The Runelords is the story of Prince Gaborn Val Orden, the son of the King of Heredon. In Gaborn's society, a commoner can grant "endowments" to a noble or a wealthy merchant, such as wit, glamor, smell, sight, or any other attribute. While the lord's vision, intelligence or charisma will be doubled, the now helpless commoner will lose the trait he has given and become that lord's Dedicate, and the lord assumes responsibility for protecting and providing for them.
Gaborn is traveling to the kingdom of Sylvarresta by the will of his father, and to ask Princess Lome to marry him. However, as he is in the country, it comes under attack by the megalomanical Raj Ahten, ruler of Indhopal. Raj Ahten is a Wolf Lord, or a Runelord who forces people to give him endowments rather than granting them to him or buying them. He has literally thousands of endowments that have made him all but invincible.
Gaborn knows that Raj Ahten will not stop until he is the master of the entire world, and he escapes from Castle Sylvarresta and flees back to Heredon to help with his homeland's confrontation with the Wolf Lord. Along the way, he encounters a wizard who believes that Gaborn is the Earth King reborn, the man who can heal the wounds of the Earth and ensure that mankind has a chance to survive.
While the book sounds fairly conventional (youngster becomes a great warrior of prophecy in order to destroy a bloodthirsty villain) the book is helped immensely by the fascinating nature of society, and there are even thoughts on the morality and justice of the process of taking endowments from others.
This report prepared by Robert Stiles