As you know, we try to keep our eyes on the UK Fantasy market. It’s how we discovered guys like Chris Wooding, James Barclay and George Mann. One of the novels we watched for months was Col Buchanan‘s FARLANDER. We can’t even tell you how many times we nearly imported this one. Then Tor picked it up here in the US and saved us the import expense.
In FARLANDER we are introduced to a world filled with conflict on the brink of all-out war and devastation. The majority of the novel follows Ash–a member of the monk and samurai-like Roshun–and his apprentice Nico. Nico is your typical street-urchin with “potential”, and a majority of the novel revolves around his training in the Roshun society. Kirkus is the whining heir to the antagonistic and religiously zealous (and corrupt) Mann Empire, and we do see him on several occasions as a PoV as well. Another minor PoV is Bahn, and army officer.
The whole plot of this novel revolves around the Roshun practice of Vendetta. Individuals can pay to be put under the society’s protection. Should any harm intentionally befall them, the Roshun will send out a member of the order to assassinate the murderer. Once you slog through the mandatory training scenes that accompany any coming-of-age story, the rest of the novel is about performing a near impossible Vendetta.
The whole problem with this novel is the inconsistency of it. For every moment of awesomeness, there is a portion that takes considerable willpower not to skip over. For every good piece of character development, there is an unforeshadowed poor one (Bahn is the worst offender here). Mostly this all adds up to Buchanan being a new author. Almost every new author makes these kind of mistakes (indeed, should we ever get published, we will likely make similar mistakes ourselves).
1) Buchanan obviously like certain aspects and naming conventions of his world. The problem is that he like to show them to you in small repetitive bursts, and then ignore them completely for the rest of the novel.
2) He doesn’t describe what he needs to, and over-describes the mundane. This is readily apparent with animals and locations.
3) The twist of the novel is highly dependent on the readers caring about the characters. We just aren’t given enough time to actually care, and some of the characters act in stupid or one-dimensional ways (all Kirkus does is whine, and then there is a huge inconsistent part which makes no sense towards the end of the novel). It undermines the whole ending.
4) Speaking of the ending. It is never a good thing when we finish a novel and then wonder, “So…what was the point? Nothing much actually happens.”
While this novel is such a mixed bag, it still comes across as interesting with the future novels having a ton of potential. Our main concern with the forthcoming sequel is that it will reboot the series to a degree, and we’ll have to see this whole coming-of-age thing all over again. But that said, there is a lot to root for here. The action is great. The cities and religions are well realized. He has a nice setup with one foot in the new, and the other in the familiar.
FARLANDER falls right on the edge of “Mediocre” and “Like” for us. We’ll definitely be reading the sequel, but we expect some serious improvement, and hope that the first novel actually has much higher importance than the impression we were left with.
Recommended Age: 16 and up.
Language: Some, and it can be strong.
Violence: Oh yes, and mostly it is well done.
Sex: The Mann Empire has some pretty disturbing practices, and there are several open discussions about sex.
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