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The Runelords: The Sum of All Men [Mass Market Paperback]

David Farland
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 15 1999
The first book of the saga of The Runelords

Young Prince Gaborn Val Orden of Mystarria is traveling in disguise on a journey to ask for the hand of the lovely Princess Iome of Sylvarresta. Armed with his gifts of strength and perception, Prince Gaborn and his warrior bodyguard stop in a local tavern along the way. Immediately, they spot a pair of assassins who have their sights set on Princess Iome's father. As the prince and his bodyguard race to warn the king of this impending danger, they realize that more than the royal family is at risk, the very fate of the Earth is in jeopardy.

Frequently Bought Together

The Runelords: The Sum of All Men + Worldbinder: The Sixth Book of the Runelords + The Wyrmling Horde: The Seventh Book of The Runelords
Price For All Three: CDN$ 28.47

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From Amazon

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Mass Market Paperback
"The Runelords" features a clever concept in a stock fantasy tale, but Farland's slapdash writing ruins both.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fun fast read Jan. 25 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
The Runelords is the first in a series of four books that really are all one volume split into 4. The following books pick up exactly where the earlier books end. No passing of time happens between volumes. In fact, i believe the entire 4 books take up approximately 2 weeks of time. (Which perhaps stretches even fantasy imagination somewhat). To get to an 'endpoint' you need to read all 4. While books 1 thru 3 end in the sense that there are no more pages, the stories do not end in any sense of the word.
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bravo! April 15 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
These days, I judge all my fantasy reads by comparing them to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice series (which is pretty much perfect, IMHO). Farland's not as good as Martin, but he blows Jordan, Brooks, and Eddings away, that's for damn sure (I'm not a fan of any of those authors). The Runelords series is straightforward, old-fashioned fantasy (maybe a little too old-fashioned), but the system of magical "endowments" is fresh and original. And while I've read other reviewers say they didn't like the characters, I found them interesting and believable. A good solid read, which I think is pretty rare in fantasy these days!
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2.0 out of 5 stars A comic book Dec 6 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I try not to be negative, so I'll start with a number of positive things about the book. First: I didn't put it down. The pace and action keep you on the edge of seat, or couch or wherever you read. Second: The story is creative and entertaining. And third (and this is important) the book is well written.
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.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Attention grabbing from beginning
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 more
Published 13 months ago by Shamus
1.0 out of 5 stars Okay story.........badly told
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 more
Published on Feb. 13 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars alright in the begining, but fails quickly
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
Published on Dec 2 2003 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars Alright....
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
Published on Aug. 31 2003 by Y. Haber
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting Book, Lots of Promise!
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 more
Published on Aug. 13 2003 by H. Alan Rosenberg
4.0 out of 5 stars Cliche, but fresh spin
Yeah, like most epic/high fantasy this novel sports the 'ol Evilrulertakingovertheworldandcanonlybestoppedbylonefarmboy storyline, but Farland (which is NOT his real name) does... Read more
Published on June 16 2003 by B. Bly
1.0 out of 5 stars An evil overlord walks into a bar...
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 more
Published on April 30 2003 by not4prophet
4.0 out of 5 stars Great concept but something doesn't flow right
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 more
Published on April 11 2003 by General Pete
4.0 out of 5 stars The Sum of All Men
David Farland has a diamond in the rough here. In a day and age where fantasy is mass produced and generally written in formulas (Naive hero, mentor of some kind, true and undying... Read more
Published on March 15 2003 by Mike Axenroth
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