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The Runes of Issalia #1

The Buried Symbol

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Buried away for centuries, a forgotten magic lurks...waiting to return

They tell Unchosen, "Accept your fate and you'll be rewarded in the next life."

The threat of execution is their recourse.

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.

While he is determined to tame his frightening new abilities, one misstep could destroy him.

334 pages, Kindle Edition

First published May 5, 2016

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About the author

Jeffrey L. Kohanek

48 books391 followers
I love fantasy, adventure, and magic. More than that, I adore my readers.

My books are written to entertain -- fantasy adventures filled with compelling characters, spectacular magic, thrilling action, constant intrigue, and a sense of discovery. I equate them to the "Marvel Movie" version of fiction, intended to be a fun escape.

I would love to have you join me and my quirky characters for one outrageous adventure after another. With over a million published words, my author journey has just begun.

Best wishes,


Jeffrey L. Kohanek grew up in rural Minnesota where comic books sparked his young imagination, inspiring fantasies of heroes with super-powers saving the day. His tastes later evolved to fantasy epics featuring unlikely heroes overcoming impossible odds to save worlds born from the writer's imagination.

Now residing in southern California, Jeff uses that imagination to weave tales of engaging characters caught in fantastic plots to inspire young adults and the child within us all.

"Would you like FREE books and access to exclusive content? Join my author newsletter, which frequently includes special offers and inside info on my books.
Join at www.JeffreyLKohanek.com and download a free eBook today." -Jeff

"I LOVE to hear from readers and fans. Connect with me through email or social media."

Email - author@JeffreyLKohanek.com
Facebook - /JeffreyLKohanek

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 154 reviews
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,773 reviews572 followers
May 20, 2017
Meet your next unsuspecting and unlikely hero. In Brock’s society, individuals are marked to show their status in life, as well as their vocations, talents and gifts. Those left unmarked are the social cast-offs and must rely on thievery, pity and sheer luck to survive. But are they really useless members of society, destined to be worthless and frowned upon?

Brock is unmarked, yet he longs for a better life, he just knows there is more for him out there and he wants the chance to prove himself. Some stolen money, and shifty deal and an unauthorized ruin tattoo will give him that chance, IF he isn’t caught in his own web of deceit.

Now marked as a member of the Empire’s ruling class, he begins a journey that will take him to the Academy, where the best of the best are educated and the darkest of secrets have been hidden and the truths of the unmarked are revealed along with a powerful magic that has been long hidden.
THE BURIED SYMBOL by Jeffrey L. Kohanek brings this tale to life with characters that are innocent, misinformed, forced to be molded into a Fate that may never have been meant for them and force-fed the bias of prejudice that has endured for centuries. Meet the heroes you want to emulate, feel their compassion, their innocent zest for fairness and equality and discover that even heroes are human.

Brock is “that” boy, the one who is meant for a greatness denied him by the powers that rule. Follow his daring journey, his “education” at the Academy and meet the enemies as well as friends he has made along the way. Feel his confusion at the discovery of his “power” and what it means, how he uses it and how, even he can make mistakes.

Jeffrey L. Kohanek has created a fantasy for all ages, I would almost recommend it to Middlegrade readers where reading isn’t always the joy it should be, BUT, perhaps this is best left to more mature young adults as these are “very real” teens. Powerful story telling that releases the imagination to live in another world, to feel the awe of new places, the fear of discovery, the determination to stand tall and the heart to set things right in a world of small-minded power mongers and monsters.

Mr. Kohanek has put his pen to paper and created a must-read fantasy that reveals people at their best, worst and most vulnerable as one boy becomes the force for change in the best ways.

I received this copy from Jeffrey L. Kohanek in exchange for my honest and voluntary review.

Series: The Runes of Issalia - Book 1
Publisher: Black Rose Writing; 1 edition (May 19, 2016)
Publication Date: May 19, 2016
Genre: YA fantasy
Print Length: 356 pages
Available from: AmazonBarnes & Noble
For Reviews & More: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Online Eccentric Librarian.
2,970 reviews5 followers
May 19, 2016
More reviews at the Online Eccentric Librarian http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

More reviews (and no fluff) on the blog http://surrealtalvi.wordpress.com/

Honestly, life would be easier if I could just give rainbows and unicorns to every book review and never have to have a conscience about the poor author who will have to fend off an attack on their 'baby'. But then I wouldn't have an honest review so I would leading some people to disappointment. So I will lay it out: I found the writing here to be problematic, the plot full of obvious holes, and the characters one-dimensional.

Story: Brock wants more out of life - he wants a rune of the chosen to mark him as special. So he finds someone to give him a fake tattoo rune and then travels to a school of religion in order to better his life. Along the way, he takes his friend, who is also runeless.

