Cover Image: The Runes of Engagement

The Runes of Engagement

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Member Reviews

Received as an ARC from Netgalley:

The Runes of Engagement manages to straddle a really fine line. It satirizes the fantasy genre whilst also telling a very compelling fantasy tale. The pop culture references are heavy but they were melded in very naturally so it felt more like it was in character, and less like it was a reference for reference sake.

Military-Fantasy was really an interesting idea and I love the juxtaposition of modern soldiers within the fantasy universe.

Tense action, good characters, and strong writing make this one a definite recommend.

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This was such a fun and silly read. I really like the idea of our military having to fight fantasy creatures and it was a great time.

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My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher Tachyon Publications for an advance copy of this novel about a fantasy world full of creatures from myth and legends who are trying to make Earth their new home, and the Marines who are sent to keep their threats fictional.

The United States military is the most funded military on Earth, with money going to technology weapons, ideas, and to planning. These plans include wargaming various war scenarios. Say Great Britain vs. Ecuador. Spain vs. Poland, even the United States vs. Dragons. Well that might not happen officially at West Point, but in some dorm it is. Or in a rec room, or over a group of Knights at the Dinner Table. Not knowing that th tactics they are planning might be needed in the future. The Runes of Engagement by Dave Klecha and Tobias Buckell is story about elves, magic, Marines and military might.

Magical portals have opened on the Earth and allowed creatures from myth and legends to enter, and immediately start killing everyone they see. The might of the American military has been able to push back these attackers and with their allies the English and the Finns taken land in this strange new world, as a forward operating base. Staff Sergeant Raymond Cale has been a marine for quite awhile, but this brave new world of translation spells, magic to create unit cohesion, and the nerdiness of his new recruits has confused him to what his mission even is anymore. His Platoon has been given a mission to go out and make contact with a VIP, a very important princess from the other side, for reasons above his pay grade. They are jumped by trolls, and nearly wiped out, escaping at the last minute. This princess is very important indeed, as Cale's forward base is wiped out leaving him miles from safety, and low on equipment, with very little in the way of ideas. For not only are the people of this world after him, others from Earth have come through, with their own reasons for being there.

A book that sounds like an 80's or 90's ACE paperback, with a dragon on the cover shooting fire on a tank, but really is a whole lot more. This story has real stakes, a real story and as one reads, one goes, hmm makes sense. This is a great military adventure story, with well developed characters, and a great amount of momentum to carry the story. A-10's vs trolls, covered, Ospreys vs. Dragons, yup. A lot of fun, but not a parody. A story with real stakes. The story is told from different views in the platoon, giving life to the characters, and how they are seen by others. The characters are diverse, and different, from one complaining that ground, weather, fog, rivers don't work like this, to nerd battles about Tolkien characters, to war guilt and more. Not the book I expected, but a book I enjoyed far more for taking the matter seriously, giving real thought to issues, and really making things work.

There is an ending, but it is open-ended enough to continue, which I hope it does. There is a lot of potential here for a really good series, and I grew to like the characters and would not mind spending more time with them. Fantasy readers will enjoy this quite a lot, as will military readers. Read before the streaming services opt this, as the idea is so well done, one can't not see it as a series.

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Book received free for review from Tachyon Publications.

Part of the official description:

"No one could have been prepared for the day when orcs, trolls, and dragons fell from portals in the sky. But now a very tough but not-quite-prepared platoon of Marines is trapped on the wrong side. The enchanting world looks like Middle Earth, but to the dismay of even the geekiest soldiers, is nothing like it."

So I went into this knowing Marines would be the main characters, but I expected this to be more "soldiers stuck in a fantasy world" and not MilFic (military fiction). There was so much military slang, jargon, and abbreviations. "LCpl" (some rank I guess, it came before someone's name), "battalion S-3" (is S-3 a name we're supposed to know?), "casevac" (google tells me is casualty evacuation), "FOB" (forward operating base, thanks again google). All this was in the first chapter of the book.

The story was fast paced, a quick read. I liked the world it was set in and a lot of the details were really cool.

All the lines were double spaced (maybe an issue because this was an advanced reader copy?) and there were some grammar/editing issues (maybe also because it was an ARC?). I bet those things will be addressed in the final published edition.

Unfortunately it just felt like I wasn't the target audience of this book. If you're into both MilFic and sci-fi, you'd probably enjoy it.

⭐️⭐️⭐️ - 3 stars/okay. I was just the wrong reader for this book. Someone into military fiction would likely give it five stars, it was a really cool idea.

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This book was provided by NetGalley.

The Runes of Engagement is a short novel based upon a story previously published in Operation Arcana anthology, edited by John Joseph Adams. Back then, I gave a 5* rating to the story, but now I'm giving one less * to the novel - and the reason for this is twofold, but it mainly comes down to the issue of length.

