Sons of the Oak (Runelords) by David Farland

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Sons of the Oak (Runelords) by David Farland

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Buy Sons of the Oak (Runelords) by David Farland at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Fantasy
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: A fast paced fantasy spanning the continents and oceans of the Runelords world, as the young prince begins to discover the powers within him and resist those without. A solidly constructed world and mythology, a little weak on characterisation but with a plot that doesn't pause for breath. Pure escapism.
Buy? No Borrow? Yes
Pages: 432 Date: August 2007
Publisher: Orbit
ISBN: 978-1841495644

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Shadoath is met on the remnants of the One True World by the consciousness of Asgaroth, who tells her that the Torch-bearer has chosen a new form. Between them Shadoath and Asgaroth have been trying to gain mastery of the whole of creation. The original attempts led to the shattering of the One True World into thousands of shadow worlds, scattered like the splinters of a broken mirror.

But these are spirits of the netherworld and they have time measured in ages to undo the breaking, piece by piece. Their attempts thus far have failed, until they found the one shard that will enable them to bind the others together... but this news of the rebirth of the Torch-bearer is not welcome.

Meanwhile, the Earth-King Galborn is aging. His death throws the young princes Fallion and Jaz into the fray.

Sons of the Oak is the fifth of the Runelords series and for those not familiar with the series, possibly not the best place to start. Much of the tale rests on what has gone before. That said, Farland is reasonably successful in his background-checks to ensure that it can stand alone and be enjoyed in its own right.

Not being familiar with the earlier stories, it is hard to say how much that might irritate fans already immersed in the world of the Runelords.

The concept Farland has created is nothing new, but execution of it is masterful. He has the broken whole, which will be put together... but is the putting together a good thing. Most believe it not to be so. For in that perfect world that once was, there was no death and no ill, and so no growth, no heroes, no honour. Many of the good things of the current day, rest upon their comparison with the evils they overcome. It is significant that it is the evils ones who are trying to reconstruct the past.

His world is of the traditional fantasy kind... a mediaeval society lacking technology but full of myth and magic. There are wizards as we would know them, sworn to one of the elements earth or air, fire or water... who can wield the powers of their element... but at risk of falling totally under its sway. But there are also forcibles: creations of 'blood-metal' that with the aid of a facilitator will allow and endowment (wit, or grace, or strength, or metabolism) to be donated to another... the gift must be given freely, but such free gifts can be tricked out of their givers. The gift binds the 'dedicate' to its recipient, and leaves him or her leached of their own power so long as the recipient lives. For every good, it seems there is a price to pay.

It is a world peopled by ordinary humans, apart from the wizards and the endowed and their dedicates, but also by strange animals. A world enough like the earth we know, so that we should recognise oak trees and hurricanes, but one also filled with strange creatures of unimagined horror and evil. (Not to mention the mildly humourous Rangits, which I'll leave you to discover for yourselves.)

Within that framework he gives us a galloping adventure story. We know the characters by their names, their heritage and their actions. We see little of their inner worlds and anxieties. We are left to deduce their characters from their choices - which I guess is all we have to go on in the real world.

Descriptions of place are kept to a minimum, which is almost a shame for one feels that if given rein Farland could delve into his own image of the Runelords world and produce pages of place and setting to match Tolkien. Instead, he settles for the briefest of paragraphs to give us the mineral-clogged stonewood, each tormented like something from a child's fearful dream of trees, magnificent, its limbs twisted as if in torture, draped with gray-green beards of lichen that hung in tattered glory or the sky on the horizon ... the blue-green of a bruise, and ... as heavy a wet blanket.

Comparisons with Tolkien are stretched it's true, but the derivations are unavoidable. The attempts to differentiate races and species by names and language cannot begin to match the master - for without his study of the ancient languages, how could one? The efforts are made however, and in the final analysis I couldn't decide whether the simplicity of some of the Germanic derivations should be applauded or derided. On balance, given the sophistication of the remainder of his creation I felt they fell a little "short". Perhaps this is unkind, as I love the evil inherent in strengi-saat, Asgaroth, Shadoath. And if the graaks owe more than a little to the dragons of Pern, I'll forgive him that too.

Forgiveness because for all the shortcomings, the strength redeems them is pace. The story rattles along with barely a pause for breath. We follow our young heroes from their first encounters with the new foe, through the deaths of many close to them, out onto the treacherous oceans towards the far fabled continents at the ends of the earth. They battle the natural and the supernatural - aided and hampered by mere mortals along the way. Every short chapter has its mini-adventure, its turning point, its (near)disaster and emotional crux. From danger to danger, pillar to post, through darkness, hell and high water. Battles are fought on the ground and in the soul... and they just keep coming.

This is turmoil at its entrancing fantastic good-versus-evil-versus-the-not-yet decided bloodstained, innocence-seeking best. Of course good will triumph in the end.

And because this is merely the latest in the series, the end may just be another beginning

There is the usual dose of morality, importance of friendship, protection of the earth, love of other creatures stuff in Sons of Oak... lessons in not prejudging our fellows and learning to have faith in our own judgement... but none of it is overplayed.

Deeper meanings can be sought - indeed each chapter starts with a 'quotation' from characters in the series, not all of whom appear in this book - but on the whole, this is one to be read for pure escapist adventure.

If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy A Wizard of Earthsea.

Buy Sons of the Oak (Runelords) by David Farland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sons of the Oak (Runelords) by David Farland at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Sons of the Oak (Runelords) by David Farland at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Sons of the Oak (Runelords) by David Farland at Amazon.com.

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