Stands a Shadow by Col Buchanan

Rating 8.6/10
What really makes this work is that the reader will care about the characters.

The sequel to ‘Farlander’ sees the Holy Matriarch of Mann ordering a risky invasion of the Free Ports. Her plans are the complete conquest of the fortress city of Bar-Khos, whose walls have held the empire at bay for ten long years of siege.

Ash is an ageing Roshun assassin who is determined to avenge the previous victims of the Matriarch. Che the Matriarch’s personal Diplomat and also a trained killer of the state is questioning his own path in all of this.

With the battle for the Free Ports intensifying more lives are drawn into the conflict: Bahn, a siege shocked soldier on the verge of losing his mind; Bull, a murderer; and Curl a young dross-addicted prostitute who finds herself making a stand against the Mannian Empire.

Only the determination of one man seeking redemption may be enough to sway the final outcome...

This novel is packed with action, adventure and incident; there are plenty of assassinations, political intrigues, an exciting shipwreck and a battle all against the backdrop of a fight against tyranny.

This is a grimy, poverty and disease stricken world where scheming, plotting and corruption reign supreme. All of the characters are believable and compelling and the story is told from their different perspectives making it interesting for the reader.

One of Buchanan’s great strengths as a writer is that he writes with great empathy for his protagonists who are three dimensional, multi layered and fallible people suffering hardship and uncertainty and not just chess pieces being moved around a board.

The beachhead, battlefield and the city siege are all gripping and exciting as the fortunes of both sides ebb and flow. It may not be to the liking of all readers but I enjoyed the juxtaposition of zeppelins here known as ‘skyships,’ rifles, grenades and cannons used alongside medieval weapons. Archers fight side by side with riflemen, swords and daggers are used for close quarter fighting and the battles are fought on land, on sea and in the air.

This is a cleverly plotted story which makes it very clear that our lives and their outcomes are all about the choices we ultimately make. It is also a very human story with the cost of war made all too apparent. The descriptions of the people and places are vivid and the city of Bar-Khos is a character in itself.

What really makes this work is that the reader will care about the characters and wonder who will actually survive by the books conclusion. This is simply a riveting edition in the ‘Heart of the World Series’ and is recommended reading.

Published 2011 by Tor, ISBN 978-0-230-74482-0

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