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Sons of the Oak (Book Five of "The Runelords")
Author: David Farland
Publisher: TOR Fantasy
Length: 398 pp.
Just when you thought there was nothing new under the sun in the fantasy genre, David Farland (a penname of Dave Wolverton, author of The Courtship of Princess Leia, one of the better Star Wars novels) introduced "The Runelords."
Farland's unique contribution to the genre is the concept of runelords. Blood-metal is forged into various runes representing different physical or mental attributes, such as wit, metabolism, vision, hearing, etc. People (i.e. "dedicates") are able to give a specific attribute to another person (i.e. "runelords"), such that a single person might have a few or even hundreds of different "endowments," thus enabling them to fight against other runelords. Of course, this also necessitates caring for the dedicates, many of whom are now unable to care for themselves, or are at least at a distinct disadvantage.
Oh yes. The only way to remove the endowment is by either killing the runelord (tough to do) or killing the dedicate. So this sets the stage for many ethical dilemmas, and Farland, as a Mormon, falls well within the Judaeo-Christian camp on those particular issues.
The Runelords series could have ended with the fourth book, where the Earth King and runelord Gaborn fought climactic battles with flameweaver and runelord Raj Ahten as well as a species called the Reavers.
But Farland has decided to milk it a little more by following the adventures of Gaborn's sons, especially his heir Fallion. Fallion is much more than he seems, destined to serve fire, rather than earth, and evil forces seek to use that against him and draw him into their own service.
The book starts off like more of the same, but Farland eventually introduces us to new lands, new species, and new characters (including pirates and the strengi-saats, fearsome creatures that suck in light to create darkness wherever they go).
Sons of the Oak also differs from the first four books in being more adult in content. The enemies are far more sadistic, and the description of their tortures is probably inappropriate for younger readers.
Still, the book shows that there is plenty left in Farland's imagination and the series has plenty of life still in it.
This review is based on the recently released paperback version of Book Five: Sons of the Oak. .Book Six: Worldbinder has just been released in hardback.