Yes, the above is an oversimplification. But that's how I felt when reading the story - it felt so much like a middle grade book or something dumbed down for a young audience. Motivations, world building, setting - it's all distilled to a very shallow level and then written that way. I honestly thought it was middle grade until the main character got aroused by every pretty girl he saw along the way and sometimes fell into bed with them. I guess buxom barmaids is the medieval fanboy answer to green alien slave girls for sci fi nerds. At some point, it felt very Marty Stu.

The logic holes were the big problem - nothing was really thought out. E.g., in a society where everything is controlled by those with runes, why is it so easy to get a fake rune? And why does no one wonder when someone with a bandage over the forehead *right where a rune would be* is walking around? Why do the guys who do the illegal operation just walk our hero in to the guy doing it without any precautions or secrecy? Then let him loose in society when one word from him would lead the authorities right back to the guys doing it and their death? Heck, they don't even put him on a boat immediately afterwards and instead let him walk around with a *big old bandage on his forehead!*. How can I take this society seriously if even the author doesn't?

Despite what the book says about this being set in an academy, it takes 40% in before we even see the academy. Cue pointless travels and commentary on discrimination against the unchosen in various villages along the way (no, really? People discriminate in medieval societies, too??). Then add in 'mysterious dream' that foretells our main character is a unique magical snowflake - but then not include any reason or worldbuilding why. It just feels so lazy to create a unique snowflake this way.

The final insults, though were the characters. Of course, our main character is down on his luck so must resort to stealing to survive. But hey, he only steals from the evil and bad characters in society, so he's a good guy, right? Seriously, we don't need Disney princesses types as main characters in a book that is meant for adults. They can be nuanced and possess good and bad traits.

Those were the most egregious issues for me. But the underlying problem was a very simplistic and straightforward style of writing that made our main character seem like an 11 year old on a grand adventure rather than an older teen (arousals from bar maids aside). I kept expecting little birds to comb his hair in the morning as they sang cheerful songs about his new 'strange' powers that have suddenly manifested. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.
464 reviews401 followers
February 7, 2018
The story is fairly straightforward, and it’s a single POV book all seen through the eyes of Brock, a young kid who’s born into a poor family who works for his father’s tannery. In this society, if you are ‘unchosen’ you’re considered unclean and at the bottom of society. The Choosing is a ceremony that children go through during infancy where they receive a rune or a mark on their forehead to denote what career/craft they should grow up to be. To be unchosen is thought to be a mark against someone and the discrimination and hatred can get to be intense.

Brock has been stealing to try and make ends meet because his aunt is sick and needs medicine. She ends up dying, and Brock decides he wants to start over his life. He goes to someone in the criminal underground to get a fake rune marked on his head so he can move out of town and start his life over and someone else entirely.

He chooses the mark of the priesthood and takes his best friend along to go to the academy several hundred miles away.

He doesn’t arrive to the school until about halfway through the book – and trying to get there he encounters things like banshee’s and other monsters making it a rather rough journey.

Once there, he starts training and learning basic education like physics and also magic. While there he encounters a bully who’s the son of someone important, and the bully ends up murdering someone he cares about – so he has to prove it to get some justice for his friend.

Final Score: 7.25/10

Brock is a pretty typical teenage kid, he gets nervous around girls and has a sense of adventure. He has a best friend who’s almost always at his side and helps him out with his journey to the academy. He sort of reflects a high school graduate going off to college and experimenting with stuff – he drinks a little too hard a few times and makes an ass out of himself and has to be told the next day what he did because he’s blacked out.

Brock doesn’t have a great relationship with his father and when he leaves town his dad doesn’t even really seem to care. There’s a love interest that comes in later in the book, but it didn’t take up a ton of page time. Overall, he is a nice kid with a lot of drive to prove himself.

Final Score: 7/10

World Building:
The magic in this book is somewhat mysterious but also somewhat understood. The academy he’s studying at mixes science, math, literature and magic all into one for a well rounded set of classes.

Magic can be used to heal, but you can’t heal yourself with it, and you can’t use it to heal the mind. Severe depression or dementia can’t be helped by magic and no one knows why.

Brock followed his instincts a few times during stressful situations and ended up doing serious magic without meaning to – he ends up resurrecting someone who had been killed by a Banshee turning him into a red eyed monster of a person.

The professors/masters of the school are generally more serious and take their appearance and decorum to be important since Brock doesn’t behave this way he catches the attention of a lot of people.

There are stories about a Horde that wiped out towns, villages and cities long ago before they were finally stopped. But, there’s not a lot of information to go off of – the histories are sporadic and don’t describe what the horde was actually comprised of. Brock and his friends spend a lot of time trying to piece together what actually happened during that war.

