Summary and book reviews of Runemarks by Joanne Harris

Runemarks

By Joanne Harris

Runemarks
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2008,
    544 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2009,
    544 pages.

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Book Summary

Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the end of the world, and goblins had been at the cellar again. . . . Not that anyone would admit it was goblins. In Maddy Smith’s world, order rules. Chaos, old gods, fairies, goblins, magic, glamours – all of these were supposedly vanquished centuries ago. But Maddy knows that a small bit of magic has survived. The “ruinmark” she was born with on her palm proves it – and makes the other villagers fearful that she is a witch (though helpful in dealing with the goblins-in-the-cellar problem). But the mysterious traveler One-Eye sees Maddy’s mark not as a defect, but as a destiny. And Maddy will need every scrap of forbidden magic One-Eye can teach her if she is to survive that destiny.

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, and besides, as far as she knew, rats didn't drink ale.

But she also knew that in the village of Malbry-as in the whole of the Strond Valley-certain things were never discussed, and that included anything curious, uncanny, or unnatural in any way. To be imaginative was considered almost as bad as giving oneself airs, and even dreams were hated and feared, for it was through dreams (or so the Good Book said) that the Seer-folk had crossed over from Chaos, and it was in Dream that the power of the Faerie remained, awaiting its chance to re-enter the world.

And so the folk of Malbry made every effort never to dream. They slept on boards instead of mattresses, avoided heavy evening meals, and as for telling ...

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ABOUT THIS BOOK
Runemarks is set in a universe of Nine Worlds, not unlike that of Norse legend. Five hundred years have passed since Ragnarók and the world has rebuilt itself anew. The old gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic has been outlawed, and a new religion, called the Order, has taken its place.

Enter Maddy Smith, a 14-year-old girl with an attitude problem. No one in her village likes her much; she is reputed to be imaginative, she tells stories, talks to goblins, and worse still, she has a ruinmark on her hand, a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. According to One-Eye, the secretive traveler who is Maddy’s only real friend, her ruinmark—or runemark, as he calls it—is a sign of ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

In Runemarks, the Norse gods come alive in all their bickering glory, but not until quite late in the tale, after we've had time to get to know Maddy and her strange itinerant friend, One-Eye, who turns up for a few days each year and trains her in the use of glamours (an archaic word for magic spells or enchantments). What starts as a potentially simple story, quickly builds to one of considerable complexity when Maddy leaves the Middle World of men for the goblin-infested tunnels that lead to World Below.

A great choice for almost any young reader who enjoys fantasy, but also with great 'cross-over' potential for adult readers. We read Runemarks as a family (it's a great book to read aloud!), and all of us from 12 to 48 enjoyed it immensely.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
The Los Angeles Times - Sonja Bolle

Just as Bugs Bunny, the most familiar trickster to us, is a short-form character, Loki shouldn't carry a novel, though he's good for relieving tension and speaks with an irreverence that will make readers of all ages laugh. The crosses and double crosses pile up until it's hard to keep it all straight. (There is a reason why drama came out of Greece, not Iceland.) But Harris keeps it all spinning with luscious detail and a firm grasp of the mythic implications of all the shifting relationships.

Kirkus Reviews

A mini-course in Norse mythology for the tween set.

Publishers Weekly

Harris demonstrates a knack for moving seamlessly between the serious and the comic, and her lengthy book moves swiftly.

School Library Journal

[F]antasy enthusiasts will find much to enjoy in this complex tale.

The Guardian - Kathryn Hughes

Harris's great skill lies in pulling back every time her creation veers towards the portentous, that is to say the Tolkienesque .... So Runemarks has a narrative nonchalance which just about evens out its ponderous infrastructure.

The Times - Nicolette Jones

Especially enjoyable are Harris’s aphorisms, her satire of joyless piety, and the comically irreverent vernacular spoken by a dissolute goblin and the trickster god Loki

Reader Reviews
Anonymous

Good at the end, okay overall, but not worth the time
The book was exceedingly slow up until the very peak of the climax, very near the conclusion. After all the buildup and back story, I felt disappointed that there wasn't much meat after all the hype. The majority of the book deals with a journey ...   Read More

Danielle

Young at Heart?
One of the enduring paradigms in publishing is the categorization of a book to focus publicity and marketing efforts and give booksellers a clear spot to shelve it. What is frustrating about this inevitable classification is that often a book goes ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Norse mythology
Norse mythology is the best preserved version of Germanic paganism, sharing the same essential pantheon with Anglo-Saxon mythology. Both have their roots in a hypothetical Indo-European mythology that is believed to be at the root of most pre-Christian religions in Europe and India (including Hinduism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism) because they all share significant commonalities. For example, Zeus, Jupiter, Thor and Indra are all thunder-gods and all are associated with the same day of the week - Thursday: English derives Thursday from Thor, while the French Jeudi and Italian Goivedi come from the Latin Jovis (or Iovis) Dies meaning Jupiter Day.

Norse mythology is a collection of believes, not a set ...

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