BOOK REVIEW: The Farian War Trilogy, by K.B. Wagers

Rating: 2 out of 5.
  • A sequel to to the Indranan War Trilogy
  • Action-packed, character-driven space opera
  • Released 2018-2019-2021
  • Published by Orbit
  • A total of 1248 pages

Hail Bristol has overcome adversity and now sits on the Indranan throne. But while the war with the neighbouring human nations is at an end, a greater threat now emerges from alien stars. The Farians and the Shen are on the warpath, and Bristol finds herself pulled into a conflict that is not hers to fight . . .

When I reviewed K.B. Wagers’ first trilogy, I likened it to chocolate cake. Maybe not good for you, but fun and moreish. That metaphor still stands, with the expansion that too much chocolate cake is actually quite bad for you. Because while The Farian War might be made of a darker variety of cocoa, it’s essentially more of the same. And after so many mouthfuls, the taste just isn’t there any more.

The Farian War can be read without prior knowledge of Wagers’ works, but it’s better to read the first trilogy beforehand for the benefit of character dynamics and worldbuilding. Also because it’s a better series, but I digress. The main difference this time around is that it’s not just humans fighting other humans. We get far more details on the Farians (as you’d expect from the title) and their rivals the Shen. The problem here is that the Farians never feel all that alien. Except for their ability to resurrect the dead, they may as well be people. They have the same emotions, the same mannerisms, the same personalities. If they had been a mysterious human cult, they’d have been more interesting. But while rubber-faced aliens have a place on TV (because actors tend to be human), in literature I want something more unique.

But worldbuilding quibbles can easily be set aside if the story is interesting enough. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Hail Bristol’s gunslinging adventures were a lot of fun. Her political endeavours less so. Every potential crisis (save the Farians) is quickly overcome or brushed aside without any satisfaction. The banter and jabs between her crew is largely replaced by a cloying wholesomeness that robs the narrative of any tension. In the second book, Bristol is tortured extensively (killed and revived more than once by Farian powers). A few hundred pages later, she’s laughing and joking with her torturer. I get that there’s a message of forgiveness and turning enemies into allies, but I just don’t buy into how fast it all happens.

Those torture scenes (which take up almost half of the middle book) are also the most egregious example of the series’ faults in my eyes. You see, nothing really happens in these two hundred-odd pages. Bristol is tortured, a lot, and spends her time being miserable. Honestly, it’s boring. Wagers clearly sets Bristol on a path of self-exploration, but I never found her to be an interesting enough character to merit the time. These sections of the book also feature one of my pet peeves in literature – the narrative telling us one thing is true, and then revealing it was a lie. It’s not quite as series-ruining as certain other examples I can think of, as this story is all told from Bristol’s perspective. But when I see a character die on the page, I expect them to stay dead. Not ride to the rescue as if nothing has happened.

After such a fun first trilogy, this sophomore release is a real disappointment, and none of the brisk action and snappy dialogue can save it from the fact that I stopped being interested a long time before the finish.

Did you enjoy this trilogy? If so, you might also enjoy:
Planetfall, by Emma Newman
Embers of War, by Gareth L. Powell
The Indranan War Trilogy, by K.B. Wagers

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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