Final Score: 7.5/10

The pacing was okay, there was a lot of time between the beginning of the book to where he finally got into the academy. There were some interesting encounters with monsters and what not, but it was also a lot of travelling from town to town.

It was a decently written book, I caught a few spelling and editing errors but nothing too bad.

The tone was definitely lighter, Brock got himself into a lot of mischief and he was overall a light-hearted character with good intentions surrounded by generally decent people outside of the bully.

Pacing Final Score: 7.5/10

Writing Final Score: 7.5/10

There was a lot of stuff I’ve seen done before, the YA adventure where a kid goes to magic school/academy with a bully for an antagonist is something I’ve read a lot about. The rune’s and how they effect society was well done, and some of how the magic works and doesn’t work was unique

Final Score: 6.75/10

For people who like coming of age stories
For people who like magic schools
For people who like adventures and lost knowledge
For people who like lighter stories
For people who like shorter books
For people who like monsters and legends

Final Score: 43.25/60 or 7.2/10
5,061 reviews57 followers
December 29, 2020
I won this book in a goodreads drawing.

In a fairly typical fantasy world, albeit one without demi-human races, after a long ago war, people are either "chosen" or "unchosen." The Unchosen have no rights.

One kid gets a few bucks and pays someone to put the mark of the chosen on him. Then he goes far away to another city and enrolls in university, as he chose the mark of the ruling class. The journey is arduous, but not without its benefits.

At University, He makes some friends, and a couple of enemies. He finds a secret book and has various adventures. Whereas Harry Potter is very British, this is very American, firmly in the Horatio Alger/Frank Merriwell tradition, well, until the last couple of pages.

Profile Image for Chris.
Author 35 books21 followers
June 27, 2016
Once Brock gets a rune, the bond between him and Tipper is one of the most controversial relationships in the book, because hardly anyone who has a rune will associate at all with an Unchosen. The bigotry against and ostracizing of the Unchosen is reminiscent of the treatment of blacks in the South.

The protagonist begins innocent but law-breaking, a bit like Aladdin, and is fairly likable throughout. The antagonist in this book is not as well-developed, and mainly seems driven by pride and revenge. There is little to like in him. Some of the supporting cast are well-developed, likable, and the combination of their talents makes for an unbeatable force, which I expect will be put seriously to the test in upcoming books. The world is reasonably well-developed and immersive. There are a few plot twists to keep you guessing, and plenty of action to keep you turning pages.

Drug Content:
PG-13 - Brock gets into several situations where he drinks himself under the table, and cannot remember the next day what went on. He does learn later on to go easy on the booze.

R - There are a few horrific scenes - one where a man's face is ripped to pieces, and his dead body is reanimated to fight, and another where a person's head is crushed in a vise. Several healing scenes occur where blood is expelled forcefully from the lungs.

PG - there is not any cussing that I recall in the book.

Adult Content:
PG-13. The main character seems to be chased by more girls than Captain Kirk. Several of their escapades result in waking up partially or fully unclothed. One of the main Inns mentioned in the book appears to be a brothel, though the book never comes out and says it. The reason this is not R is that there's no real description other than the mention that a character is naked, in multiple scenes. In one scene, the main character is aroused, and the girl with him notices the fact.

Christian content:
None at all. The main god in this book is Issal, the god of Order, and Order and Chaos are set against each other in the book, somewhat like Yin and Yang. Order is described as the life force in all living things, similar to the Jedi religion of Star Wars fame. There is little in the book that mentions prayer, but many references are made to pleasing the god Issal, and there is a temple or two. Some characters seem devout in their faith to Issal. The passages that mention the god are less offensive to this reader than the ones in The Lightning Thief, if that is helpful.

Final analysis:
The Buried Symbol is a well-written action-packed fantasy similar in some ways to Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time. Intrigue, hi-jinks, hidden potential, and plenty of action and some romance make for a solid offering by Kohanek. I'm looking forward to a sequel. From a Christian perspective I would only give a caveat that this book would be appropriate for older teens grounded in their faith. Five Stars.
Profile Image for M.L. Sparrow.
Author 22 books156 followers
May 1, 2016
I really enjoyed this book, it was fast paced and well written, with a cast of fun, charming characters. The main character, Brock, was likeable and his motivations were easily understandable, however, my favourite character was definitely Cam, there was just something about him which I though was really sweet despite his size and I hope we see more of him in the next book. This book has echoes of Harry Potter, in the fact that for the most part it's set in a school and it follows a group of friends trying to uncover a mystery. I was intrigued by 'Chaos' and the 'Wailing War' and was a little disappointed not to find the answers at the end of the book, but I suppose that's being save for the next instalment! 

