I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
The continuing saga of the Black Company, a group of mercenaries who will have been hired by The Lady, an undead ruler whose evil is possibly preferential to that of her trapped-in-his-grave husband, The Dominator.
Shadows Linger explores the everyday evil of human existence, through the person of Shed Marron, an innkeeper in a remote city where the Company finds itself stationed. Shed is a miserable coward, scared of physical harm, poverty, and the judgment of his neighbours. When he gets money, he foolishly squanders it on fine clothes, women, and booze. I don’t know about you, but I know people like Shed—I’ve wasted a few dollars in my day, which would have been much better used if I’d saved them for emergencies. However, we all learn from our poor judgment—experience, it’s called. Shed ends up in debt to a money-lender and embarks on a dark side-business to dig himself out of the hole.
In many ways, it is by following the story of every-man, Shed, that this novel shines. I, as reader, couldn’t help but empathize with him, when he starts out with small deeds and gets sucked into a much larger situation, which he has far less control of. Isn’t this how many people end up involved in criminal activities? One seemingly safe action may lead you in unanticipated directions; if you have stood up and said ‘yes’ once, you may end up not being able to say ‘no’ later. This is the way that good people end up doing despicable things.
Mirroring Shed’s struggle, the Black Company must decide whether they can stay in The Lady’s employ, or if they also have reached the limits of their capacity to endure evil. Have they also waited too long to get free?
Second books are rarely better that the first of a series—they are often transitional. But Shadows Linger was much more engaging for me that the first book.