Epic Fantasy Reread: The Farlander novels by Col Buchanan

There is something about a map in the front of a fantasy novel that really does set the tone.  It’s a sign that the author has planned their world right down to every grain of sand. Col Buchanan’s Farlander series goes a little further than that.  Not only does the map tell us everything about the weather and the way people speak, but from the first page of the first book,  we are dipped into a harsh and ancient world, one filled with old vendettas and long held grudges.

FARLANDER is the story Ash; an ageing assassin who is part of an order known as the  Roshun. Part conspiracy, part street gang, the Roshun has a reputation for looking after their own.  The very survival of the organisation is dependent on absolute retribution; no one is immune from their wrath. 

Unfortunately, there is always one idiot who is convinced that they are immune, and in this case, it’s the son of the Holy Matriarch Sasheen, who can we see by glancing at the map, controls much of the world.  This favoured son kills the wrong person, marking himself for execution by the Roshun.   The only place that isn’t controlled by the Matriarch and her Holy Empire of Mann are the Mercian Free Ports; which happen to be the home of our main protagonist. It is up to Ash to seek vengeance for the Roshun, one man against an Empire.

Fortunately, Ash is assisted by his young apprentice, Nico, a gutter rat and merchant of impatience and sarcasm.  It’s Ash’s stoicism that wins out throughout the books, and it serves him well. The mix of old but experienced and young yet lucky forms the back bone of the first book, and it does seem like there is nothing these two can’t accomplish.

By the time we get to the second book, STANDS A SHADOW, much of the world is on fire. If the first book can be described as a tale of duty, consequence and violence, the second novel is all about vengeance and redemption.  Again, it’s Ash’s allies that really bring out the humour and suspense. STANDS A SHADOW introduces us to Bahn, a man who has no stomach for conflict, which makes his relationship with Ash quite unfortunate. We also meet another assassin called Ché, who throws Ash’s own problems into a sharp light. 

Like many fantasy authors, Col Buchanan has chosen real world history as the inspiration for his world building. However, unlike many, Col  hasn’t settled for just broad strokes; the Farlander series digs deeply, drawing from the very marrow of the past. The books draw upon the harsh truths that history have taught us to create stories that feel epic in scale.  The result is a world  in which every person feels believable and real. 

FARLANDER is action-packed and blood fuelled, and STANDS A SHADOW raises the stakes even higher, so much so that I almost expect the third book, THE BLACK DREAM to actually be on fire by the time it comes out of March. I hope not as it won’t fit easily on the shelf, never the less, I have a bucket handy as THE BLACK DREAM is guaranteed to be hot stuff. 

About Ed Fortune

Ed Fortune is a professional bibliovore and the Sequential Arts Editor for Starburst Magazine. He is also the host of Starburst's genre lit podcast The BookWorm.

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To find out more about book three, THE BLACK DREAM, click here