Review: Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler

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I wasn’t expecting a 5-star read from Runebinder, but I was still expecting something I could like and get some enjoyment out of. Realistically I was looking at maybe a 4-star, absolutely no worse than a 3-star. This story failed to deliver. 

We follow Tenn, who is able to use Water and Earth magic. He uses this magic with his friends to fight against Howls and Necromancers. He is found to be the chosen one, groups are receiving word about him from their God, their Prophets, whoever the group follows, they are talking about this boy. Saying either to watch out for him, to kill him, or to help him in his journey to save the world.

The magic is elemental based. Everyone has spheres of magic within them for each of the five elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. You may only be attuned to one or two, and depending on what happens to the spheres you may turn into a Howl, or Necromancer, or you may die. Necromancers are attracted to high amounts of magic but they can only sense it if you use it, so don’t go crazy with your magic.

We find ourselves in a dystopian world, where magic exists, but has been blamed for the Necromancers and Howls now roaming wild and killing people. People have created camps for shelter and protection. Resources like weapons are hard to come by though.

The story is the Chosen One trope. Tenn is found to be the one who can either save the world or solidify the end and ruin. While I did not enjoy Tenn’s attraction to one of the Kin – Tomàs – who is an enemy, something above the Necromancers. I felt this attraction was a play somewhat on love at first sight, although Tenn does fight the attraction and his body’s reaction to Tomàs being close. Tenn also finds by pure chance, an old schoolmate who goes by Jarrett, and they both have feelings for each other. The romance between Jarrett and Tenn is more slow. Like an iceberg slow.

Tomàs is more than just your typical bad boy. One of the first interactions he has with Tenn is on a roof where he kills one of Tenn’s friends by snapping her neck just because she was walking up with food for Tenn and had seen him. Now, I don’t know about you, but I for one can’t believe Tenn would react in any way other than pure revulsion of this person who just killed one of his few friends. But no. Tenn feels aroused at the closeness of their bodies when Tomàs gets close to talk to him.

My problem with this story is likely that I enjoy something more character driven. When you introduce me to characters, I automatically start judging if I should be paying attention to this character to see what they do and get to know them. I’m not expecting them to die a few pages later. In maybe the first 5 chapters, we in fact see an entire camp killed. I was expecting an epic battle of sorts right off the start, and nope. Others who came to the camp looking for Tenn and to help protect them, ended up grabbing Tenn and using their Air spheres to get Tenn out of there and leave the camp to die. Everyone, granted there weren’t many in the camp we had met at that point who hadn’t been killed already, but everyone else we had basically been introduced to is now gone. And this seems to be a theme in the book. Meet someone, then kill them a few pages later.

This was one of the first books I started actually taking notes while reading, so I would have an easier time when it came to writing the review. I was seriously annoyed when I would note a new friend to be introduced, or when someone was introduced as a teacher who was supposed to teach Tenn some key information to aid in his purpose, but then what felt like seconds or minutes later I was noting their death. Sorry Luke, you had maybe a page in the story, but turns out Tenn can intuit out what you were supposed to teach him. 😒

I did skim the last quarter-ish of the story so I could at least see how this one ends. Only to be further disappointed as the author took, what felt to be, additional easyouts. Like poor Luke, who is supposed to teach Tenn something, but falls into a trap and we never see him again. Only to have Tenn some pages later, intuiting out what Luke was put in his path to teach. Luke couldn’t have survived with the few others who survived the trap? There are additional things about his death I don’t understand, but feel I’ve spoiled enough should you choose to read this book. I don’t recommend it if you enjoy character-led stories, and I will not continue this series. Overall, I give this 2.5 of 5 stars, and wonder if this is too good a rating for how blah this book is. I never even cried with any of the deaths because the characters were never around long enough. The one I should have felt, but I didn’t becausethe author trained me to expect any character to die at any moment and not to get too attached.