The best books about the best mercenary bands money can hire

The Books I Picked & Why

Kings of the Wyld

By Nicholas Eames

Book cover of Kings of the Wyld

Why this book?

The book took the term “mercenary band” somewhat literally and made something rather wonderful as a result. It’s an old-school romp in many ways, but with added humour, and (deeply) flawed individuals who’re largely terrible at living a normal life, which makes it a riot. There’s a whole lot of fantasy thrown at the page and it’s certainly not aimed at the darker end of the market, but that’s probably only contributed to its incredible success!

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The Black Hawks (Articles of Faith, Book 1)

By David Wragg

Book cover of The Black Hawks (Articles of Faith, Book 1)

Why this book?

Chel isn’t a man cut out to be a hard-nosed mercenary, but he falls in with a badass crew and the resulting exploits and squabbling prove highly entertaining for the rest of us even if he’s miserable throughout much of it! It’s a simple tale of being chased across the country by assassins, all told with foul-mouthed and engaging aplomb, so what’s not to love?

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Dawnthief: Chronicles of the Raven 1

By James Barclay

Book cover of Dawnthief: Chronicles of the Raven 1

Why this book?

The Raven is your classic band of mercs, a found-family of warriors caught up in world-ending levels of chaos. This is much more 90s style fantasy and unashamedly so – serious, sword-swinging, spell-casting stuff. As a result, you have to buy into that a bit given how the genre has changed, but at the same time, the series is all about the consequences of actions rather than any pretence about happily ever after so there’s real meat to it.

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Chronicles of the Black Company

By Glen Cook

Book cover of Chronicles of the Black Company

Why this book?

The oldest book on the list and easily the most influential I’d suggest, the Black Company’s effect on fantasy goes way beyond books about mercenaries. The prose style isn’t for everyone (including me, I do find his style off-putting at times) but this is fantasy without dreamy illusions written by a man who knew first-hand what soldiers were really like. It’s grim and it’s dark, but he’s not playing for cheap or lurid shocks any more than he’s idealising anything.

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The Red Knight

By Miles Cameron

Book cover of The Red Knight

Why this book?

I suspect there are few authors who know more about using medieval weapons than Miles (Christian) Cameron. At times there’s a nerdy level of detail in the arms and armour here (one I enjoyed rather than was put off by), but that’s not all there is to this tale. Firstly the fight scenes are just outstanding, breathless, brutal, shocking, and exciting – some of the best I’ve read in any book ever. Secondly, the company led by the Red Knight is a great crew of awful people; flawed, mad, or outright bastards, they’re far from cardboard cut-outs and the book is all the richer for the humanity they display. 

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