This series was a thrift store find. A series of books well broke in and enjoyed by their last owners; the spines broke in several places, which made sense as the books are massive. The reason for the 600+ pages was the impressive world building and the unique use of magic. It reminded me of a roleplaying game, where my knight had the strength of ten men and the wit of four. The difference being, the strength and wit wasn’t gained through experience, but through removing them from another being and endowing them to their receiver. Leaving people sacrificing their attributes, weak and slow-witted. It is a dark premise, one that provides a dark look at what people will do to become Runelords.
We bought several books in the series at once, the perk of shopping second hand, and found David Farland’s magic system refreshing. This was the first series I read where branding was related to magic. Where the strength of a nation lay within its halls; the people who now required full-time care as they gave their best attributes to the Runelords, known as endowments. As a reader, the idea was barbaric. And believable.
Prince Gaborn Val Orden, recognized the truth, even though he too is a Runelord, and plans to change the practice once he is in power. But while he is on his way to meet his father’s longtime friend’s daughter, to woo her into becoming his wife, Raj Ahtan, ruler of Indhopal, attacks. Raj Ahtan’s goal is to become the legend figure known as the “Sum of all Men”. A man with so many endowments that he has become immortal. This sets up an eastern culture against a western culture fantasy, showing the eastern kingdoms with the more barbaric goal. I, however, found all the kingdoms barbaric in their abuse of humans and animals to augment themselves, even if the victims sacrifices themselves.
There are layers upon layers of world building, with each chapter bringing new, interesting details to the story. David Farland also included layers of history with alliances of old holding true if forgotten by many. A connection to the earth, not controlled by the realm of men.
This is a conflict of clashing cultural use of the ruins, fighting over land and the ethical use of the forcibles, metal. Which is already a contentious issue between all kingdoms, there is even more at stake. Gaborn makes a vow to serve the Earth and brings to light a two-thousand year old prophesy, of an Earth King, a mythic figure with “earth site” who can judge the worthy and Choose them. Creating a connection and the ability to to send a message to their Chosen.
Chapter 1 sets the stage with a fight to the death over secret knowledge the kingdom did not know it held.
As Raj Ahtan, the Wolf Lord of Indhopal, presses to make himself the sum of all men, Gaborn and his allies struggle to retain their freedom. It is a deadly battle, and David Farland spares no one in this tale. Pain, loss, and sacrifice are felt by all the characters, and the readers feel it along with them.
The reason I had such visceral feelings about the book is the story is immersive. The barbaric abuse of the people repulsed me and the history of how the cultures justified it to themselves. The lust for power and how it corrupted the individuals provided a stark example of the effects to society, even the imaginary ones. A disturbing example is when the Gaborn’s father, King Mendellas Draken Orden, would rather die than to be a dedicate for Raj Ahtan. They never considered the hypocrisy as they did the same to their own people.
If you enjoy stories with dark premise, searching the darker sides of culture, this series might be a great fit for you.