Also, I just want to add that I liked the pictures at the beginning of each section and the map at the front! I think little touches like this make books far more enjoyable! 

My only really problem with this book was the so called romance. Personally, I didn't think it was very romantic... Brock is constantly being infatuated by women, first Meg, then Amber, so when he got to Ashland I was pretty much shrugged and went 'here we go again.' Though he actually stuck with Ashland, I felt it was almost like an after-thought, or had just been added in. I didn't find her confession that she liked him all that believable and it was kind of out of the blue. Also, her secret at the end... It was a shock, I'll give the author that, but I was disappointed by it, but I guess I'll just have to wait and see how he develops it in the next book. 

All in all though, this book is a great start to The Runes of Issalia series and I look forward to learning more about Brock's world!

For more reviews, or to check out my favourite quotes from this book, see my blog at http://mlsparrow.wix.com/mlsparrow
Profile Image for Books In Brogan.
654 reviews11 followers
May 17, 2016
I highly recommend this book to anyone that loves a great fantasy book.  The world building is complex and clever, with all parts of the story being well thought out, from the characters all the way down to each and every detail of the scenery.  All of this helps to make this a well-written and well-constructed fantasy read.This review was originally posted on Books In Brogan
59 reviews2 followers
April 27, 2019
Dark secrets, high magic, coming of age story.

Really not sure how I found this book, but I am pleased I did.

A well written adventure story, with magic, politics, love and hatred, all wrapped in a compelling story.

Profile Image for Catrin Russell.
Author 15 books85 followers
April 28, 2022
The Buried Symbol is the first book in Kohanek's Runes of Issalia trilogy. It is a story about being the underdog, facing ostracism, forming friendships and, last but not least, enjoying some sweet puppy love!

Having previously read and enjoyed Kohanek's 2 Wizardoms series, I thought it a good idea to give his other books a go as well, and I'll just say, this one didn't disappoint! Sure, this is YA, and the scope of this story (at least, as of yet) is more straightforward than that of his Wizardoms series, but The Buried Symbol is no less complex in its own right.

Brock is down on his luck, trying to make a living and helping his father run their tannery. But when his aunt passes away, he eventually decides enough is enough, and he wants to make more of his life. He acquires a rune, masking himself as a chosen, and travels to Fallbrandt to enrol in an academy of chosen. Needless to say, this all doesn't happen without a few hiccups, and the school bully certainly doesn't take a liking to Brock, who stops him from having his way with a girl.

The characters in this story are fun and diverse, and they complement each other nicely. I really enjoyed how their friendships are portrayed, not in the least the one between Brock and Tipper. Then there's Brock's love life, which doesn't seem to pan out so well for him. Like any adolescent, he seems head over heels with any girl who looks in his direction, but he also brings his bad luck wherever he goes, and terrible fates tend to befall every woman entering his life.

The Buried Symbol is a fast-paced, intriguing, academy-style YA read that is highly entertaining. I may also point out that I listened to the audiobook narrated by Tim Campbell, and his performance was excellent. I really enjoyed this book!
Profile Image for Fatima.
288 reviews17 followers
June 16, 2016
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way impacted my views and opinions below.

So, I found this book very easy to read. It wasn't the best; it wasn't mindbogglingly awesome, but I certainly didn't hate it. Sure, I had a few issues but... we'll deal with them later. There were so many amazing elements - the world, the characters... They were so refreshing to read about!

As always, we'll talk about the protagonist first. I found Brock to be a very pleasant character, to say the least. He was so agreeable and nice, I had no problems reading about him. It's just that, his character kind of lacked depth. He read more like an 11 year old to me. He seemed one-dimensional. I wanted to see what really went on inside him. I just thought his motivations were shallow; I wanted to actually connect, but unfortunately that did not happen.

The cast of characters was so charming, though! The bond between Tipper and Brock was really something special and I actually felt like their friendship had an amazing dynamic. What I thought didn't have an amazing dynamic, however, was Brock and Ashland's relationship. I didn't like how fast Brock found himself infatuated with every single woman he met. I mean, come on. Their relationship was so predictable, and the moment she was introduced I was all, "Yep, we're doing this again." I just wish more effort was put into building up their romantic relationship instead of it just being an afterthought.

The world-building and setting were very refreshing, though. They weren't very complex, and they made this book just what I wanted to read at that moment. The world is very nicely fleshed out - but not too detailed -which I thought was perfect. I loved the overall undertones of adventure and mystery and friendship in this book. To me, it slightly echoed Harry Potter. Also, the author does leave many things to be desired at the end of the book. So many unanswered questions and loose ends... I'd love to know what happens next!

