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The breathless third installment of Farland's second Runelords quartet opens with the cliffhanger from 2007's Sons of the Oak: flameweaver wizard Fallion Orden, son of the Earth King, is trapped by fiendish Lord Despair in a savage new world Fallion himself had made by melding two realities. Fallion has rejected "endowments," transfers of power or skill that leave the donor drained of the attribute they bestow on the recipient, but his lover, Rhianna, her foster sister, warrior maiden Talon, and Talon's noble idol, the Emir Tuul Ra, accept numerous endowments, vowing to pay any price to rescue Fallion from Rugassa, where torture is an art. Oscillating between lurid depictions of blood-soaked vistas and heroic tales of noble adolescent saviors, Farland attempts to leaven the violence with enchanting parallel-world landscapes and charming minor characters, but the atmosphere overall is unrelentingly gloomy. Nonetheless, this series promises to continue as long as stalwart-stomached readers can keep turning its grisly pages. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.