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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Shadows Linger

****½ Shadows Linger by Glen Cook. Fantasy.

I'd read the first book in this series, The Black Company, several years ago. I wasn't blown away by it, largely due to expectations: it had been recommended as a vampire tale, and I spent much of the book slightly disengaged, trying to figure out where the vampires were. Still, I liked it enough to get the second book, which had been hiding in my TBR pile until now.

All of which is to say that I didn't remember a thing about the first book when I read this, except for that vague impression. Even once I'd finished, I still didn't remember the first book. I enjoyed Shadows Linger nonetheless.

The story starts with weak, greedy inkeeper Marron Shed and his mysterious tenant, Raven, who was rather protective over the deaf and dumb barmaid Darling. If I'd remembered the first book, I'd have recognized Raven and Darling immediately, and it would have been a much different beginning to the story. I think I prefer not having known--I enjoyed the mystery and the slow revelation of who and what Raven and Darling were.

Marron is perpetually in debt, and when he asks Raven for help, he gets drawn into a frightening scheme of selling dead bodies to a mysterious black castle that's growing.

The chapters about Raven alternate with first-person chapters from the POV of Croaker, the historian for the Black Company. The Lady's husband, the Dominator, is attempting a return, and the Black Company is tasked with preventing it. However, they're caught between their oaths to the Lady and the Company and the realization that Darling is the White Rose, and working for the Lady puts them on opposite sides with what they feel is right.

Despite the names: Black Company, White Rose, nothing is black and white in this story. Characters do bad things for good reasons, and good things for bad reasons, and all sorts of things in the name of expedience. There's a lot here about finding one's inner strength, and making difficult choices.

I'll be reading the next book in the series--hopefully I'll remember the story once I get to it this time.


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