While retaining the first person narrative style when we’re seeing things from Croaker’s point of view, this second installment differs from the first in that it also shifts to a third person perspective to tell of events Croaker is not present for. For many readers, I suspect that is a relief, for me I think I enjoyed the first person narrative more than I suspected, although Cook handles the shifts in point of view very well, and I didn’t find the story lacking.
As with the first book, there’s little in the way of exposition, and this is no longer a tale of a ragtag mercenary crew on the road and in battle. Instead they are holed up in a godforsaken town on the edge of nowhere for almost the entire book, and 6 years after the first book, they have become the stuff of legend. Or the bogeymen, depending on whose side you’re on.
Once again the moral ambiguity makes it hard to choose a side: The company are our protagonists, but they are hardly heroes:
“We did have cards up our sleeves. We never play fair if we can avoid it. The Company philosophy is to maximize effectiveness while minimizing risk.”
Characters with good aims that we've grown somewhat fond of already, do dastardly deeds and think nothing of it, and characters with much darker end game plans do more or less good things. One character in particular pulls off a spectacular development, going from snivelling failure at life to someone willing to sacrifice himself selflessly for the greater good. It's this grey upon grey upon grey morality that I really enjoy about these books.