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Title: Stands a Shadow
Series: Heart of the World #2
Author: Col Buchanan
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Flintlock Fantasy
Format: Digital Edition
The Empire of Mann begins it conquest of the Free Isles. The Empress goes along because she is pissed off about her son dying. The real ruler of Mann, an old magician, sends along a Mannian “Diplomat” (code for assassin) named Che to make sure the Empress never runs from battle or acts like a coward. He also sends along 2 other Diplomats to take care of the first Diplomat once his job is done.
The military leader of the Free Isles goes against all expectations and leads an army into the field to confront the Mannian host. Using even more unexpected tactics, his goal is to slay the Empress and stall the army until winter sets in. The Empress is killed by the Diplomat for trying to run from the fight and the Mannian army is divided as the general and a noble vie for control. The leader of the Free Isles succumbs to the pressures he’s been under and has a heart attack.
Che realizes his life is over since he killed the Empress and begins a running fight with the other 2 Diplomats. He survives and hooks up with a girl from the Free Isles and is trying to start over. He accidentally reveals that he is from Mann and the girl turns him into the authorities.
Meanwhile, Ash, the Farlander from the previous book, is trying to assassinate the Empress himself. He finds out that Che is an ex-Roshun and has betrayed the Roshun and that they are destroyed. The book ends with Ash asking the surviving Roshun to fight the Empire of Mann while he goes on a quest to bring his dead apprentice back to life.
If you divide this book up into 100 parts, not even 1 part would be “magic”. It’s definitely Flintlock fantasy, but the magic is so under utilized that I really hesitated to even call it “Fantasy”. It is also very bleak and borders on the Grimdark.
It was written well and at no point was I jarred out of the story. That being said, I also never wanted to “read more” if I had to stop for bedtime or something else.
However, I won’t be continuing this series for the following reasons. The nobles of Mann regularly partake in orgies of sex and drugs and while nothing is graphic, there are enough objectionable things mentioned that I want nothing to do with it. “Magicless” fantasy doesn’t do it for me. Bleak doesn’t do it for me. In general, the whole world and all the characters just leave me feeling very blasé. Blase doesn’t do it for me either, in case you were wondering. Add in the fact that it took me 3 years to even search out the sequel to Farlander and that tells me something too.
Now I just have to decide what to replace this series with on my kindle. I’ve got the Caverns & Creatures series by Robert Bevan or the Dead Enders trilogy by Mike Resnick. Decisions, decisions.