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Soldiers Live

Soldiers Live - Glen Cook This is a buddy read with my Company brothers (sisters) Cleaver, Erratic, and Slowpoke. After all the battles we have been through I would trust any one of them to guard my back in a tight spot.

“Soldiers live. He dies and not you, and you feel guilty, because you're glad he died, and not you. Soldiers live, and wonder why.”

Soldiers live

No matter how many time I read this, the quote above still gives me chills. As you can see one of the main themes of the book is the survivors guilt. It is brilliantly developed.

The best annalist of the Company is back - old, cranky, but still unmatched. There are very few Company members who are still alive by this moment. Major people start dying literally on the first couple of lines - they were not kidding when they called the last Omnibus of the series The Many Deaths of the Black Company. There are quite a few debts to pay to people who double-crossed the mercenary band and the Company always pays its debts. Always. Yes, there are battles to fight, revenge to deliver, and lives to sacrifice.

I am a big fan of the series. Why? Let us go back in time when I was young - a typical naive youth. I loved to read even then, but somehow never bothered with fantasy; until the day my friend loaned me Lord of the Rings. I started it initially thinking it is a children tale, but the more I read the more I realized it is anything but. And then the ending came. I was hit hard and literally could not get it out of my head for three days - the modern term is Book Hangover.

Fast forward quite a few number of years. Let me introduce you my adult self: disillusioned, bitter, and cynical. I stumbled upon The Black Company hunting for non-traditional fantasy and was hopelessly addicted from around page 10 of the first book. I stuck with the series to the last book and its ending had exactly the same influence on me as Lord of the Rings trilogy a long time ago. I could not get it out of my disillusioned, bitter, and cynical head for a while. It still haunts me from time to time. It is still great during my reread. Needless to say, I rate both of these series equally. Yes, I said it: The Lord of the Rings and The Black Company are equally good even though they are so different they might as well come from authors living in different galaxies.

Coming back to the last book, it has everything you ever wanted from great fantasy: excellent characters with some of them practically becoming my friends, practically non-stop action, numerous sad moments as well as humor and nice dialog.
Add to this some very deep underlying themes and you have a book which can easily survive countless rereads without losing any excitement. In case you have not noticed, I am a big fan of the series. In fact I exercise all the willpower I can master not to sound like a fanboy. WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU WAITING FOR, RUN TO THE NEAREST LIBRARY AND GRAB THE SERIES NOW!!! Sorry, my control over my fanboyism slipped for a moment.
Let me just say the series is the reason I always go straight to letter "C" in fantasy section of a bookstore.

People that have read Malazan Book of Fallen take note: this one would not exist without The Black Company. The latter heavily inspired the former - you can find characters inspired by Soulcatcher, Croaker, and the Company itself as a whole. I also insist the Cook does some things better than Erikson - he really knows how to write tight books without everybody constantly whining about miseries of life and countless plots going nowhere. Michael J. Sullivan of Riyria Revelations fame also lists the series as one of his all-time favorites.

I seriously tempted to finish my review with the last couple of lines of this book, but I will not for two reasons:
1. Huge spoilers.
2. Lack of background with which it does not have the same impact.
They do have huge impact and play havoc with your emotions, but you will have to take my word for it. In case you have not seen it coming (ha-ha, seriously?) the rating is 5 rock-solid stars. To the mercenaries of the Company: my friends, you will be missed.