• Runes of Issalia: The Complete Collection

  • Books 1-3
  • By: Jeffrey L. Kohanek
  • Narrated by: Tim Campbell
  • Length: 26 hrs and 30 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (78 ratings)

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Runes of Issalia: The Complete Collection  By  cover art

Runes of Issalia: The Complete Collection

By: Jeffrey L. Kohanek
Narrated by: Tim Campbell
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Publisher's Summary

Contains the complete Runes of Issalia series.

The Buried Symbol, book one

Rejecting his role as an outcast, Brock risks his life and obtains a false rune, marking him a member of the Empire's ruling class. Under a veil of deception and backed by natural talent, he then schemes his way into a school where the Empire's future leaders are trained. Can he maintain this charade? Within an academy of magic, science, and combat, he discovers secrets kept from society, among which is a forbidden magic he is able to wield. He is determined to tame his frightening new abilities. One misstep could destroy him.

The Emblem Throne, book two

The return of a forgotten magic sparks a prophecy of doom. A thin thread of hope remains, hidden with a long lost relic. Brock and his friends resume their training at the Academy. However, an expansive web of lies resides within the Ministry. The exposure of one such secret forces Brock and his friends to flee the school with their lives in the balance. Guided by cryptic instructions from the past and backed by a magic they have yet to master, these young heroes embark on a quest to unearth mysteries buried with the legendary Emblem Throne. However, the path is fraught with blood thirsty monsters and unsuspected danger. One mistake could seal the fate of everyone in Issalia.

An Empire in Runes, book three

A powerful magic. An unstoppable army. The final battle. Mankind's fate hangs in the balance. The eastern cities of Issalia lay in ruin, destroyed by a horde mindless monsters. Led by a teen named Brock, a squad of young heroes seeks a means of stopping this dark force from consuming the rest of the continent. The future of mankind hinges upon a powerful yet destructive magic. As foretold in an ancient prophecy, this rag-tag force gathers upon the Tantarri plains, prepared to face an army of giants. All the while, they must remain vigilant against a secret organization within the Ministry, who will do anything to prevent the return of Chaos.

©2021 Jeffrey L. Kohanek (P)2021 Podium Audio

What listeners say about Runes of Issalia: The Complete Collection

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best series I've come across in a long time

This is the first time I've written a review, despite having nearly 900 books in my audible library. Very refreshing to have an MC that's not a complete moron, or whiny and entitled, or an overpowered arrogant prick. The characters are likeable and relatable. The story kept my interest from beginning to end and was very fulfilling.

2 people found this helpful

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Bland, Boring, and a struggle to finish.

This book was a struggle to finish. The overall story line was okay, but by book 3 you realize that the author is not going to add any depth to his original story.. The good guys are exceptionally good, and the bad guys are exceptionally bad. The author is also extremely lazy in their writing, as he repeats the narrative speaking about the characters feelings instead of letting his story lead the way.

I could go on about why you should avoid this book, but I'm going to sum it up really quickly. It's probably one of the worst books I've spent a credit on in the last 6 years of listening to Audible books. Wish I had refunded my credit.

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love his stories

narrator brought these books to.life. so easy to follow along and excited to get back to story when I had to stop. enjoy JK books...looking forward to Wardens of Issalia...

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Plot follows familiar template

This series follows a frequent plot in fantasy books: main character goes to magic school, bullied by the popular kid, discovers hidden, forbidden powers, flees school to stop a threat no one else believes in. The only slight deviation from the typical plot is our MC is self-confident, with good social skills, rather than being an awkward social outcast, which is the preferred archetype in these stories.

The plot, even though derivative, is fine; it's what the author does with it that matters and ours fails to step up here. There isn't much action and most of the characters are pretty flat; the girlfriend, Ashland, is as boring as toast and there's far too much lovey-dovey talk between our MC and her. None of it is remotely interesting, along the lines of "I love you" and "No, I love you more". Yuck. The author should have scaled that back and given Ashland a personality.

I sometimes get impatient with some authors who spend too much time explaining the magic system; it ends up sounding like Star Trek technobabble. This book commits the reverse error by hand-waving everything away. Even the characters don't seem to have much interest in it. There's no explanation for the runes or why they have to draw them to activate magical powers. The runes just ARE. I also don't understand why they don't get them tattooed on their bodies; having to draw them with pencils whenever needed is idiotic.

I've got 7 hours left and will probably quit listening.

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Epic and Exceptional Series!!

