Steven Wu's Book Reviews
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The White Rose
Book 03, The Black Company Trilogy
by Glen Cook

A book review by Steven Wu
May 03, 2009

Rating: 5 (of 10)

If you've read the first two volumes of the Black Company trilogy, The White Rose is basically required reading. But it marks an unsatisfying conclusion to what is otherwise an excellent series.

The White Rose tells three related storylines. In the first, the tattered remnants of the Black Company have abandoned the Lady and taken up with Darling, the reincarnated White Rose, in the wild desert known as the Plain of Fear. In the second, a mysterious man named Corbie has begun laying the groundwork for a dangerous incursion into the Barrowlands, where the Dominator is entombed. And in the third, Croaker begins receiving snippets of the diary of the wizard Bomanz, whose trip into the Barrowlands several decades earlier revived the Lady.

Cook spreads himself too thin by recounting these three stories, even though they eventually converge. Rather than taking the time to properly explore the exotic new locations he's introduced, Cook instead occupies the book with sideshows, including a very weird quasi-romance between Croaker and the Lady that seems inconsistent with her brutal reign of terror.

But my main complaint is with the ending, which features a literal deus ex machina -- from another dimension, even! Cook "sets up" this ending with an obvious bit of exposition in the middle of The White Rose, then follows through with a halfhearted attempt (an implausibly narrow and anticlimactic battle in the Barrowlands) to make Darling and the Black Company still relevant to the campaign against the Dominator. It's a disappointing way to deal with what is avowed to be the greatest evil the world has ever seen.

The White Rose at least maintains the pervasive sense of weirdness that explains much of the series' appeal. And by now the characters are familiar enough to make any fan of the trilogy interested in their fate. But if The White Rose is required reading, as I said at the outset, reading it also feels like an obligation.

Copyright © 2009 Steven Wu

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Steven Wu's Book Reviews