(2017) Col Buchanan, Pan, £8.99, pbk, 360pp, ISBN 978-1-447-21121-1
Col Buchananís ďFierce GodsĒ is a fantasy novel set during the war between the Free Ports and the despotic empire of Mann. As the story begins, the empire is set to destroy the crucial city of Bar-Khos. Nico searches for his captive mother. Shard the Dreamer hunts for legendary charts which could save the city from destruction. Armies mass, and a visitor from another world arrives with a hidden agendaÖ
Fierce Gods is the fourth book of the Farlander series. And that is both a good thing and a bad one. It shows the series has enough of a following for Pan to continue it. This is good. On the other hand, it is now got a lot of backstory to explain as it goes along, and thatís not handled very well.
The first fifty pages move very slowly because of this. Equally, we now have a cast of characters spread across the whole of the authorís world, so the book reads like three different novels bolted together. This can work, but it is dangerous. Even when Iím reading Game of Thrones I skip the bits with the Starks because Iím more interested in Tyrion or Daenerys. It also doesnít help that the characters are very different so thereís individual terminology to understand in each case. The weapons. The magic. The politics. Itís too much weight for the thin story to carry.
This is a shame because Buchanan has a vivid imagination and his action sequences are really good. When he lets the story move forward, it does so at a good pace. The characters are vivid and engaging. His world is interesting and he is clearly trying to move a little beyond the standard fantasy environment by introducing space travel. I would welcome more of that. There is a lot to this world and he describes parts of it very well indeed. There is plenty for the fan of heroic fantasy to enjoy.
Overall, I struggled with this one. I would have got more from it if I was already a fan of the Farlander series, but I was also left feeling that I knew the first three books in such detail there was not much need to go back and read them. If you are a devotee of the series, I have no doubt you will enjoy this one as well. If you are hungry for axe-wielding adventurers and multi-thread stories spread across a map, then this will suit you. But it does feel like what it is - the fourth book in a long series.
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