|“||With the Black Company series, Glen Cook single-handedly changed the face of fantasy - something a lot of people didn't notice and maybe still don't. He brought the story down to a human level, dispensing with the cliche archetypes of princes, kings and evil sorcerers. Reading his stuff is like reading Vietnam War fiction on peyote.||”|
–Steven Erikson, author of Gardens of the Moon
The Black Company series is a dark fantasy series written by Glen Cook. It chronicles key events of the most recent ~40 years of the long history of a brotherhood of mercenaries called the Black Company, the last of the legendary Free Companies of Khatovar.
The series consists of 11 novels, 4 stand-alone short stories (the On The Long Run story arc), and 4 pre-publication short stories that were later incorporated as chapters in subsequent novels. The first 10 novels are organized by three story arcs: the 3 Books of the North; the 3 Books of the South; and the 4 Books of Glittering Stone. While the most recent novel, the interquel Port of Shadows, does take place chronologically during the Books of the North, it is omitted from that arc both because it was published about 33 years later and because it is a "lost history"-style narrative.
Novels from this series have been translated from the original English into at least 16 languages: see the Black Company series/Cover gallery for a showcase of the Black Company's international publication history.
Protagonist and narrators[edit | edit source]
Glen Cook explicitly states that the protagonist of the series is the Black Company brotherhood itself:
|“||The hero, or the protagonist, whatever, of the Black Company series is the Company. It's not the people who are in it. There are people who go on, last through a number of books, sometimes they die, and sometimes they come back to life... Croaker is a central character throughout the series; always was, always will be. He will appear in the books yet to come. But he is not the protagonist, per se. The whole thing is about the Company and the idea of the Company: the thing that is bigger than the sum of its parts.||”|
Six of the 11 novels and 7 of the 8 short stories are narrated by a prominent central character, a physician and historian called Croaker. The other narrators are: an outsider named Case in The Silver Spike; Croaker's wife Lady in Dreams of Steel; Croaker's male protégé Murgen in Bleak Seasons and She Is the Darkness; and, a brilliant female newcomer nicknamed Sleepy in Water Sleeps. All of those narrators is a Black Company Annalist except for Case. The short story "Chasing Midnight" features a third-person narrator.
Novels in reading order[edit | edit source]
The original ten novels are grouped into three story arcs published between 1984 and 2000.
The Silver Spike was initially categorized as a spin-off novel because it was not narrated by a Company Annalist and was therefore technically not a "chronicle of the Black Company". But, it still takes place in the same universe, and, all omnibuses classify it among the Books of the South. It is referred to by fans with the unofficial designation "book 3.5" and is best read immediately following the third novel, The White Rose.
In September 2018, eighteen years after Soldiers Live, Glen Cook published Port of Shadows. Although Port is an interquel which takes place between the first and second novels, first-time readers of the series should not read Port after The Black Company. Instead, for contextual reasons Port should be read in publication order, namely after Soldiers Live.
All the Black Company novels are arranged in reading order in this table (with their original publication dates for reference):
|1) The Black Company||"The First Chronicle of the Black Company"
(first of the Books of the North)
|2) Shadows Linger||"The Second Chronicle of the Black Company"
(second of the Books of the North)
|3) The White Rose||"The Third Chronicle of the Black Company"
(third of the Books of the North)
|["3.5"] The Silver Spike||-||Sep. 1989|
|4) Shadow Games||"The Fourth Chronicle of the Black Company"
"First Book of the South"
|5) Dreams of Steel||"The Fifth Chronicle of the Black Company"
"Second Book of the South"
|6) Bleak Seasons||"The Sixth Chronicle of the Black Company"
"Book One of Glittering Stone"
|7) She Is the Darkness||"The Seventh Chronicle of the Black Company"
"Book Two of Glittering Stone"
|8) Water Sleeps||"The Eighth Chronicle of the Black Company"
"Book Three of Glittering Stone"
|9) Soldiers Live||"The Ninth Chronicle of the Black Company"
"Book Four of Glittering Stone"
|10) Port of Shadows||"A Chronicle of the Black Company"||Sep. 2018|
To be announced[edit | edit source]
A further novel, A Pitiless Rain has been mentioned by Glen Cook in interviews, but as yet has no confirmed release date.
