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I read a book a long time ago that felt like it was the start of a series. I forget most of the details but it has a very unique magic system based on runes. What I remember is that:

  • The main character is female I think
  • Magic requires runes, crafted by "rune smiths", but must be cast by a separate person. It might be possible that magic requires 3 people, but I forget what the third person might do.
  • People who can create magic are either rune smiths or the people who can actually cast. Each person has only the one or the other talent.
  • The main character I believe has some special ability relating to magic, but I'm not sure anymore what it is.

I remember the thing that stood out the most for me was the magic system requiring multiple people for it to work.

I read it some time between 2003-2005. The book was at the local library so I don't know if the time I found it will help with the date of publication. After reading the description of Runelords and the first few pages of the first book I am convinced that the book I am looking for is not Runelords.

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5 Answers 5

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This might be "The Last Rune" series by Mark Anthony. The series follows two main characters, Grace Beckett and Travis Wilder.

There are three different ways of using runes in the series: runebinders can bind runes into an object, runespeakers can "cast" a rune and use its power, and runebreakers can break a bound rune. Runelords, who are rare, can do all three.

Also, the Grace Beckett character has a magical power unconnected to runes, based on an earth-magic concept.

More information here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Rune and here: https://wyrdwood.net/thelastrune/

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  • I'm going to have to go look for that. Sounds fascinating.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 18:17
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Similarly to Carlos' answer, there's the Illumination series, where:

Magic is strongest when cast in threes--scribers, illuminators, and binders. (quote)

The main character is female, and especially powerful until her magic deserts her.

From Goodreads:

After a lifetime of training, Liath was proud to have passed her final challenge and become a true mage, ready to journey the land of Eiden Myr and find a Triad to bond with as an Illuminator. But the very night of her triumph, her light fails her: She can no longer see the magical illumination guiders, and thus, despite the mage's badge upon her breast, can no longer call herself Illuminator.

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The Runelords series by David Farland seems to fit the description.

From Wikipedia:

In the universe of The Runelords, there exists a unique magical system which relies on the existence of distinct bodily attributes, such as brawn, grace, and wit. These attributes can be transferred from one individual (or animal) to another in a process known as "giving an endowment". Lords who have taken many endowments become extremely powerful, almost superhuman, and are known as Runelords.

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  • with the exception of the main char being male, the magic system fits to a tee, what convinced you this isn't it? (Not disagreeing, you just seem really sure :))
    – Daniel E.
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 0:33
  • Aren't later novels in the series following a female character? The original character's daughter, maybe? I never got that far.
    – Bobson
    Commented Jan 31, 2014 at 18:17
  • The magic in Runelords doesn't work like described at all. The runes take people attributes, Strength, Metabolism, Eyesight, Hearing, Beauty and gives them to someone else. Leaving the person that has granted the attribute without that attribute .i.e blind, weak, slow, ugly, and have to be protected lest the Rune Lord lose those powers. The runes are not used to cast magic, other than the magic used to borrow the attributes and brand the rune onto the skin of both parties. Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 16:13
  • @Bobson the later novels follow the original characters son in his fight against the wyrmling hordes, and he has very few runes branded onto him unlike his father Commented Jan 21, 2016 at 16:14
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It might be Runemarks by Joanne Harris.

Per Wikipedia:

Runemarks follows Maddy, a young loner who has been ostracised from her town for the rust-coloured rune mark she carries on her left hand. Animals born with a rune mark on their bodies are seen as cursed or deformed and are usually quickly slaughtered. Maddy is allowed to live because she is human, but is always viewed with suspicion despite this. Her village does not follow the Norse Gods, as the puritanical regime known as the Order has mandated that no one is to speak or acknowledge any of the old ways, let alone use magic. It is only after she helps rid the local inn's cellar of goblins that Maddy discovers her latent magic, with it quickly becoming something that is occasionally useful to herself and those around her. As the book progresses Maddy flashes back to her childhood where she learned about runes and Norse legends through the old traveller One-Eye, who later reveals himself to Maddy as Odin and involves her in a quest to find a treasure buried beneath Red Horse Hill. As they search, they come across several other Norse gods and are led into a confrontation with the Order and their leader.

Cover of "Runemarks" by Joanne Harris. The cover shows red circles of runes, expanding out from the center. A goblin leans out from the center of the runes. Styled above the runes is the surface of the ground, with Stonehenge and a chalk horse visible. The tagline is "Five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the celler again..."

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    Can you explain why you think this is the answer? Commented May 18, 2014 at 6:41
  • We'd definitely prefer if you posted an excerpt of the page and explain why that backs up your answer. Please see the help center For a more detailed explanation.
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 8:38
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I think it might be Enchantress by James Maxwell. It is about a sister and brother. The female learns how to use runes and is the main character of the series. There is magic, love, and war. This is also the first book of a series.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 1:12
  • Welcome to SF&F SE! It is great that you are contributing an answer which might help someone. Please, could you explain a bit more which points in the original question, are matched by this book? Possibly a quote or two?
    – Basya
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 19:33

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