The remaining part of the Black Company is stuck in a very weird place. Sufficient to say the local talking stones keep bugging Croaker with mysterious messages
and flying whales
look practically normal compared to other things and phenomenon of the appropriately called Plain of Fear.
The Company gathers strength to fight evil guys.
Sounds straightforward? Fear not, nobody ever accused Glen Cook of writing straightforward plots. Everything is not what it seems and a lot of betrayals are about to happen. Former mortal enemies are forced to work together and loyal allies are ready to back-stab each other at any time. The main goal of the Company consisting of simple ordinary grunts? Survival.
This is the first book of the series which fully deserves 5 stars, no questions asked. It wraps up the northern part of the Company's adventures quite nicely with an unexpected but very good conclusion. The tale consists of three different plot-lines which eventually converge.
One is taking place in present with Croaker doing its job as the Company's annalist. Everything that was good about the Company itself in the first book is back, including Goblin and One-Eye with their rivalry. By this time Croaker really grows on his readers with his minimalist descriptions, humor, and sense of honor.
Another plot-line takes place in distant past, about one hundred and fifty years ago to be precise. Bomanz is the guy who let the Lady and her sidekicks out of their confinement. In the first book it sounded like an evil guy in search for even more power unleashed something bigger than he could handle. This time we get to see the events up close and personal. Bomanz turned out to be a fairly decent and nice guy.
The last plot-lines deals with a mysterious guy called Corby living in a dark place called Barrowlands whose motivations remains a mystery for a major part of the book. The time of this one is recent past.
One would think three plot-lines would make for a hectic jumps in the overall tale, but this is not the case. In fact the story flows very smoothly and it becomes more and more interesting as readers get more hints about what is really going on.
One of the best anti-heroes in fantasy - the Lady - used to look like a stereotypical power-hungry megalomaniac, but she finally gets treatment her character deserves (in terms of development). The Lady shows her human side and becomes much more fleshed out.
So this is an excellent conclusion of the first part of the adventures of The Black Company. If you manage to finish the first two books, the reward in this one is well worth it.