Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Soldiers Live - book review

It turned out that I needed two weeks for this book. Last week I had my room whitewashed, so I lost three days for preparation and cleaning, and after that I had some business commitments. Anyway, too much time for book of some 400 pages...

Warning - it's hard to write a review without referencing to the previous books, so there will be some spoilers (about previous books), mainly from "Water Sleeps". So, if you haven't read them (although I don't know why would you read this review then), skip to last the paragraphs.

For a reminder: "Soldiers Live" is second book in "The Many Deaths of the Black Company" omnibus edition; it is also the last book in "The Books of the Glittering Stone" and last released book in whole "The Black Company" series. There are two more books announced, but I presume they will start a new phase in life of the Black Company; just like "The Books of the South" did after the original trilogy. I also think new books (I they ever come out) will bring a big turn in theme, just like the turn from a classical fantasy setting (in first three books) to an Indian and Hindu inspired setting (in latter books).

This book presents a great conclusion to the current plot-line. In the last book Sleepy managed to save the Captured from the caves under the glittering plain. We also learn history of the Black company and their place in the world(s) and we are prepared for the last clash. At the beginning of this book, things are in status quo: for some five years, the Black Company is in one of the "other worlds", recruiting, training and preparing; Kina is sleeping under the glittering plain; Soulcather, Mogaba and the Daugther of the Night are having their own petty squabbles. And like in the first book of the series, it will take one were-panther to start the avalanche...

In this book, we see things mostly from point of Croaker, who is currently Annalist again. But we have many POVs from Soulcather, Mogama and Booboo, which is a nice way to freshen things sometimes. Croaker feels most natural as an Annalist, at least for me, probably because he is the original Annalist; he is also much better to read than Murgen. We are introduced to many new characters, mostly wizards. I especially liked later parts of the book that describe Croaker's relation to two of the new players: Arkana and Shukrat.

I don't have anything bad to say about the book. It has many funny scenes (I really laughed when One-Eye's still explodes!). It also has many sad scenes: the name of the omnibus is unfortunately very true (which I found very clever!). It is one of the reasons why I like this series, this play of fun, sadness and stubbornness. You just have to like how strong  these characters are: they get beaten, captured, they friends get killed and they are forced to kill their friends, but they never surrender. As Croakers says: soldiers live...

I have to say that in general, I'm very satisfied with this book, in general and as conclusion of current sage. It presents best sides of the series: world with complex and detailed history; interesting, funny and clever characters; and message to never give up. It is a must for everybody who read previous books. For me, it was the best book since the original trilogy. As of complete series, it is one of my favorites, despite of few poorer books in the middle.

As of my next object of interest, I will watch a relatively new anime "Kimi ni Todoke", which has good rating on AniDB.

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