Another doorstopper fantasy series is launched, this one with a boiler-plate medieval-style backdrop and a well-developed system of magic. The ruling aristocratic Runelords accept “endowments”--magical enhancements of voice, brawn, wit, grace, etc.--from contributors called Dedicates, who thereupon become helpless (a Dedicate who donates his wit, for example, becomes feeble-minded) and must be cared for by the Runelord. Endowments are made via “forcibles,” these resembling magical branding irons that absorb the endowment and then burn it into the Runelord’s flesh. Prince Gaborn of Mystarria is visiting Sylvarresta in order to ask for the hand of Princess Iome when news arrives of an invasion by the Wolf Lord Raj Ahten. The latter, having taken hundreds of endowments, has grown so powerful that he captures Castle Sylvarresta without a fight. King Sylvarresta is deprived of his wits, while Iome must yield up her glamour. And by forcing the defeated Sylvarrestans to yield hundreds more endowments, Raj Ahten draws closer to being transformed into the godlike immortal Sum of All Men. Gaborn, assisted by the powerful Earth wizard Binnesman, evades capture while studying a book that may contain the secret of how to defeat Raj Ahten; and he swears a terrible oath to protect Iome, then another to serve the living Earth. Gaborn’s father, Orden, gathers an army at Castle Longmot to defy Raj Ahten’s frowth giants, flameweavers, and nomen, but after a terrible struggle Raj Ahten defeats Orden in single combat and razes Longmot by the power of his Voice alone. So Gaborn, the new Earth King, must find a way to defeat or dissuade Raj Ahren. A bloody, violent, grim saga, with thoughtfully devised magics, and, despite rather anonymous characters, a well-turned plot: overall, reasonably satisfying and involving.