Book #1 – A Buried Symbol: The Discovery of Magic - This is a thrilling Fantasy series, it probably does have a target audience of Young Adult, but it is so good, that it is well worth the read regardless of your age.
This book is broken into three parts really, the first, follows Brock in Kantaria in his earlier years, whilst the second is this perilous journey to Fallbrandt, where the final part of Brock’s adventure takes place.
Who is Brock? Well this book follows the life of Brock who lives in a medieval world that has magic, but is also dominated by a Caste System that is generated from an early age. Someone with the ability to divine ‘Runes’ looks into a baby’s mind, and from what they see, they are given the strongest Rune, which is tattooed on their forehead for all to see. If none is seen, then that person goes as what is called an ‘Unchosen’, someone who is in this world without a Rune (their forehead is bare), and therefore Casteless, and considered by most to be less than nothing.
Brock is born without a Rune, to a Mother and Father that although are both Unchosen as well, the Father runs a tannery, something that is considered unworthy of those with a Rune, so ok for the Unchosen. However, Brock’s mother becomes ill early, and dies, and once this happens, his father becomes a different person.
In the early part of this story, we learn of Brock’s struggles with growing up with a sick Aunt (his Mother’s Sister Ellie), his father’s disregard for Brock once his Wife had passed, and how Brock has dreams of attending the Ministry Academy in far off Fallbrandt. But to do this, he would need to have a Rune of his own, one of Issalia, marking him as a Ministry person, and allowing him to attend the academy. We also learn of his close friendship with another Unchosen, Tipper, who has lost his parents, and makes a living on the streets, and through the kindness that Brock shows him.
Through a series of events (without giving too much away), Brock manages to not only manage to gather sufficient funds, but he manages to find a way to illegally get a Rune tattooed on his head, so that he will be able to attend the Academy. However, it means he will have to leave his life in Kantaria for ever, never to return.
There is then a perilous journey to Fallbrandt, which makes for a fascinating read as Brock, who has been accompanied by Tipper who decides there is nothing for him in Kantaria, goes with Brock on this new adventure. I am not giving anything away of this part, as it is just too much fun.
Once Brock reaches Fallbrandt, and the city of the Academy, things take on a whole new perspective for him. There is a lot that happens here, and I don’t want to give too much of this part of the story away, as it is full of adventure and intrigue. This is where the real story starts to unfold though, and we get to meet some of the true characters of the story, from the always hungry, stoic, but loyal Cam, to the ingenious, highly intelligent, and quite hilarious Benny, two of Brocks best friends (apart from Tipper). Tipper finds himself welcomed at a new home, an inn by the name of the ‘The Quiet Woman’, an establishment that caters more to the refined Lady, than most men, but one that the boys found themselves at when they first arrived, and the owner, Dory, was immediately taken with young Brock, and her table of friends were even more taken with his tales. The Inn has some other great characters, Libby and James as well.
Brock is an interesting character, one that always looks for the good in others, and whilst he might have the odd youthful angry moment, he is a person that tries to help others, or do good by others. He is a great role model for his friends, (and for young readers), but one of the things that comes out of this, is the loyalty and friendship his behaviour nurtures in others, as the story develops, we see countless examples of how Brock’s personality are rewarded.
This is a very in-depth story, there is a lot of world-building that has gone into this story that whilst we benefit from in this first book, we have only just begun to scratch the surface, and this first book will be the building blocks for what is to become an intriguing and comprehensive series.
Again, whilst this is a series aimed at ‘Young-Adults’ I found it thoroughly entertaining with a compelling storyline, exceptional world-building and just outstanding character work. I am already into book 2, and can’t wait to see how this unfolds!! This is a series for lovers of Fantasy Young and, well let’s say ‘Older’ shall we??
Book #2 - Book 2 of the Runes of Issalia series continues on from book 1, following Brock Talenz and his friends at the Academy, although each of them has now completed their first year, and has now been chosen for a specialty to continue on with, Brock no surprise with Ecclesiastics, along with Ashland, Benny of course is Engineering and Cam and Lars are to be Paladins (again, no surprise there given how good they are).
Book 1 was broken into multiple parts, the introduction of Brock and Tip, their journey to the Academy, and the Brocks eventual first year at the Academy. Book 2 has a similar format, only with a much different storyline.
Book 2 is slightly different also, in that the story is not told entirely from Brock’s perspective, but we get to learn more about each of our main characters, Benny, Ashland, Cam and Lars. At the start of the book, this is told through the group being on a holiday, and each of them going back to their family homes, so we get to meet the parents, but see a good bit of background character growth for every character. It was fascinating getting to see where all of the group came from, but we also got to learn various things that had been hinted at in book 1.
In this second book Parker has joined the group as well, now that he doesn’t have to suck up to Corbin due to family ties, he makes good friends with Brock who he always liked, as well as Benny, his roommate, and the others.
The story returns to the Academy for a while, where the group continues to learn their new second year skills.
As year 2 starts, Brock and the gang continue to research Chaos and the history of the Banished Horde, both of which have been removed from nearly all knowledge places, and it has been only through some careful snooping and luck that they have found some old texts on either subject.
As the story unfolds (and I don’t want to give too much away), the Scooby Gang uncover all sorts of interesting information about the power of Chaos, and how to use the runes. However, due to various events (that I won’t spoil), the group make a sudden departure from the Academy.
This is where the story moves to the third part of this book (the first having been the holiday, and the second returning to school), as the group Brock, Ashland, Benny, Lars, Cam, and Parker all head off on a journey to find The Emblem Throne (I’m hoping that wasn’t a spoiler for anyone given the title).
