Tuesday 8 November 2011

Runemarks by Joanne Harris

Pages - 504
First Published in 2007, republished by Corgi in 2008

Seven o' clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again. Mrs Scattergood - the landlady at the Seven Sleepers Inn - swore it was rats, but Maddy Smith knew better. Only goblins could have burrowed into the brick-lined floor; besides, as far as she knew, rats didn't drink ale.

Amazon Summary
Maddy Smith was born with a rusty-coloured runemark on her hand - a symbol of the old gods and definitely cause for suspicion. For magic is dangerous. Or so everyone thinks. But Maddy enjoysworking magic. Even if it is just to control some pesky goblins. And every time her friend, One-Eye - a good-for-nowt Outlander - comes by, he teaches her more and more about the gods and the runes.
Now he wants Maddy to open Red Horse Hill and descend into World Below to retrieve a relic of the old gods. Otherwise it is likely to be the End of Everything. Again . . .

This is not a book to be rushed. It is like a fine wine that needs time to mature, allowing your mind to fully appreciate the detailed world building that has gone into it. Joanne Harris has provided comprehensive lists and pictures to help you and I would suggest reading and studying them first before you embark on this epic tale as you may find yourself slightly lost with the huge cast of characters that appear in the story. 

Within in this book, you need to tread carefully and keep your eyes open as all is not what it seems. You can never really trust anyone and someone who may have seemed nice, can easily turn out to be bad.  Deception and trickery are lying in wait to catch you at every turn. 

There are many humorous passages in the book which I haven't ever found before in books by this author. I found that in between all the high drama, I would found myself giggling uncontrollably at something one of the characters said. 

The characters are extremely well written with detailed backgrounds which made you feel instantly that you had met them before. To begin with I was taken in by the Whisperer. I honestly wanted  my own Whisperer to  sit on my dressing table, casually predicting my future. He seemed to be delightfully obnoxious and a real know it all.  However as I mentioned above, I soon learnt that this book is full of devious characters who are all out to get what they can purely for selfish reasons. Loki is just adorable and I am sure I am not supposed to feel that way about him but I do. Talk about a trickster! He could sweet talk his way into Buckingham Palace! Maddie is amazing. She takes all her new found abilities in her stride and basically kicks butt, leaving the old Gods trailing in her wind.

I love the way this book completely revolves around runes. I don't think I have read a story before that has featured them so heavily. I found it fascinating how each rune was used to create different things. As I was reading it, I found it reminded me a little of West Of The Moon by Kath Langrish. It has that old world feel to it, where the legends of the myths cause havoc in the world of today. 

This is a fast paced book that will make you feel like you are riding a motorcycle at over 100 miles per hour. Maggie and Loki seem to spiral through their mission until they descend into Hell.  When you look at the way the world is drawn at the beginning of the book, you come away imagining it like a nine floor multi-story car park  with the dream world acting as the road linking each of the floors. 

My only niggle with this book is one about myself. I really wish I had more personal knowledge on Norse myths to fully appreciate the amount of work the author has put into this book. You can tell that Joanne Harris has gone to great lengths within her research which has made this book the magical epic tale it is. 

This is a complex book that takes you on a thrill ride. A bit like the Krypton Factor on a roller coaster. The use of magic was outstanding and original. Joanne Harris has managed to recreated the Norse Gods and make them hip and stylish, ready to take on the modern world. 


  1. Brilliant review Viv
    We have this in the library and I think I can add it to the folklore books in February :D

  2. Emma - thank you!

    Jenni _ I should be a publicist!

  3. I came to think about Harris today so I had to put up an audiobook by her on the display shelf when one spot was empty today at the library ;)

  4. Very good review! Glad you liked it.

  5. This does sound really good Viv. I like the idea of the Whisperer and of characters that are naughty but likeable anyway.

  6. Blodeued - she is such an awesome and versatile author.

    Yvonne-thank you.

    Naida - imagine Gods with attitude.

  7. Wow this book sounds awesome, I'd not heard of it before nw so thank you for bringing it to my attention! :D


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