This book was first published in 1998, but for some strange reason I had never read any work by David Farland. That omission, however, has been rectified. I am now a drooling fan!
The novel begins violently. A man is set upon and injured most gruesomely. He later dies from his injuries, and a series of events is set into motion. Meanwhile, young Runelord, Prince Gaborn Val Orden of Mystarria has traveled to the kingdom of Heredon with the intention of winning the hand of Princess Iome Sylvarresta, daughter to King Jas Laren Sylvarresta, longtime friend of House Val Orden. He and his bodyguard, Borrenson meet a woman in the market of the city of Bannisferre. The encounter is quite entertaining, and at the end of it Gaborn arranges for her to agree to marry his bodyguard. With this act immediately we see that Gaborn is wise and generous, and he should be for he has been endowed with the wit, and stamina of several people. Farland has created a unique and believable system of magic which relies on the existence of distinct bodily attributes, such as brawn, grace, and wit. These attributes can be transferred from one individual or even an animal to another in a process known as giving an endowment. Lords who have taken many endowments become extremely powerful, almost superhuman, and are known as Runelords. That is a concept that I really found intriguing.
Gaborn's plans are put on hold, however, when he receives word that Raj Ahten, the most powerful Runelord since Daylan Hammer, is leading his army north into Heredon and has nearly reached Castle Sylvarresta. Although Gaborn travels as fast as possible to the castle, he still arrives just moments before Raj Ahten and his forces. He brings word of the invasion to Iome and King Sylvarresta, then quickly sneaks out the back of the castle with help from the herbalist and Earth Warden, Binnesman. Raj Ahten, meanwhile, takes the entire walled city with only a single arrow being fired; King Sylvarresta's men eagerly swing open the gates for him, his numerous endowments of glamour and voice making laymen powerless to confront him.
Both King Sylvarresta and Iome are forced to give Raj Ahten endowments to show fealty to their new King. Gaborn risks capture by returning to the castle to rescue Iome and her father, and then he and the princess flee south, intending to warn Gaborn's father, King Orden, who is a few days ride from the city. Raj Ahten, meanwhile, moves his forces out, with a similar intent as Gaborn: track down and kill King Orden. With Raj Ahten gone, Prince Orden's personal bodyguard, Sir Borenson, acting on orders of the King breaks into the dedicate's keep at Castle Sylvarresta and begins slaying all the dedicates. Borenson escapes, and Binnesman learns from the Earth that Raj Ahten may be the least of all their problems. An ancient race of subterranean creatures known as Reavers are preparing to strike.
The book is often violent, and frequently frank. It is a grand sweeping epic that made me turn the pages as fast as my kindle would go!
The first thing that I noticed as I began this remarkable book was the amazing sense of place and time that Farland conveys in his writing. With minimal strokes he paints the scenery and the emotions of the moment. Immediately as each character was introduced I knew them. There was not one moment where I felt any disbelief. This very original world is well crafted, and the people who inhabit it are fully formed and clearly drawn. Farland’s work flows beautifully, and the emotions of each scene are conveyed seemingly effortlessly.
A Runelords Movie is in the works, and David Farland himself has written the screenplay so I think that it will be a real stunner!
The last and final installment in this series of books is due to be published on April 5, 2012. I am looking forward to reading all the rest of the books in this series so that I can be ready when the big day arrives!