Let’s be honest now. If you’re here, it’s probably because you read a lot. You enjoy getting to sit back and relax, turning pages as you immerse yourself in the world of literature (or swipe on an e-reader, if you’re a terrible person). You likely go out of your way to find time to get a chapter in here and there, even if you’re really too busy to set aside lots of reading time.
You are probably constantly on the lookout for new books to fall in love with.
Well, in what will be a weekly post, I’m going to do my best to help you find those books. Sometimes, the Book of the Week might be one I’m reading at the time; most of the time, it will be a book I’ve read already. It will always be a book that I enjoyed, and won’t hesitate to recommend. If the Book of the Week is in a series, I’ll almost always just recommend the first book—but in some extreme cases, I’ll make special mention of a book later in a series if it’s really that amazing.
Genres will vary, though don’t be surprised when lots of these are sci-fi or fantasy. It’s what I love most, after all. And on that note, my first Book of the Week is…
The Runelords: The Sum of All Men by David Farland!
The first book in Farland’s Runelords series, The Sum of All Men is an essential book for any lover of epic fantasy. I picked it up at a little bookstore in Hawaii, back in seventh grade, after I finished reading Winter’s Heart and was waiting for Crossroads of Twilight to be released. The first selling point was the cover.
For fans of The Wheel of Time, this should seem familiar. Darrell K. Sweet, one of the most iconic fantasy cover artists ever, has a pretty distinctive style. As a young reader, with a limited experience in epic fantasy, the familiarity of the cover art sucked me right in.
From that point, it was up to the story itself to finish the job, and boy, did it ever. The Runelords features one of the most fascinating and troubling magic systems I’ve ever encountered, an incredibly compelling antagonist who you find yourself unwillingly rooting for…until he does something else that’s just pure evil. The climactic battle in The Sum of All Men is a sweeping masterpiece, the kind of event that you would die to see on the big screen. And throughout it all, you meet four excellent protagonists who each grow and solidify their places in your heart.
If you want one reason to read this, though, it’s gotta be the magic. While The Runelords does feature themes and elements of the traditional Earth/Fire/Water/Air magic, that is a secondary concern in this book when compared to the use of “blood metal” and the giving of endowments to create Runelords. In this world, blood metal can be inscribed with runes for specific personal attributes (brawn, grace, stamina, sight, Voice, glamor, etc.) and with an incantation, transferred from one person to another as an endowment. The recipient is branded with the rune and becomes a Runelord; the giver becomes crippled, having lost whatever attribute they gave, and is a Dedicate, forced to trust the Runelord to care for them and keep them safe.
Because Runelords are dangerous. They’re superhuman, and thus incredibly difficult to kill on the field of battle…so the best way to fight them is to try to assassinate their Dedicates, thereby removing their powers. The result is a rich, complex political spectrum and a compelling tale of war, intrigue, and scheming.
When all is said and done, The Sum of All Men is a solid, fun, thought-provoking fantasy novel that kicks off the first, four-book arc of The Runelords, which builds to a spectacular finale in the breakneck-paced Lair of Bones. I give The Sum of All Men an easy 4 out of 5 stars.