The best books about the best mercenary bands money can hire

Who am I?

I’ve been writing fantasy for two decades now and still, I can’t resist a foul-mouthed rogue with a grubby soul. They’re usually the most entertaining characters to write and in the long days of plugging away at a book, they’re often the ones that remind you what’s so fun about the job. When I started Stranger of Tempest it was (pretty much solely) with that in mind – I wanted a disparate band of crazed, badass idiots to go on an adventure with and see where it took me. Of course, as I got to know them I found there was more to their tales than that, but it was fun right to the end!

I wrote...

Stranger of Tempest: Book One of the God Fragments

By Tom Lloyd,

Book cover of Stranger of Tempest: Book One of the God Fragments

What is my book about?

Lynx is a mercenary with a sense of honour - a dying breed in the Riven Kingdom. Failed by the nation he served and weary of the skirmishes that plague the continent's principalities, he walks the land in search of purpose. He wants for little, so bodyguard work keeps his belly full and his mage-gun loaded. 

Little could compel Lynx to join a mercenary company, but he won't turn his back on a kidnapped girl. At least the job seems simple enough: the mercenaries are less stupid and vicious than most he's met over the years. So long as there are no surprises or hidden agendas along the way, it should work out fine.

The books I picked & why

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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!

The Black Hawks

By David Wragg,

Book cover of The Black Hawks

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?

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.

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.

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. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in mercenaries, knights, and mercenary groups?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about mercenaries, knights, and mercenary groups.

Mercenaries Explore 22 books about mercenaries
Knights Explore 40 books about knights
Mercenary Groups Explore 12 books about mercenary groups

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Empress of Forever, Ring Shout, and The Angel of the Crows if you like this list.