I am not going to go into too much from here, as I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the book moves away from the Academy life, and into a far more adventure style story, in which the training that they have received in the first year (the healing, Paladin training, even the Hierarchal training for diplomacy and understanding of various laws etc), are all put to the test.
This is a really fascinating and in-depth story, as it is not just about good and evil, there are some complex moral questions that have far-reaching social outcomes. The caste structure of society that has been set up and the ramifications this has for those without a ‘Rune’, both social and moral is intriguing. But more than that, we now get to see another interesting moral dilemma with the discovery of Chaos and the potential power it holds.
Kohanek has weaved this intricate tale with multiple layers and sub-stories, whilst the main story follows Brock, each of the major characters also has their own significant storyline as well, Ashland, Cam, Benny, Parker, Tip and Libby, as well as several new characters I won’t give away spoilers for.
As with the first book, the character work is just exceptional, such in-depth characters that come to life on every page, and you find yourself lost in their stories from the first page. Each and every character is such an amazing person, from the Heroic Brock, to the Legendary Cam, and the Compassionate Ashland. Even those that work for the corrupt side (no spoilers) are wonderfully well done. Along with the great character work, the world-building is outstanding, with beautifully crafted cities and places they visit, to the truly terrifying creatures that they face, straight from nightmares, every aspect of this story is intricately detailed to make this story extraordinary.
Book #3 – An Empire in Runes: A Battle of Magic - In this final book of the series Brock and his loyal group, which is steadily growing as the series goes on, have taken the Unchosen prison camp, freeing the Unchosen slaves that were being held there. This is for a twofold effect, one, to release them from their captivity, but also to ask for any volunteers that will be able to assist in the upcoming war against the new Horde. Of course, all the prisoners rally under Brock, and he begins to train them.
This book is again broken into a few ‘sections’ as such, with the opening part being about the initial release and setup of a basecamp within the old prison, using it as a training ground for the newly freed prisoners, allowing them to train as users of ‘Chaos’.
As the story progresses though, Brock realises that they do not have much time, as the Horde is closing on the plains, and he must have everything he can muster on the field of battle by that time, or all will be lost. Of course, most people think those that are trying to assist him have lost their minds, the Horde returned, beasts roaming the lands, silly nonsense. Of course until they either fall to the Horde, or get news a neighbouring city doesn’t exist anymore.
Brock sends each of his friends on a mission – Ashland to gather healers, Cam and Lars to gather Paladins, Benny to try and create something clever with Engineering, whilst he, Parker, and some people who were taken from the Academy as prisoners remain to train those at the castle.
I don’t want to give away spoilers of the middle section of the book, in which those that journey forth to gain aid, and their stories – these are interesting stories, and it is a bit of a change up from the first books, as we get a bit more of an individual look at each of the main characters and how well they can act on their own.
There are some great adventures in this part of the book.
But this final book all leads to the epic conclusion, in which Brock and the meager forces he manages to gather, take on a massive force of ravaging Horde, numbering in their thousands, Banshee’s and Bacabra’s and other horrors from nightmares.
This is a tale of truly EPIC proportions, one of heroes, and heroic deeds, but it is also one in which those that have been shunned and cursed by society, stand and make their mark (Ironically, a mark that has been seen as evil), in an effort to save those who are so ungrateful. Kohanek provides a really intriguing insight into how a power can be used for both good and evil – it is not the thing itself that is evil, but the person who wields it, and we see that even in those who are deemed ‘good’ with the mark of Issalia and Order. I really don’t want to give any spoilers for this final part, but I just want to say that this entire series is worth reading, just to get to this point and the extraordinary battle that takes place. It is brutal, captivating, and once you start this section, there is NO putting it down, you just have to finish it. Kohanek is not afraid to kill his main characters, and several fall.
The descriptive work in this final battle, (and in the other parts of this book), are just outstanding. The battle scenes are very well done, with enough detail to engage us in the conflict, and let us know what is going on, but not ridiculously over done with ‘every’ single blow and twist and turn, so you wonder if it will ever end. The Magic system in this series has been nothing short of masterful, the way that a user has to draw on chaos (both figuratively – with a negative emotion, and literally – by drawing a Rune on an object/person), to access the power is just wonderful.
Even the healing aspect, drawing life energy from those that they heal, leaving them hungry, is very creative.
The character work continues to be brilliant, with each of the characters growing, as we learn more about their backgrounds, and for many of them, not only their current events, but their futures as well, which is great for the reader. This book had a lot more insight into the individual main characters, rather than just Brock, allowing us a greater understanding of those that stand beside our Hero.
Tim Campbell has a wonderful voice, very easy to listen to, with a very clear and concise speaking voice. He has a wonderful range of both male and female voices, and he does a fantastic range of individual voices so that you know ‘who’ is speaking without having to be told. Jeff Kohanek has written this with an audiobook in mind, so there is not a lot of ‘he said, she said’ breaking up the speech, making this a very easy flowing book to listen to.
Just as importantly, Campbell captures the emotional state of his characters with consummate ease, so that you really understand how they feel when they are talking (angry, happy, sad, frightened, elated), it adds so much more to the story, and Campbell really uses it to add such an extra dimension to the story.
This is an exceptional telling of the story, and makes this one absolutely worth listening to!!

