fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book reviews David Farland Runelords 6. WorldbinderWorldbinder by David Farland

Way back in 1998 I was sent David Farland’s The 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 Bones, Mr. 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 and 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.

Worldbinder 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.

Runelords (8 book series) Kindle Edition by David Farland (Author)As a whole, Worldbinder is 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 and 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 and 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.

Published in 2007. Certain works of fantasy are immediately recognizable as monuments, towering above the rest of the category. Authors of those works, such as George R.R. Martin, Robert Jordan, and Terry Goodkind, come immediately to mind. Add to that list David Farland, whose epic Runelords series continues now in Worldbinder. After the events of Sons of the Oak, Fallion and Jaz, the sons of the great Earth King Gaborn, are now living as fugitives in their own kingdom. Their former home has been invaded and secretly controlled by supernatural being of ultimate evil. The sons are biding their time until they can regain their rightful places in the land. Fallion seems destined to heal the world, and feels the calling to act. When he attempts to do so though, two entire worlds collapse into one, and nothing will ever be the same again.


  • Robert Thompson

    ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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