Overall, I thought this was a pretty solid read. It was well-written and had an appreciable amount of action. It has great potential and lots of intriguing questions that I must know the answer to. The main character is kind of too underdeveloped, so what I'm hoping for is that he grows more as a character in the sequel. (:

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Profile Image for Kameron.
Author 8 books87 followers
January 6, 2017
4.5 stars: (review request submitted by the author for an honest critique)

No matter your race/religion/gender/nationality, at one point in time you’ll do something to improve the quality of your life. Maybe it’ll involve going to college, switching jobs, or your address. No matter the how, it’ll occur and you have a 50/50 chance your decision was for the better. Brock took steps to improve his station and he brought his friend Tip along for the ride.

Tip didn’t have a rune placed on his head, he wasn’t off to the Ministry academy, but he was content remaining an Unchosen because he had a roof over his head, food in belly, a bed, and a wonderful woman whom he loved dearly.

Brock, on the other hand, felt he was meant for more and his assumptions proved true. He turned out to be a great and powerful student. He was able to harness the power of the Order and Chaos. Not an easy feat. Like his best bud, Tip, he found love — Ashland, a great healer.

~~Other notable characters~~

Cameron (Cam): tough on the outside but gentle on the inside.

Benny: the inventor who brought life to all his scenes.

Corbin: He reminded me of Draco Malfoy from Harry Potter series. Both characters you’ll love hating.

~~ Favorite scenes~~

1.) The boys trying out the Hedgewick Roller (bike). As a mother who’s just watched her daughter learn to ride a 2-wheeler this summer, I had to laugh at their attempt to ride the crazy contraption. Pure hilarity!

2.) Couple years back, my son was assigned the talk of creating a working catapult. It was a happy moment when he finally got the marshmallow to soar across the garage. If I recall, he got an A on the assignment! Thanks for triggering the memory, Jeffrey!

(Find more reviews/ratings at www.superkambrook.com)
Profile Image for Maia Gomez.
108 reviews31 followers
October 31, 2016
A thrilling epic adventure that had me completely enthralled! This is seriously one of the best fantasy books I have ever read! With flawless writing and vivid descriptions, you're immersed into the realm of Issalia, where almost everybody is marked with a rune of their vocation on their forehead. For some mysterious reason, the Unchosen- people who were not chosen to receive a rune, are looked down upon as the underbelly of society and are denied the civil and humane rights that everybody else gets. After suffering through loss, young Brock takes his own destiny in his hands and illegally obtains his own rune. He then embarks on a perilous journey to enter the Academy where he takes the place by storm. Along the way, he discovers his latent talents, gains some true friends and uncovers secrets that have been hidden for centuries that were never meant to be revealed. I was completely entranced and absolutely enjoyed this book! There were times I was sitting on the edge of my seat at perilous times, grinning in delight at some incredible magic displays, and other times, my jaw almost hit the floor as I seethed in anger at the injustices and trials some of the other students put him through. I was left with quite a few unanswered questions as the book delved into some hidden mysteries that I am sure will be answered in the sequel! I can't wait to get started on it and live in Issalia some more! This was an absolutely epic book that anybody who enjoys fantasy and adventure will be sure to love!
Profile Image for Lana.
2,255 reviews44 followers
October 25, 2018
In Issalia at birth all children are marked with runes on their forehead according to the trade or skill they are to adopt later in life except for those the ministry found unacceptable, these were called the unchosen and they went through life unmarked and lived in dire poverty and had no rights at all in Issalian society. Brock and his friend Tipper were unchosen however Brock was not ready to give up on life,he wanted to do something and to be someone in life, and he believed he had to take the reins in his own hands and give himself the future he wished to have, so he got himself inked with the rune of Issal and together with his friend who remained unchosen made his way to the academy where he wanted to enrol to learn to become a healer. He risked everything and was very daring but he managed to get admitted into the academy whilst Tipper remained in Fallbrandt where he found work and a girl he liked. Brock managed to make some very good friends however he also made a couple of enemies who hated him with a vengeance even though he had done nothing to either of them, one was a student like himself and the other a master. Amongst the things he learnt, and he was excelling in almost all the fields which he tackled in his first year, he learnt about the rune of chaos which the ministry called evil, and had hidden all the books related to this area of study. This first book in the epic series is a very intriguing read, captures the reader right from the start, it is easy to follow with great world building, and very lovable characters. The group of friends are very loyal to one another and see each other through thick and thin. I really enjoyed reading about life in the academy and seeing two people who had been unchosen rise to be amongst two of the best students in their levels of study. The fight of good against eviI is just touched upon in this first book but it is obvious which way this is going and I look forward to reading the next book in the series, well done Jeffrey L. Kohanek.
Profile Image for Mike Everest Evans.
88 reviews186 followers
October 18, 2019
Read for the Fantasy Hive team as part of SPFBO5: https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/2019/10/sp...