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I will listen to this again

This was the first book by this author I have listened to, now starting another of his series. Really enjoyed the book, became intrigued by the characters. Book 1 sets the stage, book 2 fleshes out the main characters and book 3 advances the story. We also learn more about some of the secondary characters, and the 2 main characters are less the focus of the last half of the 3rd book. Certainly has been left open to follow these characters forward or to the next generation. Because I enjoyed this so much, I plan to listen to his other series as well.

I own 100's of Audible books, many will be just once through. But some I would listen to again, this will be one of them.

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The underdog progression fantasy

solid storyline, good pace, all the tropes I enjoy including the underdog hero fighting against oppression

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Struggled to finish.

The premise of the books are nice, but poorly executed. I tried to give it a chance, but the third book was just not working. It felt like a little formulaic with few interesting things in between. I ended giving up halfway into the last book.

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What if LoTR, WoT, and Harry Potter had a baby?

As you listen to Jeffrey L. Kohanek's masterpiece Runes of Issalia, you will quickly feel the influence of other fantasy works like Harry Potter, Wheel of Time, and Lord of the Rings.

And let me say right up front. It totally works for me! I loved every minute of the 26hr listening time.

The three book series follows our hero Brock as goes from being a zero to hero in this well crafted and well paced story. Without giving any spoilers away, I will warn future listeners that each time you think you've nailed down where story is going and what type of take it is going to tell, it will turn itself on its ear and you will spend a good amount of time going "Ok, I was expecting that, now what?!".

I have to give credit to Tim Campbell, he's a fantastic narrator. And does a fantastic job of setting the pace for the entire series. Speaking of his pace, unlike some other authors who tend to get lost in so much "world building" that they keep repeating details that they already gave us over and over (but, who are amazing at their craft), JLK keeps the story moving along at a pretty ideal pace.

Between Tim Campbell's reading and JLK's writing pace, I found myself loosing many hours at a time listening to the book. Which all sounds fine and good, until you realize its 4:30am and you've gone from "getting sleep for the night" to "taking a nap before work".

If you've listened or read any of JLK's other works, you will absolutely enjoy this one. Or, if you are a fan of "zero to hero" stories like Harry Potter and Wheel of Time (minus the 15 books to get there), I suspect you will become a fan of this one as well.

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I really enjoyed this book

Really enjoyed this book. I felt like action didn't stop for a minute. I really enjoyed this genre of zero to hero this is a classic example.

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  • Cat
  • 06-05-22

A fast-paced, intriguing, academy-style YA fantasy

Runes of Issalia is a fast-paced, intriguing, academy-style YA read that is highly entertaining. Here we find a story about being the underdog, facing ostracism, forming friendships and, last but not least, enjoying some sweet puppy love!

The world-building is fantastic, I loved the magic system, and the secrets unveiled as the story progresses are masterfully handled.

This series has so much packed into its three books that it's hard to condense it all into one small review. There's a ragtag team of men and women who train at an academy, forbidden magic to uncover and master, and a dark army waiting to overrun the world.

There shall be laughs, there shall be tears, but... This series is definitely one I recommend to any YA fantasy lovers out there!

Note: I listened to the audiobook, and it was beautifully narrated by Tim Campbell.

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  • Janice Sales
  • 10-23-21

Brilliant books

Once started couldn’t put the books down Felt like I was actually in the story which was well read as well as written. Can’t wait to continue with this writes books as everyone I’ve read or listened to has kept me enthralled

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  • Carol Houston
  • 10-02-22

He was just a Tanner's son

Enjoyed the story. Competent main character. The story moved at a good pace, was clear and easy to follow

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Richard Brookman
  • 03-11-22

it was rushed,

it was a good story but some characters were rush and and it seemed the author wanted to finish the story,a shame