Book Review: Runemarks

Runemarks by Joanne Harris trade paperback book coverUse our catalogue to reserve this book or listen to it on CD.

You know who gets a raw deal?  The Norse gods.  I’m not talking about the people who run IKEA, they do just fine.  I’m talking about Thor and Odin and Loki and the others.  I first read about them in the comics because Thor was on the Avengers.  But then I read more about how there was a whole new story about the creation and arrangement of the world, and the end of the world (the awesome sounding Ragnarok, where all the gods die).  And later than that, I realized these guys are where we get the days of the week. Thursday is Thor’s day.  Tuesday is Tyr’s day.  How ’bout that?

Anyway, with so much attention to Greek and Roman gods, I think the Norse pantheon misses out on some well deserved attention.  In Runemarks, Joanne Harris imagines a world built according to Norse legend, with a World we live in, a World Below, Hel below that ,and connected by the river Dream.

Maddy, a fourteen year old, is an outsider all her life because she was born with a mark on her hand that people fear because it is part of the Fiery, the chaos of magic that can only be bad for a small town trying to keep Order.  It’s been 500 years since Ragnarok , when supposedly all the gods died, so no one really knows what the truth is about the strange marks that sometimes show up  Equally curious for Maddy is that when she bends her fingers in a certain way, she can do things that are strange like see colors around people that give away their mood or intentions.  The only person who doesn’t think her mark makes her a freak is a traveler named One-Eye who shows up in the small hamlet about once a year, as all mysterious wanderers are wont to do.

The runes, covered in a helpful guide at the beginning, make this great story really fun to read.  Based on real runes, Ms. Harris gives them power by making them useful to anyone who knows about them and has some Fiery nature.  She points out that the runes can be written or spoken or made by anyone, but their true usefulness comes when someone with a spark uses them, which made me think about how lifeless a word is unless you know what it means and how to use it.  I really dug this book, give it a try!

Read on about what inspired this interesting book.

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