|“||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 / military fantasy series written by Glen Cook. The series chronicles several decades of the long history of a brotherhood of mercenaries called the Black Company, the last of the legendary Free Companies of Khatovar.
It consists of 11 novels, 2 stand-alone short stories, and 4 pre-publication short stories that later appeared as novel chapters. 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, 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 14 languages: see the Black Company series/Cover gallery for a showcase of the Black Company's international publication history.
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 eleven novels and all 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.
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. In September 2018, eighteen years after the most recent novel, Glen Cook published Port of Shadows. A further novel, A Pitiless Rain has been mentioned by Cook, but as yet has no confirmed release date.
All the Black Company novels are arranged here in order of original publication:
|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)
|4) Shadow Games|| "The Fourth Chronicle of the Black Company"|
"First Book of the South"
|5) The Silver Spike||-||Sep. 1989|
|6) Dreams of Steel|| "The Fifth Chronicle of the Black Company"|
"Second Book of the South"
|7) Bleak Seasons|| "The Sixth Chronicle of the Black Company"|
"Book One of Glittering Stone"
|8) She Is the Darkness|| "The Seventh Chronicle of the Black Company"|
"Book Two of Glittering Stone"
|9) Water Sleeps|| "The Eighth Chronicle of the Black Company"|
"Book Three of Glittering Stone"
|10) Soldiers Live|| "The Ninth Chronicle of the Black Company"|
"Book Four of Glittering Stone"
|11) Port of Shadows||"A Chronicle of the Black Company"||Sep. 2018|
To be announced Edit
A twelfth novel, A Pitiless Rain, is forthcoming but a publication date has not been announced.
Short stories Edit
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. Five more short stories were published in different anthologies between 2010 and 2015. Three of those would appear as chapters in Port of Shadows, released in September 2018. The two remaining short stories are "standalone" narratives.
All the Black Company short stories are arranged here in order of publication:
- "Raker" (Aug 1982)
- was later published as chapter 3 of The Black Company
- "Tides Elba: A Tale of the Black Company" (Jun 2010)
- was later published as chapter 3 of Port of Shadows
- "Smelling Danger" (Mar 2011)
- was later published as chapter 6 of Port of Shadows
- "Shaggy Dog Bridge" (May 2013)
- "Bone Candy" (Nov 2014)
- was later published as chapter 9 of Port of Shadows
- "Bone Eaters" (Mar 2015)
- takes place between Shadows Linger and The White Rose alongside "Shaggy Dog Bridge"
In-universe chronological order Edit
All the novels and short stories are arranged below in in-universe chronological order (disregarding their publication dates):
| 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) "Shaggy Dog Bridge"||short story||Croaker|
|5) "Bone Eaters"||short story||Croaker|
|6) The White Rose||novel||Croaker|
|7) Shadow Games||novel||Croaker|
|8) The Silver Spike||novel||Case|
|9) Dreams of Steel||novel||Lady|
|10) Bleak Seasons||novel||Murgen|
|11) She Is the Darkness||novel||Murgen|
|12) Water Sleeps||novel||Sleepy|
|13) Soldiers Live||novel||Croaker|
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:
- The first 10 books:
- Russian, French, Spanish, Bulgarian
- The first 8 books (up to She Is the Darkness):
- Lithuanian, Persian
- The first 4 books (up to Shadow Games):
- The first 3 books (the Books of the North):
- German, Hungarian, Serbian, Brazilian Portuguese, Finnish
- The first 2 books:
- The first book only:
- European Portuguese
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.
Tor Fantasy Publishing paperback/e-book omnibuses:
- Chronicles of the Black Company (The Black Company, Shadows Linger, The White Rose) 2007
- The Books of the South (Shadow Games, Dreams of Steel, The Silver Spike) 2008
- The Return of the Black Company (Bleak Seasons, She Is the Darkness) 2009
- The Many Deaths of the Black Company (Water Sleeps, Soldiers Live) 2010
- All 4 Tor omnibuses are available in a single digital compendium that was published in 2018.
J'ai lu's paperback/e-book omnibuses: