Soldiers Live

Glen Cook, Author Tor Books $25.95 (528p) ISBN 978-0-312-89057-5

Skillfully combining noir and military fantasy, acclaimed writer Cook may be concluding the Chronicle of the Black Company in the series's ninth book. Narrated by Croaker, the hard-boiled leader of the company, this book tells the story of the company's search for a path through the shadowgates from Hsien toward Taglios and its home. As they make their way, company members engage in numerous battles. They defeat the murderous forvalka; they assimilate some competent but untrustworthy sorcerers from Vorosh; and they continue to train One-Eye's grandson, the company's principle sorcerer, Tobo. But their journey doesn't end when they get to Taglios. There, they find they have to overthrow Lady's sister (Croaker's sister-in-law) Shadowcatcher, prevent the Daughter of Night (Croaker and Lady's biological daughter) from wreaking havoc and generally put Taglios back together--at considerable self-sacrifice. Croaker ultimately keeps his bargain with the guardian of the Glittering Plain, the golem Shivetya, by changing bodies with him--and within the golem body Croaker may have yet more stories to tell. Dark and surprising, Cook's latest is free of pretension, but rich in characters and world building. (Aug.)