Book Review: Farlander

Farlander by Col Buchanan, Heart of the World #1

The Heart of the World is a land in strife. For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators. 

The Mercian Free Ports are the only confederacy yet to fall. Their only land link to the southern continent, a long and narrow isthmus, is protected by the city of Bar-Khos. For ten years now, the great southern walls of Bar-Khos have been besieged by the Imperial Fourth Army. 

Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Roshun – who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink. 

When the Holy Matriarch's son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Roshun; he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. As Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfil the Roshun orders – their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports... into bloodshed and death.

Farlander like many books has been on my radar for a long time. I know this book was published somewhere way back in 2010 in the UK, with the release of the third book in the series, The Black Dream, Tor is re-issuing the first two books: Farlander and Stands a Shadow in brand new covers. And allowing me the perfect time to catch up with them! 

The story of Farlander might sound familiar to many fantasy readers who have read Epic Fantasy featuring assassins, but believe me when I say that Col Buchanan will surprise you in the end, a lot. As with any good story Col Buchanan starts of with setting your senses towards a want to finish this books asap by a action packed prologue that only raises a lot of questions, who, what and who and what yet again. After this action packed introduction, the story starts to settle down around one of the main protagonists of this story the young man Nico. Nico lived together with his mother until he decided to start a life a fresh for his own, but found that this was harder than he imagined. In order to survive he finds himself stealing food, and not being the best in stealing, he wounds up in prison, where he awaits a punishment for his crimes. Luckily for Nico, his relief comes int he for of Ash. More than an old man, who is willing to take on Nico as an apprentice. Now don't think an blacksmith or baker apprentice, no an apprentice to the famed Roshun, an obscure order of assassins. Ash is an old master assassin but the years have wore him down. Now all of a sudden Nico finds himself transported from the life he had in Bar-Khos to the life of becoming an assassins. It might have been easier for Nico if he had stayed... However during his training something happens... a situation where the Roshun are called into action. The Roshun offer protection and when one of their "customers" are injured or killed they take it as part of their vendetta meaning to kill the person who inflicted it on their customers. How the inflictee, is none other than the son of the Holy Matriach Sasheen who is the ruler supreme. But bound by their oaths this doesn't make a difference and Ash together with Nico and a few other Roshun make their way to kill the Matriach's son. This act will bear a lot of consequences... for better and yes for worse... 

As I already said this story might sound familiar are the premise of it might. However be WARNED as it isn't I liked how Col Buchanan build up the story from the start the action packed beginning then letting the action ebb down and slowly building the story and plot with utilizing the characters of Nico and Ash. I heard some other reader saying the pacing was off but I liked it. In the moments where the story slowed you have enough time to recapture where the story stands. Next to the point of views from Nico and Ash there is one other not to be missed that of the occasional flash of the Matriarch, it keeps the story most interesting. 

After finishing the book and thinking about it more and more I perhaps have to revise something about some characters. There are plenty of characters in the book like Nico and Ash who readily help to bring the story forward. Nico is an interesting character, choosing the life on the streets and then finding himself to be an assassin. However these assassins as Ash is the breathing picture of aren't invincible and they have to rely on their own skills. Some scenes did feel to fast though, it seems that Nico is growing to become an Roshun but I would have liked to have seen a bit more personal development in him. Next to Nico, Ash offers a ton of information about the world and the Roshun, it is by this old man that you see a lot and of course learn a lot of what the world is about. Besides Nico and Ash there are a nice few secondary character that do make the story come around. And here on some occasions Col Buchanan uses a less is more kind of approach. Introducing characters and then letting them dissapear or what happens in the end with Ché who is introduced quite late but will play a crucial role to come. This somehow makes the story that much more alluring, putting you on the edge of your seat dying to find out what will happen next. 

One aspect where Farlander draws a nice bit of strength from is the world in which the story takes place. Though the cover and synopsis hints towards Epic Fantasy. The world says otherwise. There are hints to some other themes as well. Mentioning skyships just to name one that hints to something more of steampunk but the order of assassins, way of fighting with swords and Matriach style of ruling is more in the lines of Epic of course. Col Buchanan has created a nicely dynamic world that plays greatly together with the characters and plot. though each element is well worked out. The sum is even better!

What more remains to be said? If you want to read something very addictive and where you will find yourself needing to read the sequel asap, Farlander is the right place to start. Col Buchanan has written an exciting start to a new series. Yes there were some minor issues with the book but all in all I think you will be quite amazed with the result as I was. And remember Ché, Stands a Shadow will be Epic. I know it already!

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