Buchanan’s first outing as a fantasy author features strong worldbuilding and workmanlike prose. Buchanan borrows heavily from a variety of Eastern philosophies, while using the multiple points of view and secondary plotlines to develop his world and characters. These characters, even the slightly cartoonish villains, are well rounded and believable as a result, and the narrative moves smoothly since there is no need for pages of tedious details. This is a strong, impressive debut novel and a series worth keeping an eye on. Kudos to Buchanan!
In a world ruled by the predatory Holy Empire of Mann — a nihilistic religion bent on conquering all nations — poverty and fear reign. The Roshun, an elite group of assassins, offer protection to those who can afford it, while unconquered nations struggle to maintain their autonomy. Ash, a legendary Roshun, is forced by his failing health to take on an apprentice. He chooses the desperate Nico, who must complete his apprenticeship in the field when Ash’s skills are needed to pursue a vendetta against the son of the matriarch of Mann. (TOR, Jan., 400 pp., $24.99)