Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: Farlander by Col Buchanan

Title: Farlander
Author: Col Buchanan
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Publishing Date: 5 Mar 2010
Hardback: 384 pages
Series: Book one of The Heart of the World


Mercian Free Ports are the last unconquered lands standing before the Holy Empire of Mann. The shield, six bands of wall of sheer gray stone, towering some ninety feet in height, has protected the island of Khos for over three centuries. But the Shield of Khos is under siege and the full might of the Imperial Forth Army is taking its toll slowly on the city. Poverty reigns, food becomes scarcer by day, men die or go mad fighting in narrow tunnels under the walls. In all this misery, Nico, a young lad, desperately hungry, makes a mistakes and gets caught stealing a fat purse from a dark-skinned farlander named Ash. In prison, Ash visits Nico and offers him a second chance: to take him on apprentice, for Nico to become a Rōshun.

Don’t Judge A Book By It But...

Despite its central sword-wielding hooded figure I liked this cover. I probably looked past this person and saw the promise of a puzzling world on the background. After having read the book, it even makes more sense now.


When I asked myself what I liked most about Col Buchanan's Farlander, my immediate answer was "the way he tells his story". It almost felt like Buchanan could write about anything and could still make it sound enjoyable. He has a powerful style that made me deeply connect with the story and the pages started to turn by themselves. The plot, even though sounding not very intricate, is very well constructed and satisfyingly intriguing.

I was glad to have a map but I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about the Farlander's setting. When I saw the zeppelin-like flying ship on the background of the book cover, I was somehow hesitant, asking myself how far the modern world would seep into the fantasy. I was pleasantly surprised with the result. Buchanan introduces some of the more modern sides of Farlander's setting in a very well planned and controlled manner without pushing the reader to a jump of faith. On the spiritual side, I loved the belief system that he created. The history of the Holy Order of Mann and their perverse faith are particularly poignant. In some parts, the story also contains a slight touch of magic without using the usual concepts.

Farlander's characters add to the charm of the book. Please forgive me the comparison but I thought I saw some Fitz (Robin Hobb) in Nico in more than one occasion. I'm sure Buchanan's smooth style has something to do with it too. Even though they don't jump out of the book, they are, in general, very enjoyable characters.

Buchanan uses also very satisfactory and harmonious parallel story threads. Without rendering them too sophisticated, he controls smoothly the flow of the story.

All in all, Col Buchanan's Farlander is an excellent fantasy debut that I greatly enjoyed. His engaging style is a good indicator for me to pick up his future books without hesitation.

Rating: 9/10


"In the worst of days were laid the seeds of better times." - The Great Fool

"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." - the Blessed Prophet

"The seeds of things show what fruits will come of them." - the Seer


  1. Your review piqued my interest. If add this to what I read so far about the book, this looks like one of the best debut of 2010. I hope to read it soon.

    You wrote that you were a little cold about the insertion of modernism in Buchanan's world. Are you usually standing away from books with too much connection with the real world?

  2. Hi Phil,

    You are asking an interesting question. I'm definitely not against having modernism in fantasy (without talking about sci-fi). Gunpowder, cannons or rifles for example. But, the way my mind works, I cannot enjoy what seems "unstable" to me. I mean unstable as a system.

    I love reading about evolution, evolutionary biology etc. There's a concept called ESS: Evolutionary Stable Strategy. So my mind's reaction to fantasy is often similar to that. I probably unconsciously ask myself this question: Is this evolutionary stable fantasy. This is probably one of the reasons why I'm not a big fan of dragons that are often portrayed as super-intelligent, super-powerful and super-arrogant. In my opinion, they would destabilize the ecosystem where humans live.

    I'm not sure how logical it is to talk about that kind of concepts in "fantasy", after all it is supposed to be fantastic. However, I think I'm sometimes a little bit afraid that I would encounter something that could ruin a book for me. And that's why I think it's not so easy to have modernism in a medieval-ish setting.

    I hope this whole strange reasoning makes sense :).

  3. Hello.
    I established a 2nd lj account to keep track of the books I read, and I am toying with idea of posting reviews on a semi-regular basis. My question is do you send a link of the review to the author (if they have a website, blog or both) after writing it? I am not sure of the etiquette protocol and was looking for a 2nd opinion.

  4. Hi Susan,

    If I have a contact person in the publishing house or if I know the author then I send an e-mail to let them know. Otherwise, I don't try to contact all the authors.

    Having said that, my way may not be the best. I'm sure most, if not all, of the authors would like to hear about well-written reviews, negative or positive.

  5. Another interesting book that isn't in the US yet...although funny thing, the author is listed as Colin on amazon and not Col.