Friday, May 22, 2009

Novel Recommendation: The Runelords by David Farland

I'm currently reading The Runelords, novel 1 of the fantasy series of the same name written by David Farland (aka David Wolverton).

Some of you may know the author from his "Kick in the Pants!" email-blog. He periodically sends out emails that give tips on writing, getting published, and dealing with the industry. They're very informative and well worth the time. If you are interested, just email dwolvert (with the replaced with an @ sign, and say "Kick me!"

Anyway, since I started writing 2 years ago, I haven't come across a single novel I enjoyed. I'd been starting to think that by learning to pick apart my own stories critically that I'd rendered myself unable to enjoy other people's novels.

So I was very glad to realize that I was thoroughly enjoying this one. I'm about halfway through--I'll try to write up a full review when I've finished the book--and it's been great every step of the way. Some of the early chapters have some passages approaching info-dumps that may be a little bit out of character POV, but the information they provide is interesting and pertinent enough that it didn't really bother me. There's also occasional head-hopping, but again, it was done in such a way that it didn't bother me.

The most interesting thing for me in those early pages was to hear about the magical endowment system--this isn't a spoiler, you learn of this very early on. Through this, any person can endow another with their own attributes, such as wit, brawn, grace, sight, etc... The giver of the attribute finds themselves completely without that quality, while the receiver finds their attributes increased by that much. So a wise man can give his wits to another, the giver becomes a drooling husk, unable to even control his own bowel movements, while the receiver becomes that much smarter, able to remember more things and puzzle out difficult problems. The link lasts only as long as the two people live--if the giver dies, the receiver loses that endowment. If the receiver dies, the giver returns to normal. In this way, the people who have received many endowments must protect their Dedicates (the ones who gave them endowments) in order to protect their own abilities.

The implications of the Endowment system are major plot points that help keep every twist and turn interesting. At times, the story seems like it follows a common fantasy style, but just as I settle in to get comfortable, Farland takes a common idea and twists it to make it his own. The writing and plot are excellent and I would recommend this book to anyone.

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