This excellent book, written by an author with long and extensive experience of esoteric runology, gives exactly what it promises: a sound, no-nonsense introduction to the Nordic runes. In the author's words: "It is intended as a starting point. Not a complete volume of everything, but a basic foundation from which anyone can begin their studies from an informed perspective."
Unlike some other writers, Sweyn Plowright does not make any unsubstantiated claims or indulge in unwarranted speculation regarding the interpretation of the runes. Everything in the book is based on primary sources (e.g. the Eddas and the Rune Poems) only. After a brief introduction and a chapter devoted to putting the runes in their historical and modern context, Plowright discusses the genuine, old sources with particular attention to the Old English, Old Norse and Old Icelandic Rune Poems. The translations of the Rune Poems deviate a little from some others that I have read; unfortunately, I do not have enough knowledge of Old English or Old Norse to judge which translations are more valid (learning these is high on my agenda!) He then goes on to describe the modern runic revival, dominant concepts in runology (ørlög, wyrd and hamingja), esoteric interpretations of the runes, resources (including a discussion of popular authors, many of whom Plowright has met in person) and closes with a chapter on `myth busting'.
So thorough is the author in debunking modern myths or at least placing them in their proper context that the reader may come away feeling like he or she has been deluged with copious amounts of cold water. However, it is important then to read Plowright's closing words: "It may be tempting to seek an escape from an imperfect World, but it is far more noble and rewarding to face the real World, appreciate what we have, and see the wonder that is right in front of us."
My favourite quotation from the book: "His [List's] interpretations were largely based on the 18 riddles or spells mentioned in the Havamal.. [these] were unlikely to have referred to futhark runes. The word `rune' can also refer to a spell or mystery" - a point of view with which I completely agree.
This is not a book that will tell the beginner how to get started with rune magic or divination, but it is indispensable as a foundation for putting further studies in their proper context. I can thoroughly recommend it not only to aspiring rune magicians but also to experienced ones who may need to re-examine much of the `received wisdom'.