idea that the author had stop writing about some current event, but instead had already gone on to describing another event.

Although, I would like to note whether this is because of the way it was narated, or if it was in fact the way the story was written.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Solly
  • 2011-12-14

This series is really good! Dark and intense

Well written and thought out, more of an adult perspective, great fight scenes. This is great escapists fantasy!

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • 2011-11-01

Very good

At first you may not think much but as it goes on each book in the series gets better. The end in the last book was not expected but very good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful