ARC Reviews

ARC REVIEW: Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler


32766049Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Received From: Review copy from author

Magic is risen.

When magic returned to the world, it could have saved humanity, but greed and thirst for power caused mankind’s downfall instead. Now once-human monsters called Howls prowl abandoned streets, their hunger guided by corrupt necromancers and the all-powerful Kin. Only Hunters have the power to fight back in the unending war, using the same magic that ended civilization in the first place.

But they are losing.

Tenn is a Hunter, resigned to fight even though hope is nearly lost. When he is singled out by a seductive Kin named Tomás and the enigmatic Hunter Jarrett, Tenn realizes he’s become a pawn in a bigger game. One that could turn the tides of war. But if his mutinous magic and wayward heart get in the way, his power might not be used in favor of mankind.

If Tenn fails to play his part, it could cost him his friends, his life…and the entire world.


GENDER: cisgender
SEXUALITY: homosexual


TROPES: magical abilities, flashbacks / nonlinear timeline, the chosen one, surprise magical abilities, instalove
TAGS: fantasy, young adult, queer characters, queer romance, ownvoices, elemental magic, dystopia, zombies, Latinx character, POC character, sibling relationships
WARNINGS: violence, war, ableism, queermisia, slurs, dubious consent, gore, mental illness (depression, PTSD), torture, gendered slurs


The worldbuilding is this book is fantastic. Geographically, it is still recognizably the United States, but practically everything else is different. Kahler does an amazing job of creating distinct factions between Hunters, Howls, the septs, the witches, and the people without magic–all sections are clearly defined and explained, without resulting in huge info dumps. The elemental magic that is the main theme of the novel, and now not only runs but destroys the world, is intricately woven throughout the story and invades every facet of the characters’ lives, both positively and negatively. From the beginning, the reader is tossed into this world of magic, but at no point is it confusing. Though you’re not eased into it, the paths Kahler lays out for you are easy to follow.

By far the strongest aspect of the novel is the characters themselves. Tenn, the main character, is lost and just trying to make it in this desolate world without dying and without drowning in painful memories. All he wants is to protect the ones he loves, but he seems to fail at that at every turn, until the unforeseen magnitude of his abilities gives him the chance to right the world. Jarrett, the love interest, is interesting for the secrets he’s clearly keeping. He’s a familiar face, pulled right out of Tenn’s past, and Tenn immediately places his trust in him. Which, of course, makes me unaccountably suspicious of him and his intentions. Then there are the twins–Dreya and Devon–who I’d pretty much give everything for. They’ve lived in self-inflicted banishment for years and clearly live with pain and guilt over what’s happened in their pasts, but they are so fierce. They push through the pain, or perhaps embrace it, to make them stronger so that they may defeat the evil that currently rules their world.

Even the villains are stunningly well-written–Leanna, Matthias, Tómas, and more. But especially Tómas. He’s a force to be reckoned with, and he seems to have several different facets to him. He’s a wild card–you never know what he’s going to do–and he forces Tenn to work with him, but he also seems to have a tender side, lost a bit in the past, with motivations that are unclear to everyone but himself. He makes it clear that he’s after all the power he could possibly achieve, but I get the sense that there’s more to his actions than that. I wondered for a bit if it was indicative of a problem that Tómas quickly became one of my top three favorites from the book, but as my best friend reminded me, I do love a complex villain. I can’t wait to see more of him in the rest of the series.

In my personal opinion, the most glaring weakness was the instalove aspect of the romance between Tenn and Jarrett. We find out that they knew each other years before, when they were still in school, and went on a couple dates and hung out a few times. Not much came of it because, not long after, the world went to hell. Then, they didn’t see each other for nearly four years. But, because of this past connection, the two immediately place their trust in each other and claim to “love” the other. The book spans probably a week at most, so it was just really difficult for me to buy into this “love.” I understand that, in the world they live in, it’s difficult to form relationships because you never know when you’ll lose the other, but. But. They didn’t really even know each other. They had like two conversations about their pasts and that was it. Then they were in love. I just couldn’t buy it. Hopefully the relationship will developed further in the next novel so I feel more comfortable with them professing their love, but I suppose we’ll see. (Also, I kind of hope it doesn’t because I don’t like or trust Jarrett, goodbye.)

Otherwise, the rest of the novel was wonderful. As I mentioned, the worldbuilding and characters are great, and I very much enjoyed reading the fight sequences and all instances where they used their magic. The action was perfectly paced, and the last few chapters were fantastic. Kahler leaves us on the cruelest cliffhanger, and I am already dying to get my hands on the next one.





Alex is many things, but first and foremost, he’s a Sagittarius.

In the past few years he’s taught circus in Amsterdam and Madrid, gotten madly lost in the Scottish wilderness, drummed with Norse shamans, and received his Masters in creative writing from Glasgow University. And that’s the abbreviated list.

He is the author of many things, including THE IMMORTAL CIRCUS, THE PALE QUEEN, THE RUNEBINDER CHRONICLES, and RAVENBORN (yes, all series, because his brain doesn’t condense).

He’s a nomad at heart, so the whole “he is based in ___ ” thing doesn’t really apply.

He is represented by Laurie McLean of Fuse Literary.

Personal Site :

Barnes & Noble
Book Depository


Take the quiz on the official series website to find out which element you’d match with! I got Water! Comment below and tell me yours!

One thought on “ARC REVIEW: Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler

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