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The company is a stand alone novel by epic fantasy writer KJ Parker and features five men who were part of a company of war.
This novel looks at the after effects of a long war; there had been a long war and a longer peace. The men all fought in a famous linebreaker team called Company A. There were 6 men in the team who went in against the opponent's pikemen breaking their line and forcing a breach for the oncoming cavalry. This role is very dangerous and the mortality rates were huge but Company A became legends for their ability to survive and the methods they employed in breaking opposition lines. The army they fight in win the war and a period of peace develops, the now 5 men go there different ways with one of the men dying in the last engagement of the war.
7 years later
One of the men General Kunessin who remained in the army and therefore progressed up the army's officer ranking. He returns to the town all the men came from and has a plan to reform the company and return the men back to prosperity and fortune. Kunessin has lots of money and persuades the other 4 men into going to a distant island which he has rather hoodwinked the government and now owns.
The other 4 men decide to go along and in the process decide to take wives with them so they all but one have hastily arranged marriages. So the five men, their wives and a few servants all go to the island.
This novel focuses on the five men of A company; it has flashbacks looking back at there now mythical careers as linebreakers for the army. They are devoted to the general who was always the leader of the group though at the time they were all the same rank. So they agree to go with him and the middle third of novel starts to go a bit Robinson Crusoe as they try to set up a settlement on a distant island. This is interesting and keeps the reader engaged, thankfully, the author moves on and starts to use the isolation of the men, women and servants on a distant island as a means to look at how people behave in isolation.
Then we discover gold and the novel starts to take a darker edge, the men are as one and realise the discovery of gold will change the perception of the island amongst the wives and servants. The gold is the central core of the second half of the novel and will force the novel along until the end of the novel. The gold is catalysis and how the various characters in the novel interact with it is brilliantly written and fleshed out wonderfully well.
So we come to the end of the novel, as you can predict everything starts to unravel there are loads of fights, battles, and strange events. The novel gives us mysteries and some are concluded and some are left dangling for the reader to interpret as they wish. The five men are the stars of the novel, General Kunessin is the main character and the driving force of the novel but the other men also have major contributions to the novel. They all fight, argue and bicker between themselves but in the end the binds of company A keep them together, and they will do anything to ensure their survival.
I enjoyed the novel and whilst it's described as fantasy it has absolutely no fantasy element at all. There is no magic, dragons, dwarves, elves, etc. This is a book reminiscent of a Sharpe book set in a mythical land with strong male characters with a bit of Robinson Crusoe and a bit of Treasure Island thrown in.
Years ago there was a war. Five men fought together as 'linebreakers'; an incredibly dangerous job that threatened their lives every day and paved their way to riches and fame. The war ended, they moved on and got on with their lives and left their brutal past behind them. All except one.
The book starts when this last member re-enters their lives with the aim of persuading them to reconsider a plan they had though up years before. He wants them to move, with everything they need, to a deserted island where they can set up a settlement of their own and begin a new life together. All practicalities are considered, wives found, supplies bought, and the move made.
And that what this book is about. Four men and their new wives learning to farm and attempting to create a new life. There are flashbacks to their earlier heroics in the war and gradually we learn that there are secrets and lies from the past that threaten to overtake them.
The strength of this story in in the characters and their relationships, the men, their wives, their servants. Great events and happenings are relegated to the past and the story we see is slow moving and based around the details, the small ups and downs of a small group of people learning to live together. Four men, who were made what they are in wartime, trying to adapt their bonds and habits to fit into a new life of peace.
It's strange, this is classed as a fantasy book and seems to be set in a made-up world, in the aftermath of an invented war. But this is where the 'fantasy' element ends - there's no magic, no mythical creatures, no secret powers waiting to be uncovered, Just people. Its a story about what men make of war, and what war can make of men.
I'm still not sure what I really though of it. I definitely enjoyed it and would recommend it. I thought the writing was great, the story well told and I'm even intrigued enough to pick up more of this author's work. Its something different and stands out in the crowded fantasy genre because of this but, for me at least, there was no emotional 'hook'. I was an interested but totally dispassionate observer of the lives described and I'm not sure there was anything that could have happened to them that would have really moved me. For me, to love the characters is to love the book and this was so much about the characters that, as enjoyable and fascinating I thought this was, it still won't be getting 5 stars.