Title: A Cruel Wind: A Chronicle of the Dread Empire
(omnibus containing A Shadow of All Nigh Falling, October’s Baby, and All Darkness Met)
Author: Glen Cook
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Before creating the mercenary Black Company, Glen Cook wrote about the struggle between the deeply divided West and the Dread Empire of the East. The Western nations are nominally the “good guys”…mostly by virtue of our protagonists being from the West and the Dread Empire being efficiently expansionist and militaristic (and we are told repeatedly that they are “pure evil” though their actions aren’t demonstrably more so than the Westerners). The pettiness, scheming, brutal pragmatism, deep character flaws, and occasional atrocities of the Westerners make for a moral ambiguity that is typical Glen Cook dark fantasy.
This appears to be set in a different world than the Black Company novels, but Cook clearly developed a lot of his Black Company characters, plot devices, and writing style in these books (to say nothing of a character that Steven Erikson steals almost wholesale for use in his Malazan Book of the Fallen). The writing style is a bit rough with occasional awkward transitions, vague/incomplete descriptions that leave you saying “okay, what just happened?”, characters making literary/historical/religious allusions that don’t make much sense in their world, and a confusing profusion of people and places (with no maps). Nonetheless, if you like dark fantasy this is well worth a read: plenty of convoluted schemes, sorcery, battles, sudden and ignominious deaths of major characters, etc.