After the glory that was The Black Company, I expected more of the the same from Glen Cook in Shadows Linger: soldiers on the move, lots of bleak gallows humor, a desperate hunt and doublecrossing with The Lady's Soultaken, and lots of interaction between the various members of The Company. In short, a near carbon copy of the first book, only with a slightly different objective. Like, what so much of fantasy seems to be. Shadows Linger is NOT that book. At all. Shadows Linger is something else entirely.
The story here is two fold. First (or second, actually) is that of Croaker and a small band of the Company sent to distant Juniper to discover a way to combat the threat of The Dominator that is cropping up there. Croaker, the Annalist of the Company, has serious doubts of the Company betraying its morality by following The Lady. He also knows something that can get him killed and the Company destroyed: Darling, the girl Raven rescued in The Black Company - she is the reincarnation of the White Rose, the enemy of The Lady.
The second aspect of the story is that of Marron Shed, a innkeeper in Juniper trying to get out of debt and who knows a man named Raven and a girl named Darling who is working at his inn. Marron Shed's story, which should have no connection at all to what we think The Company is all about, but is an interesting story about the changing morality of a desperate man. Through Shed we see what Raven is up to and how Raven is still working to get as far away from The Company and The Lady as possible.
These two stories weave together in alternating chapters that reveal more about the world of The Company and the threats The Lady faces, about The Dominator, about the Company and its history, about The White Rose, and about the threat The Lady poses to The Company.
With characters like Croaker, Raven, Marron Shed, Goblin, and One Eye Glen Cook delivers a powerful tour de force of a novel. Shadows Linger is no less a powerful work of fantastic fiction than The Black Company is. This is high praise indeed because The Black Company was one of the more outstanding works of military fantasy out there. Shadows Linger takes the series, even only at the second volume, in an entirely new and unexpected direction. The direction it takes, however, is a wondrous one and one which shows the range of Glen Cook as a creative force. In a series which could easily be the same novel after the same, Glen Cook has already shown that he is willing to pick apart The Company and his characters and that the only driving force is to tell a good story.
He tells a great one.