That feeling you get from exploring a good story. A bookish podcast discussing and reviewing books and films as I journey through my ever growing TBR backlog and watchlist.

The Sum of All Men by David Farland

Settling into the space between classic, epic fantasy and modern, character driven fantasy, this classic series from the late 90’s was a TOTAL comfort read as I revisited book one for the first time in over 20 years. It’s a series full of action, magic, a world ending threat working behind the scenes of the immediate warring kingdom threats, even a little light love/romantic interests. There’s something for everyone and it felt like being wrapped in a warm cozy blanket as I enjoyed this audiobook version.

The Sum of All Men
Title: The Sum of All Men
Page Count: 613
Published: 06/01/1998
Categories: ,
When a young prince finds himself alone and the only one able to warn of assassins headed for the king, he quickly finds out there is much more at stake than an assassination attempt. A rival king imbued with power unlike that seen from any Runelord is invading the north. But Prince Gaborn Val Orden may be too late to stop him.

When I think of my favorite fantasy books and series, one of the first questions I always ask is “What kind of magic system does it have?”. This is one of my favorite parts of this series because the magic system is both amazing and horrifying in it’s implications for use. The primary magic system relies on a certain spell being cast as blood metal is applied to the dedicate who is giving up one of their physical traits in order to endow a Runelord with said skill. So if they offer up their sight, the Runelord gains more powerful sight while the dedicate lives out their lives(at least until the Runelord dies) as a blind man/woman. This magic system REALLY messed me up when I first read it as you start finding other traits, such as metabolism, which grants super speed to the Runelord but also cuts their lifespan down drastically, or wit, which grants brain power to the Runelord but leaves the dedicate a blubbering idiot doomed to live out their days barely able to remember to breathe.

Add to that the beginnings of elemental magic that are introduced in this first book and it’s a very satisfying magic system to build a fantasy world around. Of course we have all the usual knights, warriors, giants, and even other mages and wizards so there is plenty of action to be found as the kingdoms do battle. But make no mistake, this isn’t a typical sword and sorcery style fantasy series. It feels much more like Lord of the Rings or Shannara than it does something like Dragon Lance or The Forgotten Realms series.

Full of action, suspense, heartbreak and hope The Sum of All Men finds a sweet spot in my fantasy heart that delivers big adventure with high stakes, enjoyable(and memorable) characters, and a storyline that resolves nicely as a stand-alone but sets things up so beautifully for the larger series to launch from. While this isn’t a YA Fantasy per say, because of the messages it delivers, dealing with grief and loss, finding hope when all feels hopeless, and valuing people for who they are inside not just for the surface level attributes, I’d recommend this highly for anyone maybe 13 and older. It’s the perfect type of fantasy that can hit any audience without relying on being brutally graphic in language or content, yet has high enough stakes and tension to keep you highly invested in the story.

But having read this in 1998 and revisiting it now via the audiobook, I listened with a smile on my face the whole time. I’m sure partly due to nostalgia(so take my final rating with a slight grain of salt because I’m sure it’s impossible to objectively dismiss the power of nostalgia in my current visit with this book), but largely because it’s just good fantasy storytelling that brings all the best parts of that classic fantasy vibe right back to the here and now.

If you love fantasy and haven’t checked out The Runelords series, give this first book a look because I think you’ll enjoy it quite a bit.

The Sum Of All Men (The Runelords #1) by David Farland gets 5/5 Stars.

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