When I first googled this book, I was met by a pretty uninspiring cover on Amazon. But when I checked Goodreads, I came across what I can only assume is ‘version 2’. Much, MUCH better.

That being said, no matter how inspiring a cover (or not, as I have mentioned in the previous review in this SPFBO batch), it’s the story that counts. Part of that is the immediate hook. The opening line. I’m a big fan of these. And if a story is missing one, then my attention wanders until it finds one. There wasn’t one here, but the opening chapter picked up pretty quickly, before letting up on the tension in chapter two.

And on the note of tension, there isn’t any. Not really. Even when Brock is trialled and tested, he succeeds, not so much in Mary Sue fashion, but a ‘that’ll do’ which removes any real ‘peril’ that might make it more interesting.

This isn’t a bad book – it just could have been much, much better. If the cover got a ‘version 2’ then the story deserves one too.
Profile Image for Eirlys.
1,318 reviews6 followers
January 27, 2018
Fantastic Fantasy

This is fantasy at it's best. I got caught up in the excitement of the story of Brock, an Unchosen, the lowest of the low in his society and his homeless friend Tipper. The Chosen have a rune on their brow which shows they belong. Brock pays to have a counterfeit rune in order to start helping others. Brock and Tipper set of to find and enrol at the Academy to begin Brock's training. It is a fascinating story of his exploits and those of his friends which will leave you wanting more.
June 29, 2016
When I first started reading “The Buried Symbol” I thought I was going to be reading a take on the Harry Potter trope but as the book developed it became very unique in its own right.
I found the characterisation in “The Buried Symbol” intriguing and very enjoyable as from the outset not only does it make you feel emotionally attached to some of the characters but within a few chapters you are hooked and intrigued about the main character Brock. At the outset Brocks character seems like an everyday run of the mill person but after an incident occurs his story unravels into something of darker and purposeful proportions that will always leave you wanting more. As the story goes on we are introduced to some characters that are loveable from the outset and some not so much. It was nice to read a book for a change that gives you characters that have personalities you will clearly love or hate without complicating the matter to much, also without going into too much detail I loved how Jeffrey L Kohanek wasn’t afraid to give the story a darker twist as I feel this made the book seem more grounded.
The world developed in and around those marked with a rune and those not was fantastic to read about as the author clearly shows a divides between them, I somewhat felt it was a nod towards society toward when people are marked for greatness from their birth due to the family they are born into and what one person become if they set their mind to it. One thing I enjoyed especially about the story was the classes Brock and his classmates took at the academy as they were always so interesting to read about especially the engineering and combat classes. This became all the more apparent when delved more into how you progress in the school and how it fits into the classes taken by the students.
At the moment we don’t seem to have a clearly defined “bad guy”, this was a breath of fresh air as usually within the first book we are introduced to a character that will clearly become the main focus of evil within the series but Jeffrey L Kohanek moved away from and I believe this is one of the aspects that made it all the more interesting as it left the story open for what is to come in future books.
When I first started reading this book I was unsure as to how I was going to feel about it but as the story progressed developed I became increasingly intrigued and found it an extremely enjoyable read. What I will say is that once get a feel for this books and its world you will always be left wanting more as I constantly found myself trying to find time to read more as I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I hope as the books go on we delve more into the runes each characters has and possibly we they were marked with this runes they were and why Brocks is so significant.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I think it is a hidden gem amongst an array of great fantasy books. If you are lover of fantasy then I would highly recommend you read this book as you will not regret it, Jeffrey L Kohanek is a fantastic reading and I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.
Profile Image for Michael Evan.
67 reviews27 followers
January 31, 2020
I haven’t been inclined to write a review in a very long time, so the fact that I absolutely needed to review Jeff Kohanek’s Runes of Issalia series debut novel is a testament to the impact this book had on me.

I don’t read a lot of YA. I’ve read the classic coming of age stories, such as LoTR ,Wheel of Time and the Harry Potter series, but of late I’ve found myself drawn to darker more adult themed novels. Jeff’s book is not dark, his main protagonist Brock is probably the nicest guy you’ll ever read about. The supporting cast of Brock’s Academy friends are a constant source of support. Everywhere Brock goes he’s treated like gold, and has people rallying for him. Ashland, his love interest is perfect, as is their relationship, and the antagonist is a scheming, spoiled antisocial bastard with a huge chip on his shoulder. In no way is Jeff Kohanek reinventing the wheel....but damn if I didn’t love reading this book.

Kohanek succeeded in making me care about his characters..all of them, much like J.K. Rowling did with hers. Brock is the good friend we all wish we had growing up. He stands up for people, has strong morals, and is first to be there for his friends. His only vice is a love of wine that is responsible for one of the novel’s funniest and most endearing moments. It’s easy to accept Brock’s ease in life because his caring nature is displayed early on ,and despite his troubled past he is all about paying it forward.

