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Monday, September 17, 2007

"Worldbinder" by David Farland

Order “WorldbinderHERE
Read An Excerpt HERE

Way back in 1998 I was sent David Farland’sThe Sum of All Men” because I forgot to check ‘no’ on one of those mailings sent out by the Science Fiction Book Club. Since I had the book in hand, I figured what the heck and proceeded to read the novel. While I wasn’t completely blown away by the book, it showed enough potential, especially the whole concept of Runelords—a magic system where individuals are granted endowments of certain attributes such as strength, speed, eyesight, hearing, stamina, beauty, et cetera—that I picked up the next two volumes (“Brotherhood of the Wolf”, “Wizardborn”) in the series, which to this day I feel are the best in the bunch. With 2003’s “The Lair of BonesMr. Farland delivered what I thought was a satisfactory, but somewhat anticlimactic ending to the series. Then, in last year’s “Sons of the Oak”, Mr. Farland returned to the Runelords universe, starting a brand new story arc that focused on Gaborn Val Orden's sons Fallion & Jaz and the latest threat against their world. “Worldbinder” continues that tale…

Since “Worldbinder” features characters—Fallion, Jaz, Rhianna, Talon—and plotlines from “Sons of the Oak”, it’s recommended that readers check out that book first before embarking on its sequel. As far as the rest of the Runelords saga, it’s not essential to have read the first four volumes, but if you don’t you will miss out on a lot of lore, worldbuilding and other minutia that would make the reading experience more fulfilling. Back to “Worldbinder”, the novel finds Fallion and company in the midst of their quest to seek out and heal the Seal of the Inferno, thus binding “the shattered remains of the One True World into a single whole.” Their journey inevitably leads them back to the besieged Castle Coorm and a trap that merges Fallion’s world with one of the countless ‘shadow’ worlds—a dangerous land inhabited by giants, wyrmlings, loci, graak, the vampire-like Knights Eternal, Death Lords and the Queen of the Loci herself. From there, the book, as in previous volumes, follows multiple point-of-views including established characters (Fallion, Rhianna), new faces (Alun, Warlord Madoc), villains (Vulgnash) and a couple of surprises one of which is the legendary Daylan Hammer. Of the story itself, it’s not very complicated. Expect lots of fantastical sword-and-sorcery action as the humans, both the giants and the ‘little people”, square off against the wyrmlings and other minions of evil, while the Queen of the Loci has sent hunters to capture Fallion alive for her own malevolent schemes.

As a whole, “Worldbinder” was a difficult novel for me to review. Even though David Farland isn’t in the same league as George R. R. Martin, Robert Jordan or Steven Erikson, I’ve really enjoyed his Runelords saga and was pretty excited for the new series when it was first announced. Sadly, “Sons of the Oak” was a bit of a disappointment as it lacked the depth of previous volumes and seemed geared more towards a younger audience. (I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised since David Farland is actually a pseudonym for Dave Wolverton, whose bibliography includes youth-oriented tie-in books to such movie franchises as Star Wars and The Mummy). With “Worldbinder” I was hoping for the best, but like its predecessor the book is plagued by such problems as lackluster writing, shallow to zero characterization and little worldbuilding. Admittedly, David Farland has never been the world’s greatest writer, but it’s usually easy to overlook such shortcomings when the action, magic system, and story were as riveting as they were in the first four books of the series. In “Worldbinder” though, the pace is so kinetic, the development of characters, plot and the world so thin, that the flaws become quite glaring. What makes “Worldbinder” even more disappointing is that it had the potential to be something special. The concept of merging two shadow worlds into one was a wonderful idea and provided a number of intriguing complications such as shadow selves, a whole new world for readers to discover, an untapped source of blood metal which was becoming rare on Fallion’s world, and new types of rune endowments used by the enemy. At 336 pages however, there’s just not much room to fit in such an epic story as “Worldbinder”, and the result is a tale that feels rushed and incomplete. In fact, I really think that 100-150 pages of additional development would have greatly benefited the book especially in fleshing out the plot, better defining the new world that was created, making the characters more sympathetic—a couple of major deaths occur in “Worldbinder” that you should care about but don’t—, and further developing a couple of subplots (Warlord Madoc overthrowing the High King, Alun betraying what is right for selfishness, a love triangle between Fallion, Rhianna & a new rival) that don’t really go anywhere.

In the end, I really wanted to like “Worldbinder” and while the book showed flashes of what made the original Runelords series so enjoyable, compared to previous installments, Mr. Farland’s latest falls well short of its mark. That said I strongly believe that if I was back in middle school I would really enjoy this book. After all, it reads very quickly, is full of nonstop action, has both valiant heroes & ruthless villains, terrifying but cool monsters, and lots more to make a young fantasy lover happy. For the more seasoned fantasy reader though, you’ll probably want to pass on “Worldbinder” unless you’re a diehard David Farland admirer. I could also see fans of Terry Brooks, David Drake and James Clemens enjoying the book, but for the most part, “Worldbinder” is recommended for the younger generation…

3 comments:

SQT said...

I read the first "Runelords" book years ago and I think I'm a bit like you opinion-wise. I thought the concept was fascinating but never could get beyond the first book. I think it's because they are so weighty that I get too bogged down in all that story. I think that's why I like trilogies. They have a good beginning, middle and (most importantly) an end.

Robert said...

Well, the initial series comes to a close by book four and I'd recommend reading it until then. The books do get better :D As far as the new books, it kind of seems like the author is just trying to find a way to extend the series and it's not quite working...

BENJAMIN said...

WELL I DONT KNOW ABOUT TOU TWO but the books were fantastic. Im fourteen and even though im only young i thought that David Farland must have been set for life on these books. I dont know what u guys ave been readin but if it was any better than the runelords book id kill to read it. An absolute awesome most fantastic credit to you Mr Farland lookin foward to more books like it...

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