The first book of a fantasy series by a new author always fills us with a combination of intrigue, excitement and trepidation. There are so many things that often trip them up, including fumbles on characterisation, writing style, world building or pace. So we were pleased to discover that Col Buchanan’s first book, Farlander, easily clears most of the above hurdles bar the last, offering a promising new series to follow.
Farlander is set in a steampunk fantasy world being overrun by the fanatical religious Holy Empire of Mann, and revolves around the character of Ash – an old black assassin of the order of Rushun, forced by old age and health, to take Nico, a down and out young thief, as his apprentice. The Rushun are an order of assassins that impartially administer revenge, and as Nico struggles with what he’s becoming, the work of the order increasingly puts it at odds with the deadly Mann Empire.
It’s the kind of ‘assassin’s apprentice’ tale we’ve seen so many times but Farlander is given a lift by some interesting characters, particularly the enigmatic Ash. Similarly Buchanan’s stylish prose is easy to be swept up in, and gives his world (which arguably feels like it otherwise owes too much to Steven Erikson’s Malazan Empire) it’s own colour.
Sadly while Buchanan is initially able to flesh out his despotic Mann Empire antagonists as much as his heroes without losing focus, the constant back and forth does become a problem, with the book’s pacing mired in ancillary characters and events. While sure to pay off later, they mean the first book is suddenly over with its action-packed climax feeling almost rushed. Still, what’s there is good while it lasts, ensuring a solid start to an interesting series.