The Romanian cover of Shadow's Linger.

Shadow’s Linger is the second novel in Glen Cook’s Black Company series.  The story takes place in the empire and, again, has the Black Company in the employ of the nefarious and insane Soulcatcher.  The thing that I love most about this book is the development of Marron Shed.  Shadow’s Linger has one of the best portrayed redemption stories that I have ever read in fiction, along with Karsa Orlong in House of Chains/Bone Hunters, and a few others.  Strong character development is something that I hold in extremely high value, and Shadow’s Linger has it in droves.  However, this is completely a sequel and, in many ways, relies on the reader’s knowledge of the characters/story of the first book.  So, if you haven’t read The Black Company then go pick up both of these and sit down for a couple of fantastic reads.

Overall: 9/10

Shadow’s Linger is strong in all of the most important places.  The character development is amazing, and feels completely natural.  There is no point in the book at which a character feels forced into an unnatural course of action.  That being said, it is not a stand alone novel and relies heavily on The Black Company and The White Rose to begin and end it’s story.  However, being a middle novel is not a bad thing.  There is a lot of room for character growth, world development, and general progression of the story-line, and this is something that Shadow’s Linger does very well.

Writing: 9.5/10

Again, Glen Cook’s writing is very spartan.  This is something that I love about it.  While some authors feel like reading molasses, Cook is a bit more like a nice bowl of dry cereal.  He has a lot to say, but he does so in a very direct manner that inevitably leaves the read both satisfied, and ready for more.  The perfect place for an author to be.

Characters: 10/10

My favorite thing about Shadow’s Linger, as I’ve already said, is the character development.  While all of the characters see at least some development in this story, the star (at least in my mind) is Marron Shed.  Shed begins the story as a pathetic, whiny, cowardly excuse for a man who has few morals and no ability to stand on them.  Over the course of the novel Shed descends from this point into a truly wicked man, but in doing so learns how to be strong.  I won’t spoil the turning point for you, but suffice to say that by the end of the novel Shed is no longer cowardly, no longer craven, and no longer wicked, but has become a man of worth who earns the respect of the Black Company (not an easy thing to do).  For younger or sensitive readers it should be noted that Shed’s descent into wickedness is portrayed in realistic fashion (what makes it so powerful), and thus includes some scenes that, while not graphic, are certainly thematically difficult.

The US cover of Shadow's Linger

World: 8/10

As in the first novel, characters are Cook’s strongest area, while world development is his weakest.  While he fleshes out the city of Juniper fairly well (better than any of the cities in The Black Company), there are a great many unanswered questions.  The reader will have little idea of what the world is actually like, while he/she will understand the characters very well.

Plot: 10/10

The plot of Shadow’s Linger is twisted, and at first it is difficult to discern.  However, I believe that this was intentional because as the plot takes shape, it becomes clear that previously extraneous events were actually important.  The novels feels, in some ways, almost like a mystery unfolding before the reader.  Generally I dislike mysteries, usually because they are two easy to figure out.  However, Cook’s mystery is not a ‘whodunit’, but instead a ‘what is actually going on’, which is more difficult to discern, and therefore more tolerable.

Pacing: 9/10

In general the pacing in Shadow’s Linger is good, although there are a few sections of exposition and character development that slow down the overall pace of the story.  However, the story is not fast paced to begin with, so this is less noticeable, and well worth it.

Commentary: 10/10

As I said, the star of the book is Marron Shed, a perfect example of a redemption story, and so the majority of the commentary in the book revolves around him.  Like much of Cook’s writing Shadow’s Linger pits morality against necessity and tells a story that opens the reader’s eyes to ‘the way the world really is’.  He handles these subjects with great deftness, and this excellence leads the reader to deep thinking on the subject.  Whether you agree with Cook or not, he is valuable to read.

Conclusion:

My conclusion.  This is my favorite of the nine Black Company novels.  I do suggest reading The Black Company before hand and The White Rose afterwards, but even if you don’t, Shadow’s Linger  is worth reading just for the story of Marron Shed.

2 thoughts on “A Review of Shadow’s Linger by Glen Cook

  1. Just wanted to say that this is a spot-on review! This is probably my favorite Black Company story so far. I’m only half way into the third, however, but Marron shed is such a wonderfully tragic character. Bittersweet stories of redemption are among my most favorite. Thank you for the great review!

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