Review of FARLANDER by Col Buchanan
HEART OF THE WORLD BOOK ONE
Tor, January 2011
For ten years, the armies of Mann have besieged Bar-Khos, moving ever-closer, cutting off its trade routes, pulling down walls long thought inpenetrable. Nico, a runaway living in Bar-Khos, doesn't have many prospects beyond starvation. Still, being adopted as apprentice assassin by the mysterious black-skinned Ash, is not what he had in mind.
FARLANDER is Colin Buchanan's first book and it shows the strengths and weaknesses I'd expect in a first novel. The universe he creates is compelling, drawing from history, classic fantasy, and Buchanan's imagination. Buchanan makes his assassins sympathetic, even noble, and gives Ash, in particular, a mysticism and fatalism that draws the reader. Unlike many authors, Buchanan resists the temptation to make Nico, the young apprentice, too perfect. Although he has some skills, he's prone to panic, self-doubt, and self-pity. For me, though, Buchanan goes too far in breaking the rules. A protagonist should be vital to the story, yet ultimately, Nico isn't. It felt to me as if Buchanan were trying to be clever, trying to surprise the readers without worrying that he'd draw us out of the story and make us think about Buchanan being clever rather than the fate of the people he created in his story.
FARLANDER is the first in a projected series set in the Heart of the World. It will be interesting to see how Buchanan matures as an author and whether he's able to take the strengths from this book forward while addressing his weaknesses. It's okay to surprise the reader, even to kill characters we love (as George R.R. Martin does in his Ice and Fire series). But those characters have to have reasons to be there other than to die.
Too generous? Too stingy. Or did I miss the whole point? Send your comments to email@example.com. I'll publish the best letters I get so let me know if I can use your name.
MyStarship.com Banner Exchange