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Stands a Shadow    by Col Buchanan order for
Stands a Shadow
by Col Buchanan
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2012 (2011)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Stands a Shadow follows Farlander as the second in Col Buchanan's epic Heart of the World fantasy series. It's set in a well realized fantasy realm at war.

In Farlander, aging Roshun assassin Ash took on an apprentice, Nico, and they embarked on a perilous mission to Q'os in the Holy Empire of Mann, a mission that had already killed three of their order. Holy Matriarch Sasheen, head of the bloodthirsty Mannian empire, employed her own assassins (euphemistically called Diplomats) to influence events - one of them, Ché, infiltrated the Roshun order and betrayed them to the Mannians. Sasheen's only son was the Roshun target. But though the assassins succeeded in taking him out, Nico lost his life too.

As Stands a Shadow opens, a grieving Ash is intent on revenge and stows away on the Mannian war fleet as it sets sail, Sasheen and Ché on board the flagship. Ash works his way ever closer to Sasheen, whom Ché watches carefully - he has been tasked with killing her if she fails in leadership. Overall, the resistance to Mannian conquest made me think of the Alamo, stretched over time and across many battlegrounds. But though resistance seems futile, there are periodic successes. And despite failing in his own mission, there is light at the end of Ash's long tunnel too.

This second episode offers Ché a degree of redemption and also introduces another intriguing major character in young Curl, forced into prostitution in Bar-Khos after the slaughter of all her kin by the Mannians. When the enemy approaches Bar-Khos, Curl joins the army as a medic and her path crosses those of both Ché and Ash. If you like your fantasy dark and bloodthirsty, then you'll love the Heart of the World books. Col Buchanan delivers an intriguing and well realized series.

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