Short stories[edit | edit source]
The first short story "Raker" was part of a pre-publication excerpt in 1982; an adapted version of it would become the third chapter of the first novel, The Black Company. Seven more short stories were published in different anthologies between 2010 and 2021. Three of those would appear as chapters in the novel Port of Shadows, released in September 2018. The 4 remaining short stories are "stand-alone" narratives in that they were not incorporated into any novel. These 4 all take place during the 6-year gap between Shadows Linger and The White Rose, described as the On The Long Run story arc by Glen Cook in one of his introductions in the Best of Glen Cook anthology.
All the Black Company short stories are arranged here in order of publication:
- "Raker" (August 1982)
- was later published as chapter 3 of The Black Company
- "Tides Elba" (June 2010)
- was later published as chapter 3 of Port of Shadows
- "Smelling Danger" (March 2011)
- was later published as chapter 6 of Port of Shadows
- "Shaggy Dog Bridge" (May 2013)
- "Bone Candy" (November 2014)
- was later published as chapter 9 of Port of Shadows
- "Bone Eaters" (March 2015)
- the 3rd of the 4 On The Long Run short stories
- takes place between Shadows Linger and The White Rose alongside "Shaggy Dog Bridge" and "Chasing Midnight", but after "Cranky Bitch"
- "Chasing Midnight" (November 2019)
- the 4th of the 4 On The Long Run short stories
- takes place between Shadows Linger and The White Rose alongside "Shaggy Dog Bridge" and "Bone Eaters", but after "Cranky Bitch"
- "Cranky Bitch" (March 2021)
- the 1st of the 4 On The Long Run short stories
- takes place immediately where Shadows Linger leaves off (but before "Shaggy Dog Bridge", "Bone Eaters", and "Chasing Midnight")
Timeline order (in-universe chronological)[edit | edit source]
For reference purposes, all the novels and short stories are arranged below in "timeline order", also called "in-universe chronological order". This disregards their publication dates, and as noted in the novels section above, this is not the same as the recommended reading order. Port of Shadows should be read by first-time readers last.
|1) The Black Company
*Chapter 3 is short story: "Raker"
|2) Port of Shadows
*Chapter 3 is short story: "Tides Elba"
*Chapter 6 is short story: "Smelling Danger"
*Chapter 9 is short story: "Bone Candy"
|3) Shadows Linger||novel||Croaker|
|4) "Cranky Bitch"||short story||Croaker|
|5) "Shaggy Dog Bridge"||short story||Croaker|
|6) "Bone Eaters"||short story||Croaker|
|7) "Chasing Midnight"||short story||(3rd-person narration)|
|8) The White Rose||novel||Croaker|
|9) The Silver Spike||novel||Case & 3rd-person narration|
|10) Shadow Games||novel||Croaker|
|11) Dreams of Steel||novel||Lady|
|12) Bleak Seasons||novel||Murgen|
|13) She Is the Darkness||novel||Murgen|
|14) Water Sleeps||novel||Sleepy|
|15) Soldiers Live||novel||Croaker|
Translations[edit | edit source]
See the Black Company series/Cover gallery for a showcase of the Black Company series' international publication history. Here is a brief breakdown of translations:
- The first 10 books + Port of Shadows, and all short stories:
- The first 10 books + Port of Shadows + "Tides Elba" short story:
- Polish, Russian
- The first 10 books:
- French, Spanish, Bulgarian
- The first 9 books (up to Water Sleeps):
- The first 8 books (up to She Is the Darkness):
- The first 4 books (up to Shadow Games):
- Czech, German
- (short story"Tides Elba" was also translated into Czech)
- The first 3 books (the Books of the North):
- Hungarian, Serbian, Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish, Chinese, European Portuguese
- The first 2 books:
Omnibuses[edit | edit source]
While the novels were first published individually, many new English, French, Polish, and Russian readers are exposed to the series in omnibus print/e-book formats. These omnibuses are typically divided by the series' three story arcs: the 3 Books of the North; the 3 Books of the South; and, the 4 Books of Glittering Stone (which are presented in 2 pairs). A selection of those omnibuses which are still in print are shown below.
English[edit | edit source]
The English paperback/e-book omnibuses published by Tor Fantasy:
French[edit | edit source]
The French paperback/e-book omnibuses published by J'ai lu:
Polish[edit | edit source]
The Polish paperback/e-book omnibuses published by Rebis:
Russian[edit | edit source]
The Russian hardcover/e-book omnibuses published by Азбука: