cover image Water Sleeps

Water Sleeps

Glen Cook. St. Martin's Press, $24.95 (464pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85909-1

The eighth volume of the military-fantasy saga of the Black Company of mercenaries, set in a world strongly flavored with elements of South and Southeast Asia, holds to the high standards of previous volumes. It is some years after the close of She Is the Darkness, when their nemesis, Soulcatcher, locked most of the company in a magical stasis field; now the motley band of survivors exists at the sufferance of the Radisha of Taglios. This doesn't keep them from wanting to rescue their comrades, however. The survivors' leader is the young woman Sleepy, once the ward of Murgen the Standardbearer but now his successor as Annalist of the Company. She organizes her ragtag followers to steal the various sorcerous secrets of ways to penetrate the stasis field and eventually to kidnap the Radisha of Taglios herself. The rescue party then hotfoots it, with Soulcatcher, her general Mogaba and Kina the Destroyer close on their heels. This novel stands more sturdily on its own than most Black Company books, thanks to the exceptional richness of the world building, exemplified in particular by its feel for Eastern religion. It is compelling to see the dregs of society groping toward a certain nobility through loyalty to lost comrades. The actual rescue has a whiff of anticlimax about it, but the revived Black Company has no shortage of surviving enemies, and further adventures are practically guaranteed and eagerly anticipated. (Mar.)