Stands a Shadow (book, Col Buchanan, 2012)

Book two of the Heart of the World series. From SFX #212, published in 2011.

Four stars

417 pages

Author: Col Buchanan

Publisher: Tor

Evil hedonists take on island democrats

Buchanan’s entertaining Heart of the World series continues with an invasion of Bar-Khos by the Empire of Mann. Meanwhile, super-ninja Ash tracks the wicked Matriarch, and Mannian assassin Ché begins to doubt his loyalties.

Stands a Shadow offers plenty –battles, genocide, shipwreck, intrigue, and compelling new characters. Buchanan’s writing is strong; even if he undermines the effect of his descriptive powers by being equally descriptive of plant pots as he is of sieges, he creates occasional moments of total immersion for the reader.

The shoddy geography and linguistics of his world irritate as much as the first time round, and a worrying promise of things to come threatens to undo the power of the first book’s brave finale.

But although one wishes the author would paper over the joins between the tale’s elements more skilfully, we’re discussing the finish. The underlying construction is sound, the story gripping. With steampunk, magical, and historical influences, this is one of the most refreshing new fantasies out there.

Did you know?

Farlander, book one of The Heart of the World, won the David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy in 2010. Well done there, Mr Buchanan.


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