This story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world which was about by dark magic — evil necromancers to be precise — as well as the all-powerful Kin.
These necromancers turn humans into nasty flesh-eating monsters called Kravens (a type of lower Howl), which the Necromancers control and who have pretty much decimated the planet. Cities are now empty and our once bustling society has all but disappeared.
Only a group called Hunters can help to fight back in the war, given they themselves have magic – Hunters are attuned to one or two of the elemental magic spheres (there are five total). Our hero Tenn, for example, is attuned to Water and Earth.
So the book starts out right away with an intense fight scene in which Tenn and his other hunter friends are attacked by an army of Howls. During the battle, Tenn’s water element completely takes over him (which is unheard of) and he ends up performing magic at a level of power that any normal hunter should not have.
Because of this, he has attracted the attention of a one of the Kin (a more evolved fire-based Howl) — a super-hot and seductive Incubus named Tomas who does not appear to have Tenn’s best interest in mind and whose charms are proving to be difficult for Tenn to resist. Tenn has also attracted the attention of Jarrett, a hunter from another contingent and with whom Tenn has a past. Jarrett and Tenn both went to magic school together and during that time, Tenn had developed quite a crush on Jarrett.
So with Tomas and Jarrett both are interested in Tenn for different reasons, he finds himself kind of like a pawn in a much larger game – a game that he doesn’t quite as of yet understand.
But it doesn’t take him long to learn that he is supposedly “the chosen one” meaning only he has the power necessary to take on the Necromancers and the Kin, and regain control of their world before it’s completely destroyed.
Now Tenn wants no part of this chosen one foolishness and just wants to live a normal life (which were often see in these chosen one scenarios). But both Tomas, as well as Jarrett’s group of Hunters, are intent on Tenn fulfilling his destiny as the chosen one. It’s also worth mentioning that Jarett also has a crush on Tenn so there is a romantic element thrown into the works as well.
WHAT I LIKED
The book takes place in a terrifying world only recently turned post-apocalyptic so the cultural references, setting, and language are easily relatable to readers who don’t normally read in the fantasy genre. Thus, this new world that the author creates in extremely relatable and meticulously well done. As a fantasy reader, I really loved that our main protagonist and chosen one happens to be gay, something we don’t see a lot of in the genre.
I really enjoyed the magic system in this story. Here we have a mixture of elemental magic, rune magic, necromancy along with some very frightening zombie-like creatures so we definitely get a taste of more darker types of magics in this book. The magic system as it was explained really intrigued me though I would have liked to have learned more about it (hopefully, more will be explained in the next book). Speaking of the zombie-like creatures, I found the description of Howls quite fascinating, especially once we learn how they’re created.
I like my books with a lot of action, and Runebinder didn’t disappoint. This intense story pulls the reader right in with an immediate action scene and from that point forward, there was never a dull moment as the author moved us from one harrowing situation to another.
Though he was flawed, I really ended up liking Tenn’s character. I found him brave, selfless and relatable, quite a compelling character all in all. The other characters in the book were no less compelling and I felt that they were all wonderfully developed and intriguing.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
The only thing that kind of bothered me was the relationship between Jarrett and Tenn. It felt way too rushed and it was extremely insta-lovey. Though they did know each other in magic school, they’d never dated or even let the other one know they were interested. Now within a couple of days times, they’re overtaken by an all-consuming love and ready to die for each other. I just had a difficult time buying into that and would have liked to have seen more build-up on the relationship front.
Gripping, compelling and somewhat haunting, I really ended up loving this book, especially given that it’s a Queer YA fantasy set in the contemporary world, which is unusual for the fantasy genre. The story has incredible world-building and wonderful character development — and truth be told, I’m kind of a sucker for the Chosen One trope.
The author crafts some gorgeous tension-filled scenes here that suck you right in. Kahler has a gift for bringing his characters to life and I found them stunning and evocative.
In Runebinder, we have a deadly monsters, witches, elemental magic, evil necromancers, rune magic, a race of all-powerful beings, a sizzling-hot Incubus, and two sexy hunters who are in lust with each other — oh, and then there are the powerful hunter twins who are haunted by the ghosts of their past. What’s not to love?
Anyway, this is the first book in the series (which did not end on a cliffhanger, by the way) and I definitely will be continuing on with the series when the next book comes out as I really want to see where the author takes this storyline. I ended up giving this book 4.5 stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2