The Sum of all Men is the first book in David Farland’s Runelords series. The first of three books, the story continues in Brotherhood of the Wolf and Wizard Born.
This novel is different to anything I had read before. The main feature that stood out for me was the use of runes to give Runelords and also ordinary men greater power. The story itself starts quite serenly and we are introduced to some of the main characters in Gaborn, Sylvarresta, Iome and Raj Ahten in good order and the narrative flows extremely well drawing you in straight away. The existence of runes of power is alluded to but it is not until a few chapters in that we are given a clear description of how runes are administered:
I have to warn you now; this is not your usual heroic fantasy fare, bad things happen to the good characters. The villain of the story, Raj Ahten, is sub-human; having taken thousands of endowments. It is hard to see how he can fail in his quest for domination and the book’s title becomes clear in an excellent chapter called The Face of Pure Evil, wherein Raj Ahten explains the term “the Sum of all Men” to Iome Sylvarresta.
"’Have you heard the name of Daylan Hammer?’
Iome had. ‘The warrior?’
‘The chronicles called him “the Sum of All Men.” Sixteen hundred and eighty-eight years ago, he defeated the Toth invaders and their magicians, here on Rofehaven’s own shores. He defeated them almost single-handedly. He had so many endowments of stamina that when a sword passed through his heart, it would heal up again as the blade exited. Do you know how many endowments that takes?’"
The Sum of All Men: The Face of Pure Evil
There is plenty of political intrigue also included in this tale and it is hard to know who is to be trusted. In fact, the book is written so well that it is extremely difficult to decide who is on what would normally be classed as the “good side”. In time we also come to realise that the invading armies of Raj-Ahten are not the biggest threat to land. An ancient foe known as the reavers, a fearful race that are gathering on the borders to south, are gathering and an invasion looks imminent. Raj Ahten looks to build his powers by conquer and to build an army to face this peril. The reavers are first described in the following chapter.
"“It bore no common ancestor to man, looked like no other creature to walk the face of the earth, for its kind had evolved in the underworld, descended from organisms that formed countless ages ago in the deep volcanic pools.
"On his thin ribs, one could see runes of power branded into the flesh, white scars each about an inch to the side. Five runes of brawn, three of grace, one of stamina, one of wit, one of metabolism, one of hearing, two of sight.
No merchant in Heredon wore so many runes of power. This man was a soldier, an assassin. Iome felt certain."
The Sum of all Men: Of Knights and Pawns
Gaborn’s first impression was of vastness. The reaver stood sixteen feet at the shoulder, so that its enormous leathery head, the width and length of a small wagon, towered above him though Gaborn rode on horseback. It had no eyes or ears or nose, only a row of hairlike sensors that skirted the back of its head, and followed the line of its jaw like a great mane.'"
The Sum of All Men: At the Seven Standing Stones
The narrative builds with a quickening pace to an exciting climax and you are, as the reader, left with absolutely no idea as to who will triumph and fully expecting at least one nasty twist before the end.
David Farland has a fine pedigree in fantasy and science fiction and he brings all of his skills to the fore for this opening section of his Runelords series. This is a fresh new take on the fantasy genre, both original and exciting but don’t expect the road to be lined with fluffy clouds and happy endings, this is adult fantasy literature at its best. There is a breath of originality flowing through this book and if you like your fantasy tinged with sadness and where you are never sure what is going to happen next then this is definitely for you. This is one of the best fantasy novels to come out in the past ten years. The story continues in Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Critical acclaim for David Farland and The Sum of All Men
“That rare book that will remind you why you started reading fantasy in the first place” Amazon.com
“Offers sweep, much bloodstained action and interesting characters” SFX
“Treat yourself to an adventure you won’t forget” Terry Brooks
Review by Floresiensis
1 positive reader review(s) for The Sum of All Men
Jay from Devon
A great book, hadn't read anything like it before. The way that men and women can take attributes from others is a master stroke. There are a few flaws in there but it is mostly a great book and a great read.
8.5/10 from 2 reviews