World Binder (Runelords) by David Farland

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World Binder (Runelords) by David Farland

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Category: Fantasy
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: The continuing saga of Fallion Orden's quest to recreate the One True World, thus saving all the shadow world fragments from the evil that stalks them. Echoes of Tolkien and McCaffery and all the other great fantatists combine with Farland's own unique vision to produce a highly believable ongoing script of mediaevalist heroes struggling against monsters and demons of truly mythic proportions. Fast of pace, strangely believable, with some home truths lurking between the lines if you care to look for them. Fantasy tale-telling at its best.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: October 2008
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841495651

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Shadoath enters Castle Coorm and finds the tree. It is guarded and has already gained consciousness. The one true tree is rising again. Shadoath wants the tree dead…the guarding wizardress is no match for her…Warlord Hale, one of the few far enough gone in evil to be a match for the tree, offers to chop it down…

But Shadoath is torn. There is something she wants more than the tree. She wants Fallion Orden. Son of the Earth King Gaborn, flameweaver, with a vocation to save all of the worlds and reunite them in the One True World, Fallion is her nemesis. She will have him defeated.

The tree can wait. Better yet: the tree can serve as bait.

Thus opens World Binder, the sixth episode in The Runelords saga. Fallion, his brother Jaz and their companions Rhianna and Talon, make their way home through a country ravaged by war. There seems little left to save, but Fallion's faith is strong.

Until he too comes upon the tree.

Meanwhile, on another world, warlord Madoc is plotting against another king, whilst trying to keep his errant sons in train. Master of Hounds Alun has ambitions above his station. And the netherworld emissary Daylan Hammer seeks to do a deal with the most untrustworthy of foes. Another world and a whole new batch of evil monsters, human and otherwise.

Farland's universe continues to throw up creatures and characters to enthral and repulse. Each slightly different, but close enough to those we've come to know already so that the cast of characters expands but in such a way as to be absorbable by the reader. We may not have met the wyrmlings and the graak before, but they are extrapolations of creatures from the past adventures. In the context of the story they are not evolutions, but in the context of story-telling they are, which is a clever way of allowing the reader to be instantly familiar with something essentially new.

The Runelords series continues to hold to most of the mythic tale precepts. It is a quest tale. Our heroes are still heroes (although not immortal), and the villains are ever more villainous. Death and destruction abound in battles bloody and gory. Love lingers around the edges and gets no time to other than that which must be done. We are confident throughout that, no matter, the cost, good will prevail.

Only real life isn't like that. Good and evil have a tendency to get a bit grey and grubby round the edges with good people achieving the wrong things by trying to do the right ones; and bad people wanting the right ends in order to manipulate them. It is very much a Yes, but…! kind of a universe.

Which is largely why it works so well. Many of the ideas are clear steals from what has gone before (Tolkien, McCaffrey and the like) but they are subtly adapted – I particular love the flight sequences which involve neither eagles nor dragons – to form another feasible reality.

After all, that is what we want from fantasy novels. Something utterly, unbelievably, unreal enough to be safely locked in our heads… but still relative enough to our own concerns and interests to leave us thinking: what if?

Relative in World Binder as in the rest of the series is the notion of the world disjointed. In this part of the story one of the wounds is, well, as it turns out, 'healed' might not be quite the right word. Cauterized? Stitched? Splinted? Themes of hurt and healing echo in the background, alongside the continuing ecological concerns. A blight spreads across the landscape, unexplained, while the forces of death can be threatened by the scattering of the seeds of life.

This is a story of what happens when two worlds don't collide, but mesh. It is a story of shadow-selves; what might we have been in another life. On a more perfect world… Fallion is wont to say. Strange that we never think about what might be on a less perfect world. Our shadow selves might enhance who we are, or they might do the opposite…and what if they do not exist at all? What if all that we seem to be is all that we truly are?

Having not read the first four of the series, I can't comment how well World Binder compares overall. Following on from Sons of the Oak, I found this a bit darker, less conclusive – it almost has the feel of what (in the context of extended series) I call a 'link novel'.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed. The pace continues to race on with little time for sense of space or poetic musings. Moral and philosophical considerations are embedded in the actions and opinions of the characters, but don't get in the way of moving on the plot.

For those yet to discover the legend of the One True World, the much that has gone before will not spoil the enjoyment of World Binder. There is no lengthy recapping to contend with; what you need to know is slipped in amongst the current action in unobtrusive back-links, but it does not really work as a stand-alone novel. Not because of what has gone before, but because of what is yet to come. Unlike the previous instalment, there is no real ending to this one. It's not exactly a cliff-hanger, but there is a mid-action feel to the end game that leaves you begging for more.

If you're already hooked… read on and enjoy!

If not, I'm tempted to say, don't start from here…but only because I'm confident if you go back to the beginning you will get this far.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

This book follows on directly from Sons of the Oak, and while waiting for the next instalment you might want to check out the works of K J Parker, another master of the art of creating mythical worlds that really do work.

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