The Buried Symbol is a “Wizard School” novel. It spends a great number of pages detailing the friends’ various classes, along with some entertaining segues about a mysterious prophecy, some detailed history and lore, and of course some tame, but believable romance. There are also some awesome fight scenes and a duel competition that is cinematic and well choreographed. The magic system, built around runes, order and chaos, is well thought out, and beautifully rendered on the page.

Jeff Kohanek’s prose throughout the novel is excellent. He never gets overly descriptive, and allows his characters to introduce the reader to their world.

As fine a debut as I’ve ever read in the Fantasy genre, I am already well on my way through the second book and I plan on devouring this series along with Kohanek’s second series Warden’s of Issalia. While young readers would surely get a great deal of enjoyment out of this novel, there is much to love for adult readers as well.
Profile Image for Devyn.
619 reviews
July 23, 2017
I received this book from Goodreads.

The Buried Symbol is a charming book full of adventure, magic, and chaos.
Brock, an unmarked, sets out to change his fate after the tragic death of his beloved aunt. Using thievery, Brock and his friend Tipper pilfer enough gold to afford Brock an illegally administered rune with a little coin left over for supplies for the coming travels. With the newly tattooed rune of Issal, Brock can now claim to be a member of the Empire's ruling class. He then embarks on a quest to join an institution where the Empire’s future leaders are trained. His good friend Tipper loyally follows him on his new, unknown path to the Academy.

The Buried Symbol has been called one dimensional but I personally loved the simplistically. It was a breath of fresh air to read of Brock's determination, perseverance, and confidence against staggering odds without all the loose ends and complications that could have been easily added with fifty more pages worth of ink. My life is so complicated right now. I'm being pulled in every direction imaginable that it was a sweet relief to escape it momentarily in Kohanek's made up world.
The part that officially sucked me into the book and made Brock into a real and lovable character for me was when he brought Tipper along with him. Brock didn't have to. Tipper is unmarked and homeless, barely scratching out a living by begging on the street. Even Tipper assumed Brock wouldn't want him along.
But Brock's kind personality proves true and he sticks by Tipper even when others isolate him because of it.
Well written with lots of laughs and adventure and with a sprinkle of romance is just how I like my books, and Buried Symbol delivered it exceptionally.
Profile Image for Susan May.
521 reviews10 followers
September 8, 2022
Another great story from one of my all time favorite authors. These stories just suck me in & then I can't put them down. Such great characters & worldbuilding. Brock grew up in a poor village and after his mother died, his father was distant and changed. Brock decided to leave his home and try to get into the academy so he could have a better life. Getting in would not be easy however since he was unchosen. Brock is a clever lad & he soon was admitted after he had a stroke of good luck. After getting in to the academy he made new friends & found the love of his life but he also realized that his goal wouldn't be easy. Battling bullies out to destroy him & teachers making life difficult he would have to work very hard to make his dreams come true. My favorite part was in the end when Bennie talked Brock into trying out his new invention, hilarious. Can't wait to see where book 2 will take me. A simply awesome story.
Profile Image for Stephen Levesque.
2,142 reviews
March 28, 2019
The main character, Brock, is likable and easy to relate to. The rest of the cast of characters are interesting and entertaining. The world that the author has created is detailed and complex, but introduced in a way that is easy to follow. Having a theocratic society that exerts control over its citizens by assigning runes that define their roles is quite interesting and unique. The school of magic that the main character attends in the second half of the book. This story really sucked me in, drawing sympathetic emotions of sadness with Brock's loss and the thrill of achievement with his victories. While reader questions regarding the main plot are resolved by the end of the book, there is a deeper undercurrent of conspiracy and secrets that are teased, leaving the reader longing for the next installment. I know that I'm certainly looking forward to book 2! Great Reading Everyone!
Profile Image for Phoebe Prince.
Author 2 books53 followers
October 3, 2016
I couldn't get into this book. It wasn't bad but suffered from being boring. The characters lacked personality for me and introducing a tragic death at the beginning of a story only works (for me) if I find the characters interesting. It just felt like axing a character for backstory without building the story or world at all. There was just something really under developed about this story even though the writing is fine.
Profile Image for Mawebre.
27 reviews
November 9, 2016
Very good with a fresh look at an underdog to hero concept

I don't write reviews often as reading is My talent. I really enjoyed this book . It has a nice guy as a hero who is open to the world around him in a positive way , without beings preachy . I've already ordered the next book in the series .
September 14, 2016
Great book

I would definitely recommend reading this book. I don't write many reviews but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's the beginning to what seems is going be a great series.
Profile Image for John Parchman.
9 reviews
September 17, 2016
Great read

Really enjoyed this book and look forward to learn more about the runes of Chaos and what happens to Brock and his friends.
Profile Image for Damon Hatton.
32 reviews
September 27, 2016
Fantastic book!

