I have already reviewed the first two books in Glen Cook’s Black Company series, here and here. This series is an excellent example of great down to earth fantasy. You will not see dashing princes or beautiful princesses as main characters in this series. Instead Cook focuses on the soldiers actually fighting the war. The White Rose is the end of the first set of the Black Company series, known as the books of the north. The reader can comfortably stop reading after this book, though there are several more in the series. While The Black Company and Shadow’s Linger both focus on the movements of the company at large, White Rose features a company that has been mostly destroyed. The book focuses on the few surviving members, though all of your favorites from the earlier books will be around.
Honestly, while this is a good book, it is one of my least favorite of the Black Company novels. I love the dynamic of the company, and the frequent reflections on the mercenary life. This book, especially because of the very small size of the company, destroys this dynamic. While I understand that this is necessary for the story that Cook is telling, I also miss the company dynamic. White Rose has very little to do with life as a mercenary, and a lot to do with ancient evils and rebel movements. Again, while I love the overall story, I miss the mercenaries.
Cook’s stark writing style hasn’t changed from the last two books. He still focuses on character development, and utilizes a straight forward style to bring a depth and starkness to his storytelling that forces the reader to deal with the events of the story instead of getting distracted by beautiful but unnecessary words.
Cook’s characters are as deep as ever. However, this story focuses on the development of Croaker’s character and his long developing relationship with The Lady. It also focuses on a new character Corbie – who will surprise you – and his efforts to prevent the Dominator from being resurrected. However, other characters (Goblin, One-Eye, Silent, and especially Darling among others) all see significant development.
While world development is usually one of Cook’s weaker traits, in White Rose he develops his world very well. While the vast majority of the book takes place on the Plain of Fear and the Barrowland, both locations are thoroughly developed.
As I said earlier White Rose is the last of the books of the north and so it ties up a lot of the loose ends and open plotlines form the last two books. However, Cook masterfully weaves all of these plotlines together around the potential resurrection of the Dominator. While this book might seem strange when compared with the previous two (especially considering that there is quite a time gap between them), however Cook’s attention to the details of his story is more than enough to make everything work well.
While Cook’s writing is not slow, this is not a fast-paced novel either. There are a few points that are slower than others, however, overall his pacing is strong and consistent.
The commentary in White Rose is interesting. You will remember from my previous reviews (or noticed if you’ve read them already) that the Black Company series focuses it’s commentary on the nature or morality. This focus is continued in White Rose, but more clearly examines the nature of good and evil. Interestingly enough, Cook also spends a significant portion of this book examining the concepts of the lesser evil, and of the other. There is also a sub-theme of redemption that runs throughout the book, though it is not as clear, or as significant to the story as it was in Shadows Linger.
The Black Company series is an excellent series in it’s own right, and White Rose is a strong end to the first part of this series. While there are some clear threads of story left unresolved at the end of this novel, it clearly ties up the story of the companies time in the north. All in all, The White Rose is an excellent book, and a strong addition to this series.