I’m a big fan of Glen Cook and have been since I was a know-it-all teenager, so whenever he puts out a new book, I eventually get around to reading it. Usually I love the thing, because I just enjoy the way the man tells stories, but even I have to say this book was difficult to get real excited about. However, since Cook wrote it, I finally gave it a try and was glad I did so.
With The Tyranny of the Night, Cook takes us to a thinly concealed 13th century Europe. So thinly disguised I might add that I soon made a list of what fictional country was Italy, which was Burgundy, et cetera and kept up with the characters locations that way instead of the fictional ones.
Sorry, I digressed there.
In this fantasy world, there is a wall of ice in the north which is slowly crawling over humanity, reclaiming the land for the imps, demons, and dark gods who are (drum roll please) the instrumentalities of the night. The wise in the world theorize that this ice age is occurring because the great magical Wells of Ihrain, which the world’s two greatest religions both covet and which correlates to Jerusalem in our world, are gradually drying up. Indeed, the glacier’s growth is increasing, which suggests that the wells are accelerating toward their eventually demise. However, this lessening of their power has not kept the Patriarchs of the West and the Pramans, or the followers of the Written, from fighting several crusade-like wars for possession of them.
As our story begins, a precarious truce holds sway over the world, but that all changes when Else, a young Praman warrior, and his small band of comrades are attacked by a creature of the night: a demigod to be specific. Too ignorant or too stubborn to just die, Else determines to fight back, and he does just that, using his ingenuity to cast down the undefeatable creature of the night. A victory which brings not great joy and accolades to Else but the eternal wrath of the night and the hatred of more human enemies. In fact, Else’s immediate reward for his unexpected success is to be sent as a spy into the heartland of his people’s mortal enemies – unto the Patriarchal city itself, leaving his family, his friends, and all he has ever known behind. There his mission is simple: weasel his way into a position of power and direct the attention of the western kingdom away from any war to take back the Wells of Ihrain.
These ridiculous orders from his lord are accepted by Else as his duty, and he departs even though he has lots of unanswered questions. However, he soon finds that in order to survive he has to do more than pretend to be a westerner; he has to become one. Quickly, our hero is emulating his sworn enemies, eating their food even though it is sacrilege to his beliefs, casting aside his own spirituality, and even fighting and killing other Pramans. Submerged in this alter ego he has crafted, determined to do his duty even though it violates his every belief, Else begins to doubt the foundations of his life: faith, country, and family.
If all that wasn’t enough for poor Else to deal with, someone keeps trying to kill him too? But is it the night, or is it human enemies? Else doesn’t know, and neither does the reader – at least in large part. But there is one thing everyone is certain off: once a man kills a god how can the world ever be the same again. And that is what Cook explores in this first book of the series.
Hopefully, I did the book justice with that brief description. Please understand there are several characters who get considerable page time here – it isn’t just about Else and his mission – and these separate stories do not always interconnect in any but a very remote way. So it can be very confusion to get everything straight in your mind when you first begin reading this novel. However, it’s worth the effort and does grow on you. Now, I don’t know if the growth is new hair on your bald head or fungus on your toes, but it is there nonetheless. But my bad jokes aside, give this book a try you might enjoy it.