Living Up to Its Bleak Title

Bleak Seasons: Book One of Glittering Stone by Glen Cook is the sixth chronicle of the Black Company. I found it as I was combing the paperback section in my local library for a pulpy fantasy piece of fiction. This is something that I pursue with a certain amount of trepidation. Fantasy, in general, has fallen into the trap of the most popular authors regurgitating the same tropes that made them popular in the first place, just with only slight variations. In some cases it is so bad that I have had the memory blur, being positive that I have read the book I am currently holding. There are a few friends that I go to for fantasy picks, but other than them, I have had trouble in finding something that is fresh and original.

The Name of the Wind was one of those books, and, if you are a fan of the genre, I strongly recommend that you look it up.

Bleak Seasons is met with a “Meh.” I appreciate the attempt of delving into a warrior’s perspective of a siege; living through it and fighting out of it. This was good as, all to often in fantasy, it is the glory of battle that is illuminated, and poorly done at that, taking away any hope of realism. I also appreciated the attempt of having the narrator in a situation that had him travelling through time during seizure-like states that he has no control of. There was some ingenuity here in how this affected the narrative form when the storyteller was forced to reorient himself based on the time setting that he was in, and whether or not he had experienced it before, its possible outcomes and overall impact on his world.

The trouble was that the narrator observed everything with a cynical bent. I felt that it accurately portrayed how a soldier would deal with being in a siege situation; a dark humour that painted all of his observations and interactions. The trouble was that it became a bit much as it did not change over the 316 pages. The other issues that became very tedious was that every character had the same outlook on life and was presented with the same voice as the narrator himself. There were times that I lost who was speaking, and just plain lost interest over long conversations as everyone just blurred together. Particular disconcerting were times when characters spoke to a woman in the same way, though the woman was actually one of their wives.

Women are not actually given a voice in this novel. The romantic interest does not speak, but seems to communicate everything with her eyes. Any other women a type cast as the wicked mother-in-law, helpless damsel in distress or the unapproachable, unfeeling sorceress.

Pulpy in most regards, but, ironically, not in the narrative technique, which made it un-skim-able and sometimes a chore to read.


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