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The Sum of All Men (The Runelords, Book One:) Mass Market Paperback – April 15, 1999

233 customer reviews
Book 1 of 9 in the Runelords Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 624 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy (April 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812541626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812541625
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.3 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (233 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,465 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Farland is an award-winning, New York Times bestselling author with dozens of books to his credit. He began his career writing short fiction as a prize writer, which vaulted him into prominence in the mid-1980s. He has written science fiction under his own name, Dave Wolverton, including the highly praised "On My Way to Paradise," which won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for "Best Novel in the English Language."

David has also written novels in the Star Wars and Mummy Universes, and has worked as a videogame designer, most notably for Starcraft's Brood War.

In 1999 he set the Guinness Record for the World's Largest single-person, single book signing.

In the mid-1990s he began to follow his love for writing fantasy under the pen name David Farland, where he became best known for his international bestselling Runelords series; though he has also won the Whitney Award for best novel of the year for his historical novel "In the Company of Angels," and he also won the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Novel of the Year, along with the Hollywood Book Award for Best Book of the year for his Young Adult fantasy thriller, "Nightingale."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Niclas Kockum on February 12, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Having read most of the reviews of this book I feel I have to make my own comment. No this is not a new Tolkien and one here compared it to junk food, which in a way is true if you do see Tolkien as a gourmet meal. But I have to say after reading this through that I became involved in this book, because it had a fast moving and somewhat complex plot, some spectacular scenarios but foremost it was epic. I love epic books such as A Song of Ice and Fire and Magician by Raymond E. Feist because they are larger than life, through them you can get lost in something out of this world. This book delivers on that part and it is an involving fantasy world and his magic system is thought through and there are enormous battles and tragic fates for many characters. One of the things that I was intrigued most by in this book is how everyone is not just made demigods without losing anything but how they truly do suffer and lose people, friends and family. There is one truly heartbreaking scene where a soldier, one of the good guys, has to kill a small, innocent and mute eight year old girl because she is his enemy's servant. Farland really makes us feel how a part of this soldier's soul dies with him when he has to do this monstrous deed. The thing that I think most people don't like with the Runelords is its simplistic writing, because it is simple in many ways, it only covers in detail the important and epic events, not how the leaves in the green forest look, which might be a turn off for some who like Tolkien writing but not for others who want the book to progress into the important, "cool" stuff.Read more ›
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback Verified Purchase
For starters I'd like to say that this book offers a refreshing take on the fantasy genre.
Forget about Dungeons and Dragons type spells, here magic is summed up as more of a commodity. There a certain traits or attributes that people can bestow upon another (but at great cost as those who bestow such powers loose their own abilities) so instead of casting spells and such, people gift to others their powers of wit, stamina, brawn, sights, hearing, smell, etc... The people who receive these gifts, they become superhuman. Those who gift others become deaf, blind, or even vegetables at worst. This magical aspect of the world I really liked.
Also, as far as this being a gripping book, I'd say it is. Save the first 50 or so pages, once I got sucked into the plot I found myself too curious to see what was going to happen next to put the book down. Character development is adequate, the main characters are interesting, and the antagonist is pretty fascinating too.
There are however a couple big negatives:
I know its fantasy, but some of the laws of the land in this book are so unrealistic and naïve it's turned me off. I'm not giving anything major away here, but to say that executing or even imprisoning an assassin is against the law, and not challenging this concept, well that's just foolish.
Also, the love story began in such a way it makes you think the protagonist is a fool. Which after he falls in love you see he's not. So the start of the love plotline is disappointing to say the least.
The above two statement made me loose a lot of credibility in this world. But save those two major errors it was a very enjoyable read. Despite my objections I'd still recommend this as a refreshing novel for the fantasy genre.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 26, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is a excellent first book, of what promises to be a brilliant series. David Farland has created a world and characters that I enjoyed as much as I have enjoyed David Eddings books over the years. This is a story that like David Eddings stories I will be re-reading over the coming years. The story is well constructed and follows a good fantasy theme that incorporates the standard ingredients required to lock the readers imagination from the first page. In addition to the standard theme, he has created some excellent characters that have individual moral and ethical identities capable of matching real life people. The characters evolve through the book and like real people, some of the characters grow-up during the course of the book and modify their own moral/ethical stances based on their experiences. This book has a very fast pace and the author has refrained from trying to identify all of the characteristics of the different lands; peoples; etc in the one book. His method of providing characters with extra powers is refreshing, in that they have a price to pay for such powers and a obligation to protect the source of their powers aswell as a moral/ethical struggle to justify acceptance of such powers. Excellent book, looking forward to the next in the series.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 22, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Every now and then, a new authour (new to fantasy, if not to sci-fi..) enters the Fantasy playing field with novel and welcome concepts. Farland has brought with him a new magic system, based on the Vampiric concept of draining attributes (sight, speed, strength, etc) from one being and transferring them to another, thus making the receiver a formidable opponent, especially when the recipient of many such "endowments". The Sum of All Men refers to just that - a being with endowments from so many people that he becomes almost omnipotent. His only weakness being his reliance on those providing him with their attributes, and the need to balance all of his attributes evenly, in order to eliminate any weak links (for example someone who has the speed of many people must have the stamina to survive the ordeal). I would actually rather give this book 3.5 stars, for a couple of reasons. Although Farland does not bend to a formula and his world is novel, complex and relatively believable, I don't find the characters particularly well-rounded, and the plot is a little thin. I'm an avid fan of complex interweaving, and Farland just doesn't do it for me. Six hundred and thirteen pages are by no means a "small" novel, and I'd expected a little more to happen in that span - in short, I found it a little slow moving and not justifiably so. But maybe that's just me. Lastly, I found the book a little too "psychological" for my tastes - his emphasis on body language and people's private domains was a little too overt for my liking, I prefer a little more subtlety. Then again, I suppose that for someone with enhanced senses, nothing is subtle anymore...
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