Haven’t heard of Col Buchanan yet? Trust me: you will.
The Northern Ireland native’s recently released debut novel Farlander – the first installment of his Heart of the World saga – is a deceptively deep read. At first, I thought I had immersed myself in yet another assassin-powered fantasy (Lian Hearn’s Tales of the Otori, Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy, the Night Angel trilogy from Brent Weeks, etc.) – and while Farlander certainly is powered by characters who are assassins, that’s just the first layer of this multi-tapestried novel. It’s a richly described, adrenaline-fueled, emotionally super-charged story about duty, accountability, love, friendship, honor, and, yes, unholy vengeance.
Meanwhile, the Holy Empire of Mann is systematically conquering every nation in the Mideres. Ruled by the ruthless Holy Matriarch and her spoiled son Kirkus, the empire is fueled by an extremist religion that embraces excesses of the flesh (sex, drugs, etc.), sadism, slavery, and essentially dehumanizes everyone not in a privileged hierarchy.
There’s no other way to say it: Buchanan’s writing style is hypnotic. Without even realizing it, I found myself totally immersed in this story – blissfully lost within the pages for hours on end – it was like slipping into a dream.
Fittingly, a sequence in the novel – where Nico experiences the hallucinogenic effects of a berry in the mountains of Cheem before traveling to the hidden monastery – describes my reading experience perfectly:
“The dreams came upon him like black tar oozing up through the ground. They enveloped him, slowly but inevitably, squeezing into his pores and up into his head until his mind was oozing like tar as well… It was a dream… unlike any he had ever experienced.”
“Do not judge a man for the path that he follows. Unless you have walked each and every step in the same direction, you cannot tell another where he is headed, nor what he leaves behind.”
Although it’s too early to tell, Col Buchanan’s debut novel certainly could be the beginning of a classic epic fantasy saga. I for one will be anxiously awaiting the sequel, entitled Stands a Shadow, which – according to Buchanan’s website – will be released this summer.
Remember the name: Col Buchanan.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for almost the last two decades and has written more than 6,000 reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, and BarnesandNoble.com. In his free time, he reads.
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