Port of Shadows: A Chronicle of The Black Company: A Brief Review

Port of Shadows: A Chronicle of The Black Company: A Brief Review

The Black Company series is one of my all-time favorites. I had to start it twice when I was first getting into it, because the first book seemed quite dry at the outset, but once I was hooked, I was really hooked. I've read the entire series a few times through, run a D&D game in the world, and in general, loved the shit out of the series.

So you can imagine my excitement when my friend  told me that, 19 years after Soldiers Live, the final book in the series, had been published, Glen Cook had released another.

Port of Shadows is a side-story that takes place between The Black Company and Shadows Linger, the first two books in the series. It follows annalist Croaker, the series mainstay and usual protagonist, as he and the rest of the Company find themselves stationed in a city on the far reaches of the Lady's empire, attempting to unravel a strange magical mystery. It is an expanded version of a series of short stories that Cook wrote beginning in 2010.

It's good. I liked it, and I'll read it again at some point.

It has some issues for me, however. First, by necessity, it cannot overly affect the overall narrative, so it must be relatively throwaway. No events that occur in this book really matter to the rest of them, and that causes the book to feel rather...pointless? Like, you know certain characters survive, and certain ones are not mentioned again, so there's not that same sense of worry for their safety that is common in the other titles.

To compensate, though, the book does provide some interesting context about things the rest of the series only alludes to. What was life like under the Domination? What might the Senjak family have been like? What other terrors did and does the world hold? Cook adds some fun stuff here, and I like it.  

The book does have pacing problems, however. There are substantial stretches of time where nothing much really happens, which is a point of frustration for me. The Black Company series has done this before, sort of, with the justification that a soldier's life is long periods of boredom broken up by short periods of terrified violence. But there's a line between describing the boredom and transferring that boredom to the reader, and for some, this one might cross that line. It didn't exactly cross it for me, but it was a point of annoyance.

Really, though, it was a pleasure to revisit characters that I love. This book wouldn't stand alone, though it isn't meant to, nor is it meant to be read in chronological order. But it's also one of those problems where you know where everything ends up, so the tension kinda isn't there.

Recommended if you liked the original series, which I recommend regardless.

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