Black Company Wiki
Black Company Wiki
Black Company series full print

A photo of the complete Black Company series in print, with the 11 novels (including 10 divided among the 4 omnibuses) at left, and the anthologies which contain all the short stories of the On The Long Run arc at right.

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, 7 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 17 languages: see the Black Company series/Cover gallery for a showcase of the Black Company's international publication history.

Protagonist and narrators[]

Croaker standing

While the Black Company itself is the protagonist of the series, Croaker is its most prominent individual character. Fan art by Mikey Patch.

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 all but one of the 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 are Black Company Annalists except for Case. The short story "Chasing Midnight" features a third-person narrator.

The novels and short stories[]

The first Black Company story to appear in print was the novelette called "Raker", published in 1982 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Glen Cook's original plan was for the Black Company tale to be printed as a serial, that is, a series of novelettes like "Raker". But after his agent made an arrangement with Tor, his new editor persuaded him to transform the format into a trilogy of novels. An adapted version of "Raker" would become the third chapter of the first novel, The Black Company, in 1984. Nine more novels would follow through the year 2000. These original ten novels are grouped by the publisher into three story arcs: the Books of the North, the Books of the South, and the Books of Glittering Stone. The story arcs are indicated in the subtitles of the books. Glen Cook stated in an interview that he did not create the subtitles, confirming that the story arcs were inventions by the publisher.

The Silver Spike is sometimes described as a spin-off or one-off because it lacked a subtitle, 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 2010 – ten years after his last Black Company novel – Glen Cook began distributing Black Company short stories in various anthologies. Three of those would reappear as chapters in the novel Port of Shadows which was released in September 2018. The remaining short stories are not incorporated into any novel. These are described as the On The Long Run story arc by Glen Cook himself in one of his introductions in the Best of Glen Cook anthology. All of them take place during the first 4 years of the 6-year-total gap between Shadows Linger and The White Rose.

In reading order[]

Annals 2018 ebundle

Cover of Annals of the Black Company, the English-language e-book compendium of the first 10 novels of the series

All the Black Company narratives are numbered here in a commonly recommended reading order. This is not identical to the lore timeline order (see the separate section below). Although the "lost history" narrative of Port of Shadows is an interquel which takes place between the first and second novels, first-time readers of the series should not read it after The Black Company. Instead, for contextual reasons Port should be read in publication order, namely after Soldiers Live. Next are the 7 short stories of the On The Long Run arc. These are interquels as well, taking place between books 2 and 3. But since they revisit characters and themes that were introduced and subsequently forgotten in Port, they should be read last.

  1. The Black Company
  2. Shadows Linger
  3. The White Rose
  4. The Silver Spike
  5. Shadow Games
  6. Dreams of Steel
  7. Bleak Seasons
  8. She Is the Darkness
  9. Water Sleeps
  10. Soldiers Live
  11. Port of Shadows (contains "Tides Elba", "Smelling Danger", & "Bone Candy" as chapters 3, 6, and 9)
  12. "Cranky Bitch" short story
  13. "Leta of the Thousand Sorrows" short story
  14. "Wet Dream Fish Story" short story
  15. "Those Who Went Before" short story
  16. "Shaggy Dog Bridge" short story
  17. "Bone Eaters" short story
  18. "Chasing Midnight" short story
  19. Forthcoming: Lies Weeping (Volume I of A Pitiless Rain)
  20. Forthcoming: They Cry (Volume II of A Pitiless Rain)
  21. Forthcoming: Summer Grass (Volume III of A Pitiless Rain)
  22. Forthcoming: Darkness Knows (Volume IV of A Pitiless Rain)

In lore timeline order[]

For reference purposes, all the novels and short stories are arranged below in lore timeline order, also called "in-universe chronological" order. This disregards their publication dates, and as noted in the novels section above, this is not a recommended reading order. Port of Shadows should be read by first-time readers after Soldiers Live.

Title Type Narrator
1) The Black Company
*Chapter 3 is short story: "Raker"
novel Croaker
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"
novel Croaker
3) Shadows Linger novel Croaker
4) "Cranky Bitch" short story Croaker
5) "Leta of the Thousand Sorrows" short story Croaker
6) "Wet Dream Fish Story" short story Croaker
7) "Those Who Went Before" short story Croaker
8) "Shaggy Dog Bridge" short story Croaker
9) "Bone Eaters" short story Croaker
10) "Chasing Midnight" short story (3rd-person narration)
11) The White Rose novel Croaker
12) The Silver Spike novel Case & 3rd-person narration
13) Shadow Games novel Croaker
14) Dreams of Steel novel Lady
15) Bleak Seasons novel Murgen
16) She Is the Darkness novel Murgen
17) Water Sleeps novel Sleepy
18) Soldiers Live novel Croaker

In order of publication[]

Black Company On The Long Run books

A photo of the anthologies which contain all the short stories of the On The Long Run arc in print, arranged in lore order

  1. The "Raker" novelette (1982 August)
  2. The Black Company (1984 May)
  3. Shadows Linger (1984 October)
  4. The White Rose (1985 April)
  5. The Silver Spike (1989 September)
  6. Shadow Games (1989 June)
  7. Dreams of Steel (1990 April)
  8. Bleak Seasons (1996 April)
  9. She Is the Darkness (1997 September)
  10. Water Sleeps (1999 March)
  11. Soldiers Live (2000 August)
  12. "Tides Elba" (2010 June)
  13. "Smelling Danger" (2011 March)
  14. "Shaggy Dog Bridge" (2013 May)
  15. "Bone Candy" (2014 November)
  16. "Bone Eaters" (2015 March)
  17. Port of Shadows (2018 September)
  18. "Chasing Midnight" (2019 November)
  19. "Cranky Bitch" (2021 March)
  20. "Leta of the Thousand Sorrows" (2022 February)
  21. "Wet Dream Fish Story" (2023 February)
  22. "Those Who Went Before" (2024 March)


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:

  1. The first 10 books + Port of Shadows, and all short stories:
    • English
  2. The first 10 books + Port of Shadows + "Tides Elba" short story:
    • Polish, Russian
  3. The first 10 books:
    • French, Spanish, Bulgarian
  4. The first 9 books (up to Water Sleeps):
    • Persian
  5. The first 8 books (up to She Is the Darkness):
    • Lithuanian
  6. The first 7 books (up to Bleak Seasons):
    • Hungarian
  7. The first trilogy + Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel, Bleak Seasons:
    • Chinese
  8. The first trilogy + Shadow Games & Dreams of Steel:
    • German
  9. The first trilogy + Shadow Games:
    • Czech
    • (short story "Tides Elba" was also translated into Czech)
  10. The first trilogy (the Books of the North):
    • Serbian, Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish, European Portuguese, Italian
  11. The first 2 books:
    • Romanian


While the novels were first published individually, many new English, French, Polish, Russian, and Italian 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.


The English paperback/e-book omnibuses published by Tor Fantasy:


The French paperback/e-book omnibuses published by J'ai lu:


The Polish paperback/e-book omnibuses published by Rebis:


The Russian hardcover/e-book omnibuses published by Азбука:


The Italian paperback/e-book omnibus published by Mondadori: