This has got to be my most difficult to write review so far. The book is an omnibus containing the first three novels of the Dread Empire series, and the novels vastly differ in quality. It is also practically impossible to talk about the plot of each novel without significant spoilers, but I still have to do it as the series is fairly obscure - while the author is very well known and respected in the genre. I have to split the review into separate parts for each of the three novels. A Shadow of All Night Falling
. The first novel is also the weakest. We start in the middle of the action without any kind of explanation.
Seven brothers called Stormkings and their sister live in an isolated castle. They still remember the former glory of their ancestors and some of them want to reclaim it while the rest follow them from simply not having anything better to do. The brothers are also very minor wizards, but they manage to get a hold of a mighty magical artifact which might help fulfill their ambitions.
At the same time there is a tale of an orphan which happened way before the Stormkings were born, I mean hundreds of years before. The orphan grew up to be a major player in the game of mightiest; this sounds like a standard fantasy trope, but in here it is anything but.
The whole novel reads like a giant prolog to the rest of the series. A lot of main people from it will not be in the following books, while seemingly secondary characters will be the main movers and shakers down the road. The writing quality is uneven which is understandable considering this is the first major work of [a:Glen Cook|13026|Glen Cook|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1207159752p2/13026.jpg]. As a standalone it is worth 2.5 stars.October's Baby
. A big improvement over the first book, this one features main hero who was briefly mentioned in the previous book several times, but familiar faces do appear in here. A guy (who will remain nameless in my review to avoid spoilers) settled down, created a farmer hamlet and thought about spending the rest of his life growing vegetables.
In the meantime a small, relatively poor, and practically forgotten kingdom Kavelin suddenly became the point of interest of the major powers in the West and the East (the Dread Empire is the major and only power of the East). As usual in these situations, it is the population of the Kavelin who would get the worst of it.
The nameless retired hero is made an offer he cannot refuse; he comes out of his retirement and tries to organize an army in Kavelin to defend itself. His task seems completely hopeless, but he turns out to be a competent general with some interesting friends which might even up the odds somewhat. All Darkness Met
. This is a direct continuation of the story in the previous book; the same people (survivors, that is) from the second novel and practically the same conflict. This time the stakes are much higher, double- and triple-crossings are abundant in such a way that sometimes it is really hard to see who supports which side - there are more than two sides of conflict in here. People die by thousands and major magic is unleashed, but it is still up to simple solders to have the final saying in any war.
Coming back to the omnibus as a whole, I want to repeat myself that the first book should be considered as an overly long prolog for the rest of the series. If you manage to finish all 240 pages of it, you are in for a smooth sailing. The last two books clearly show that the series is a granddaddy of The Black Company with some common themes, writing style, plot twists, and scheming.
The final rating is 4 stars; I had to round this up as the omnibus is much better that the books I rate with 3 stars. If somebody is interested in reading the series, toughen up and live though the first book. The series is good enough for me to eagerly wait for the next omnibus to arrive.