Random Review: Farlander by Col Buchanan

This review contains no spoilers.

Book Name: Farlander
Author: Col Buchanan
Series: #1, Heart of the World
Publisher(s): Tor
Format(s): Hardcover/mass market paperback/eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy/Grimdark
Release Date: January 18, 2011

Rating: 7/10

As funny as it sounds, it was not my intent to read Col Buchanan’s Farlander when I did. While I was reaching for a different book on my shelf (one which I still haven’t grabbed) I was on the phone and was distracted, grabbing Farlander and then wandering into my livng room with it before discovering my error. Being lazy for the moment I decided to not to walk back the less than 30 feet to my office to get the “right” book, and started Farlander instead. It was a wise choice.

Buchanan doesn’t really do anything new in Farlander, he just tells the story well. As the blurb on the back of the book says “For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation”, and it’s in a city called Bar-Khos where the main story starts. Bar-Khos has been under siege for years, thanks to high walls surrounding and protecting the city. As one might guess, the conditions in Bar-Khos are not exactly optimum. Buchanan does a decent job of describing things in the city without going overboard. He sets the scenes well for what needs to be told.

The co-main character throughout most of the book is Ash (the “Farlander”), a member of an assassin’s guild called Roshun whose mission is to kill the people responsible for the murder of anyone wearing a seal of protection. In failing health Ash is, while reluctant, forced to take on an apprentice and finds one while in Bar-Khos. The apprentice’s name is Nico, and he and Ash make an interesting team. Early on it’s a straight forward master/student story, and then arriving back at the Roshun monastery it becomes an outsider dealing with the “in crowd” while being challenged by the star pupil type story. Both are pretty standard fiction themes, but Buchanan tells it well.

The abilities of the Roshun are well known, and as such anyone that wears a seal is almost certain to not be a targeted by criminals valuing their own lives. Key word: almost. The Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a young woman under the protection of the Roshun in a religious-type ceremony, and after several Roshun are killed attempting to seek revenge for the young woman Ash volunteers to go on the mission. Ash’s rival Baracha also volunteers. Of course, Baracha’s apprentice Aleas is the “star pupil” Nico has to deal with. Luckily for Nico Aleas is not as pigheaded as Baracha, and the two young apprentices do manage to work well together.

Buchanan writes the story of Farlander pretty well for a debut book, with his character descriptions being top notch even for those that are only briefly in the story. And while the book is mostly a mixed batch of well used formulae the ending scenes offer a plot twist that is far too seldom used in any sort of fiction. When it becomes apparent what is going to happen Buchanan tells that portion of the story maybe the best of anything in the book.

Is Farlander a great book? No, it’s not. But it’s a very nicely written debut story both for Buchanan and for the “Heart of the World” series. Luckily I won’t have a long wait for the second book, Stands a Shadow as it sits on my to-read shelf just inches from my desk. More on that soon…

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