cover image She Is the Darkness

She Is the Darkness

Glen Cook. Tor Books, $23.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85907-7

Although an intelligent fantasy, this second volume of Cook's Glittering Stone trilogy (after Bleak Seasons) will be tough going for those unfamiliar with the preceding tales about the mercenary Black Company (of which this is the seventh). In it, narrator Murgen--annalist, narrator, ghostwalker--discovers that his wife and newborn son are alive. Meanwhile, an impressive host of demigods, demons, sorcerers, assassins and unclassifiable entities led by the goddess Kina (Kali in disguise) and by Soulcatcher--sister to Lady, the wife of Croaker, the commander of the Black Company--array themselves against the Company. At the cliffhanger ending, Croaker is led into folly that threatens the Company's existence. Cook deserves high marks for much in this novel, including the gritty realism of the soldiers' dialogue and of the attitude of the civilians (who seem to suffer much like the Vietnamese did during the Vietnam War) toward the warriors rampaging over their towns and fields. The distinctively non-Western flavor of much of the mythology is also welcome. Large parts of the book read like a collaboration between Michael Moorcock and the late John Masters, dean of historical novels of the British Raj. Indeed, the book offers virtually anything a fantasy reader could ask for, except a coherent narrative that stands on its own. (Oct.)