The premise of the novel is that arcane portals appeared all over our world - but in major cities - and fantasy creatures came through, wrecking havoc, which led to our world's military forces creating forward operating bases on the other side, and we follow a squad of marines on a mission in a fantasy Afganistan, essentially. The novel is full of references to the rich legacy of fantasy fiction, from Tolkien to Pratchett and everything in between, including D&D, so it's a treat for every true geek, but at the same time this makes it a bit hard to take it seriously. One can not decide whether to read it as a true military fantasy, or as a humorous light novel. If it was longer, than perhaps there would be more space for a better definition of the novel's tone.

Second issue is characterization. We have a large cast of characters for such a small novel - there 13 marines, for starters, so they are mostly presented in broad strokes and most of them sort of blend into one another. In fact, this gets wearisome after some time.

Nevertheless, The Runes of Engagement is a fun and entertaining read, and the world building albeit sort of intentionally generic leaves the reader interested and looking for more.

I for one would love a book or two of this length, set in this same world, every year.

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After magical portals open around the world, NATO and US forces have captured the portals and established bases on the other, magical world, but a Corrupted One keeps sending waves of attackers. That’s all setup: a band of Marines has to get an ally to safety, but weird things keep happening, including the appearance of a Ranger. It’s fun but don’t expect any interrogation of militarism/colonialism (though they end up fighting some greedy Earth humans).

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I had so much fun reading this book where portals to a fantasy/LOTR-like world have opened up from our world and now, soldiers and marines from all over the world are fighting orcs, trolls, elves, and more to protect Earth. We follow one group of marines as they tangle with a D&D campaign turned real and Buckell and Klecha tell their story with so much humour and gusto and so much nerd JOY. It has that Aliens vibe, but with a LOTR twist. The whole idea "what happens if marines/soldiers end up fighting fantasy monsters" is handled so well here. I had a blast reading this book, and would not mind reading a sequel.

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this was so much fun to read, it had everything that I was hoping for from the description. I enjoyed the elements of monsters and humans in a battle. It had that fantasy element perfectly and I enjoyed getting to read this. I enjoyed the action elements and glad it had all the elements blend well together. Tobias Buckell and Dave Klecha write a great story and left me wanting to read more.

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A fun read. What is not to love. A opening between two different worlds’ creatures from fairy tales the scary kindnnA fairy princess and a Marine platoon to guard her. A set up for danger and a different look at characters from stores and games. Great world building. Would love more but may be stand alone’.

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The premise of this book and the front cover both grabbed my attention when I was scrolling through Netgalley looking for things to read.

Fantasy creatures, marines, "Lord Of The Rings meets Slaughterhouse-Five by way of World Of Warcraft"! It sounded right up my street!

The general story is that a unit of marines gets stuck behind enemy lines on the wrong side of the portal to fantasy-land. What follows is a single POV narrative as they trek overland trying to escape.

This book is absolutely packed with fantasy tropes, pop culture references and just a general feeling of nostalgia. The pacing was great, I enjoyed the story but for some reason it was just missing that little bit extra for me and I think I've worked out why.

I found the character development to be lacking. For the most part the marines just combined into a nameless group for me with only a couple of memorable characters. This made it really difficult to get attached to anyone and it also removed a lot of the sense of threat for me. When a 2-storey tall troll is barrelling towards your main group, or a dragon is flying overhead raining down fire, it's hard to feel tension when the characters all just blend together and you know there's a good likelihood that all will be fine.

Overall I enjoyed it and it was a quick easy read. There were a few issues with the kindle version formatting and the odd word missing here and there but I'm sure that'll be sorted upon release.

Thanks @netgalley for the review copy

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I went into this book knowing only that I’d enjoyed a Tobias Buckell book before.
I wasn’t really sure what to expect from it. Now, it’s well on its way to being in my top 5 reads of the year.
Runes of Enchantment focuses on a military unit that is assigned duty on the other side of a magical rift. On the other side of the rift is a world where every fantasy creature from every book you’ve ever read exists.
What at first seems like just escort duty to our band of heroes eventually turns into a full-on quest!
I definitely want to know more about this world and all its inhabitants. I want to know more about the incursions to our world that have happened and were alluded to in this book.
The authors have crafted a world that they could play in for years and I would happily read each book.
So, grab your D & D Monster Manual and start adventuring!!

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Fun, fast-paced, and immersive. A recommended purchase for collections where quirky fantasy is popular.

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A really exciting idea of merging fantasy elements with American military elements. The interplay between the human military group and the races from the fantasy world was interesting and will really play to teen boys looking for something to read. I'll be recommending this book to many boys.

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A fun spin on a classic troupe, modern weapons systems vs. swords and sorcery, a Marine version of the Blade of Tyshalle.

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