The Runelords: The Sum of All Men Mass Market Paperback – Apr 15 1999
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The Runelords is that rare book that will remind you why you started reading fantasy in the first place. Much of the setting--and even some of the story--is conventional fantasy fare, but David Farland, aside from being a masterful storyteller, has built his world around a complex and thought-provoking social system involving the exchange of "endowments." Attributes such as stamina, grace, and wit are a currency: a vassal may help his lord by endowing him with all of his strength, for instance, and in turn the vassal comes under the lord's care as his "dedicate," too weak to even walk. A Runelord might have hundreds of such endowments, giving him superhuman senses and abilities, but he then must care for the hundreds that he has deprived of strength, or beauty, or sight.
Runelords excels because this novel idea is not mere window dressing--Farland uses it to explore fundamental questions of life and morality. The story's hero, the young Runelord Gaborn, struggles to define his role in this "shameful economy" while keeping his commitments to himself, to his people, to the woman he loves, and to the earth itself. We end up asking ourselves the same questions: Should you choose your friends based on insight or virtue? Is it better to be just or good? Competent fantasy lets you escape to adventure in faraway lands, but exceptional fantasy makes sure you have something to think about when you get back. Runelords accomplishes the latter. --Paul Hughes --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
A developer of properties for the gaming industry and a science fiction author (Star Wars: The Courtship of Princess Leia) under his real name, Dave Wolverton, Farland once again proves himself a wizard at storytelling in this third installment of his epic fantasy series, The Runelords. Against a medieval-like diorama, Farland has established a social system around the magical exchange of "endowments" from vassals to lords. A Runelord might have thousands of endowments, acquiring attributes (vision, strength, stamina, beauty, grace, wit) from willing donors, who become weakened Dedicates, crippled by the loss yet a Runelord must care for those who make his superhuman abilities possible. The Runelords: The Sum of All Men (1998) introduced Mystarrian prince Gaborn Val Orden, a Runelord who battled the powerfully endowed, near-invincible Wolf Lord Raj Ahten. With Gaborn newly crowned Earth King, defeated archvillain Ahten renewed his attacks in Brotherhood of the Wolf (2000). Now Ahten, Gaborn and Gaborn's wife, Iome, return to face the Reavers, huge monsters with "crystalline teeth like scythes" that pose a grim threat to Ahten's empire. In his role as "mankind's protector," Gaborn, despite dwindling powers, senses the impending doom of an all-out Reaver war, and Averan, a wizardborn girl with magical insights into Reaver consciousness, aids his hunt for the creature hordes. This latest is certain to summon past readers of the series back to bookstores.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The system of transferable physical endowments seems a brilliant idea, a gimmick rife with ethical dilemmas, but it also leaves gaping plot holes. The major flaw is why good characters accept endowments at all, since the donors are left crippled, but Farland waves this away by having them only use willing donors. The peasants' fawning eagerness to become zombies to empower their lords strains belief. The ethical ramifications of this system could have fueled a deeper work, but Farland rushes ahead with his fantasy plot, only briefly examining ethics in Borenson's guilt.
This potentially interesting concept and the trite plot of a prince discovering his divine legacy end up buried, as "The Runelords" is jumbled in every possible aspect. Characters flit from one idea or place to another with no justification except rambling inner monologues. Gaborn escapes from the castle, only to sneak back in. The plot jumps between unrealistic military campaigning and ponderous earth prophecy. Farland's writing stumbles with trite phrases and halting exposition dumps. Gaborn is fleeing the Dedicates' Keep, but then Farland describes the kitchen in numbing detail. The prose constantly blurts things rather than show the characters figuring them out -- Raj Ahten somehow immediately knows that Orden is using a serpent ring. The only memorable skill in the narrative is the vibrant array of spices and scents that permeate the early sections of the book.
Unlike most fantasy authors, Farland does try to inject some moral conflict into his characters, but his weak writing can't support the attempt.Read more ›
As many here have noted, the magic system used in these books is a fascinating departure from the norm. Also somewhat unusual to fantasy writing is how the whole concept of good and evil is handeled. It is by no means unique, but is a different approach than you'll find in the typical run of the mill fantasy you get from Jordan et al. I still have some question about how the magic works in certain situations, but Farland does cover most of the bases at some point in the 4 books. If you are puzzeled about it early on, keep reading and chances are it is explained at a later point.
The books move along at an incredible rate. The main characters rush from one major scene or event to another with barely a moment to breathe or to really get to know the characters.
Overall, expect a very good story line, unique magic system, some very good storytelling, but do not expect major character development or fantastic writing. These are some good books that you'll read quickly, will enjoy a good deal, but it is unlikely that much will stick with you for long after you've read the stories besides the magic system, there just isnt enough development of the characters for you to identify with them for to long.
I am choosing not to continue to read the books in the series, however. I found that the story is more about the mechanics of the magic system (in which one person may take abilities such as strength and stamina from another) then the characters of the story. Having some experience with RPG games I felt as if the story was as much about the characters stamina, strength and intelligence scores as about their thoughts, development and personalities.
Many times the Runelords has an overblown 70's comic book like quality because of the protagonists' heightened abilities. Y'know, like when the Hulk punches Thor and Thor goes all the way through the mountain. To me it made the story ridiculous. This concept makes the people that Farland is writing about as easy to identify with and care about as the gods on Olympus.
Most recent customer reviews
English is a mix of many languages but our simple forceful words about eating, fighting, and loving are firmly rooted in ancient Anglo Saxon history that few of us can relate but... Read morePublished on Aug. 16 2013 by Shamus
Anyone who likes traditonal Fantasy, be it Lord of the Rings, Shannara, or Recluse, will find this book dull. The story is fast paced... Read morePublished on Feb. 13 2004
Typical fantasy fare, though better suited to DAW publishers rather than Tor. I find this world's magic very interesting though.
Watch out for this guy. Read more
Review of The Runelords, by David Farland.
Having read the Runelords, I will review it and detail its components and rate them individually, and then seek to... Read more
The author has come up with an extremely unique, and quite fascinating way to handle magic ("endowments") in this novel. That premise alone kept me reading and reading. Read morePublished on Aug. 13 2003 by H. Alan Rosenberg
Yeah, like most epic/high fantasy this novel sports the 'ol Evilrulertakingovertheworldandcanonlybestoppedbylonefarmboy storyline, but Farland (which is NOT his real name) does... Read morePublished on June 16 2003 by B. Bly
Stop me if you've heard this one already. Okay, so there's this evil overlord, see. And he wants to take over the world, all right. Read morePublished on April 30 2003 by not4prophet
I found the concept of rulers of a land could take an aspect of one of their subjects and add it onto themselves to be absolutely fascinating both intriguing and terrifying at the... Read morePublished on April 11 2003 by General Pete