Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Water sleeps - book review

Last week I have spent reading "Water Sleeps". It is the eighth book in "The Black Company" series and I've read it as a part of the omnibus edition "The Many Deaths of the Black Company". The second book in the omnibus is "Soldiers Live", which is also the last released book. In this article, Glen Cook announced that there will be more books in the series, but that is left to be seen. When I read the last book, I will at least know does the current plot end or are we left with another cliffhanger.

Just a warning, there will be few spoiler about last books, so if you didn't read them, skip to the last paragraph.

As it can be read in my previous post about "The Black Company" books, I like this series, but found the last few books poorer that the original three novels. I liked "Books of the South" (with "Bleak Seasons" and "Dreams of Steel") which were written with Croaker and the Lady as narrators, but "Bleak Seasons" and "She Is the Darkness", from Murgen's point of view (in "The Return of the Black Company"), I found somewhat... bleak. My main objections at the time were the unnecessary cursing and a little confusing plot. And now, with a few months detachment, I think that these books just weren't captivating enough. However, I'm happy to say that "Water Sleeps" bring things back to the track.

New narrator is Sleepy, again a character that I didn't except to have any influence or importance. Sleepy was, in last books, a young woman disguised as man, whose entire role in books was to deliver one message, checks some books and get captured by enemy on the way back. Although I should mention that she was announced as the next possible replacement for Murgen as the Annalist, which is a fact I didn't give much importance at the time. Anyway, in this book, she takes the role of the leader of remaining soldiers. At the end of the last book, most of the important characters ended captured and in some kind of stasis. So, here we have Sleepy as a POV-character, few characters from last books (Uncle Doj, Mother Gota, Sahra, Tobo...), only three character from original trilogy (Goblin and One-Eye and Soulcathers as current arch-enemy) and few new named characters (mostly Taglians and Shadowlanders).

Plot continues some fifteen years after the last book; remnants of the Black Company, leaded by Sleepy and Sahra, start the long-planned campaign of misinformation and chaos against Radisha and Soulcatcher (who took the actual power in country). And their ultimate goal is to free the Captured from their sleep under the Glittering Plain. First half of the book follows preparations and increasing chaos in the main city of Taglios, while the second half happens after fruition of their plans and describes their flight from Taglios and run toward the Shadowgate... First part is a little slow in beginning, but you fast get sucked in the story!

I found plot much more interesting than in previous two books. It is enjoyment to follow Sleepy as she puts her intelligence and Company's meager resources against the overwhelming power of Taglios principality. Again we have original jokes, many of them based on religious references from one of the three Taglios' religions, which are in turn inspired on the real religions... Occasional POVs from other characters are also interesting, especially when showing how effective the Black Company's strategies are.

There is one theme that has been a part of this series from the beginning: growing old. Fifteen years is a long time and some characters were quite old already in previous books, and here characters are aware of that. So most soldiers are newcomers and old characters try to impress their rituals and way of living, their morality and traditions, to new people.

One part that differentiates this book from the other books in series is revelations: the secret history of the Black Company and the world itself is finally revealed! And I must say that the experience is a kind of an anticlimax. Not that the revealed stuff is boring or unbelievable; on the contrary, it feels quite common and logical. Actually, so much is revealed that I don't have an idea what the last book will be about...

Style of the book is as we know it from previous books, but somewhat more intense and easier to read. Part of it is probably the fact that plot is much more focused on only few characters and a single plot-line. However, every few pages you will find a new surprise, but in such way that you understand that it was planned from beginning. So, even though I now know the "whys" and the "whos", I can't wait to read the last book. Especially because I know that it is written from POV of Croaker.

In short, "Water Sleeps" is comeback to quality of original "The Black Company" books, but in different tone and with different characters. It finally reveals things that were announced few books ago and does it in great style. For those who have read previous books in the series, this is a must - it will bring back your faith in this series.

In next week, I plan to finish the last book in "The Black Company" series and then I will know is there a point in sequels. After that, I will probably watch some anime.

I don't think I mentioned it before, but I watch new episodes of Naruto Shippuuden on Crunchyroll every week and after few filler episodes, focus is back to main plot-line. I still like Naruto (contrary to Bleach, which I stopped watching a year ago), especially now that things are closing to the conclusion.

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