Farlander by Col Buchanan (Heart of the World: Book 1)

Nico is a young lad, trying to find his way in the city of Bar-Khos. Being in a constant state of siege for the last decade hasn’t been good on the city and inside its walls the people are desperate. Willing to do anything for a scrap of food, the streets are littered with thieves and prostitutes. Equally desperate, Nico makes a decision that will change his life forever…

Finally able to leave Bar-Khos, Nico sets out to the stronghold of the Roshun with his taciturn master, Ash. Even though he is prone to dwelling on the past, he finally finds some peace in his training. Submerged in the practicing and meditating he even starts to forget what he’s actually training for… to become an assassin. Destiny however, does not have a peaceful existence planned for our young protagonist, and soon he and his master have to set out to protect the honor and credibility of their order.

Farlander starts out really interesting. Col Buchanan takes the time to set the mood and, using different storylines in the first few chapters, he quickly gets you up to speed with what’s happening. You meet the disciples of Mann, for whom you’ll probably grow contempt very quickly. A prologue illustrating the role of the Roshun earns some early respect for Ash and a gripping tale of a father gets you involved in the on-going siege of Bar-Khos.

Nico is constantly pushed onwards by events, most of them not even of his own volition. He’s in way over his head and it’s clear he’s not suited for this kind of life. He has, however, made a deal, and he is intent on seeing it through. Bombarding his master with questions he tries to make sense of what’s around him, without much success.

Some steampunk elements made a nice addition at first, like the zeppelins they sometimes use to travel. When they battled with some other zeppelins it lost a lot of its charm for me though, and when at some point the Roshun were using bombs and smoke/flash grenades the credibility only went downhill. The ideas are good, but were overdone, or in the zeppelin-case, completely unrealistic.

On the whole the story didn’t do much for me, sadly enough. The setting was interesting, but I didn’t really get to care about Nico. At times the events unfolded very quickly, which made for a lively pace with lots of interaction between the characters. The counter-part to that, the character-building, was lacking somewhat though. It’s a very decent debut, but not the mind-blowing kind that I crave.

7/10 A very decent debut, but not the mind-blowing kind that I crave.

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