Loved the system of magic! The book gives you characters you can like while keeping you entertained with a good story. Excellent coming of age story.
Profile Image for Erica Herker.
1 review1 follower
October 2, 2016
Great story, I'm excited to read the next book in the series!

Perfect if you need to fill the Harry Potter shaped hole in your life.
Profile Image for Tatteredturtle.
27 reviews
November 5, 2018
I previously reviewed Jeffrey Kohanek’s novel Rogue Legacy, which I absolutely loved. Rogue Legacy was the prequel for The Runes of Issalia Series starting with The Buried Symbol. Rogue Legacy had a Black Cauldron and Howl’s Moving Castle vibe, so I was expecting something similar, however, Kohanek has created a different feeling to this series, which can be difficult to achieve. Especially, when a story falls in the same world as an author’s other works. I really admire author’s that are able to create a realm and develop different stories throughout the ages and different characters but still stay consistent and new. I am discovering that Kohanek has the talent and ability to really build an awe inspiring and unforgettable world.

The Buried Symbol follows a young lad named Brock who is an Unchosen. He is someone who does not have a rune/symbol marking on his forehead. The rune is a symbol of the vocation someone will work towards and amount to in the future. Therefore, Brock has no future. Events in Brock’s life lead to him seeking out a new future, one that he decides.

Brock wants to make a difference and finds himself making a journey to Fallbrandt to enroll at the Academy to learn about hierarchies, lore, the art of ecclesiastic, engineering and Paladin training. He takes his best friend Tipper with him, who is also Unchosen. Tipper is full of life despite is lot in life and is always ready for an adventure. Together the two embark on an adventure that will change their futures.

Brock and Tipper meet many new people as they make their way to Fallbrandt and at the Academy. Once in Fallbrandt Tipper and Brock stay at The Quiet Lady, which is run by Dory, a vibrant, slightly pushy, but well intent woman who takes a liking to Brock and Tipper. Brock makes friends with 2 new students at the Academy. Benedict Hedgewick and Cameron. Benny is the intellectual type, but he is confident, outgoing and easily makes friends. Benny wants to be an engineer in the future and shows great promise. Cameron is a built young man, quick and loyal. He is working towards being a legendary Paladin. As the school year goes on Brock makes more new friends and his circle begins to expand. He also meets Ashland, his Ecclesiastic teacher’s assistant. They grow very fond of each. Ashland is a quiet, focused girl and very well trained in the art of healing.

Brock also gains a new rival in Corbin, son of the Archon (head of the Ministry). He is a skilled student but his skills are undermined by his ego and need for attention. He and Brock do not get along after an incident on Brock’s first day. He finds Corbin attempting to rape a student, Amber, in a bush. I don’t normally include spoilers in my review, but I thought this moment was important because Brock stood up for the female student. Not only that but this incident holds true to the current issues in the feminist movement, specifically the MeToo movement. Because Corbin is the son of a powerful figure, Brock is afraid to come forward and out Corbin, but when Amber comes to Brock to testify against Corbin, he can not deny doing the right thing. Unfortunately, Amber is silenced, by Corbin before she is able to speak her truth. This moment really resonated with me and I dwelled on it for sometime. I appreciated Kohanek’s viewpoint and for painting the real picture of how sexual assault accusations play out. Rarely does the individual see justice and retribution.

There are many perceived character tropes in this book, but Kohanek actually expands and grows each character’s personality and complexities. It’s interesting to read how each character interacts and understand how each character is working towards their goals. Brock is not seen as the only “leader” or the only individual with amazing skills which was refreshing. Each character has their moment to stand out and Brock’s character steps aside figuratively and literally to let his friend’s have their moment.

Kohanek has judiciously chosen the name of this book, The Buried Symbol, because Brock discovers that the Ministry, the governing body of Issalia, has been hiding something from the public. The Ministry is buried in secrets and Brock has discovered a rune hidden deep in the foundation of the Academy. Kohanek does a good job at keeping focused on the character’s and the setting development, that whatever the Ministry is hiding is not at the foreground of this book but is setting up the series for the future. Again, a very specific skill that Kohanek exercises with precision and style.

Brock finishes his first year by the end of the book and has encountered many new challenges, obstacles and realities that he never thought would be possible, both positive and negative. Kohanek has done an amazing job setting up the series, and elicits the reader to develop feelings for the character’s and an understanding of the realm. Now I want to know what the Ministry is hiding and how will Brock and his friend’s face the challenge!
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