We’re back for some more Black Company action in the Book of the Week! Staying in sequence, today we’re going to talk about Shadows Linger, the second book of the series.
We left off last week with the eponymous first book in the Black Company series, Glen Cook’s seminal work of dark, gritty fantasy. Where the first book covers huge amounts of ground and details a continent-spanning war, Shadows Linger takes a much more personal tone, a tighter setting, and introduces a key narrative device that plays a larger part in the last half of the series (3rd person omniscient).
Shadows Linger is in fact one of my favorites in the series, and this is mostly due to the tone and the more personal and intimate stakes at play. While we remain in the capable hands of Croaker as Annalist and narrator, we also get inside the head of Marron Shed, a struggling innkeeper and man of dubious morals in the far-north city of Juniper. He deals with moneylenders and gangbangers, issues of homelessness and the cutthroat nature of living in the slums. And over it all is cast the pall of the black castle on the ridge, and the incredibly creepy denizens within its walls.
More than any other book in the series, Cook explores the innermost workings of morality, justification, and desperation in Shadows Linger. If any book in the series can truly be classified as “grimdark,” it’s this one. But the fact that Shadows Linger is the only one that really takes steps to qualify in that subgenre is what sets it apart in the ten-book sequence. The epic scale is still there, but it’s hiding behind a curtain. The magnifying glass is taken out and applied to the parts that tend to get glossed over by Croaker, because he’s not writing about his own brothers in the Company. That basic loyalty that we see him call out in The Black Company does not apply to Marron Shed, and Croaker’s opinion of the man shapes the entire narrative.
Shadows Linger is a fantastic book of dark twists and blacker turns, a rollercoaster that takes the reader to the edge of the seat. I give it five stars as one of the two or three best books in a rock-solid series.