Sunday, November 9, 2008

Runemarks by Joanne Harris

Main Character: Maddy Smith
Location: undefined
Time period: undefined
Genre: YA Fiction, Fantasy, Norse Mythology

In Maddy's small village, people do not acknowledge magic. They are also wary of dreaming and imagination. In the constant conflict between Chaos (where magic exists) and Order, Order has the upper hand. So Maddy, who was born with a runemark (or "ruinmark" as the parson calls it) on her hand and has some strange abilities, is an outsider. Her only friend is the Wanderer, old One-Eye, who comes through her village for a short time every year. It was he who taught her about the runemarks and how to control her power to use them. Now he has asked her to go into the World Below and find the Whisperer, an object that could be anywhere or look like anything but Maddy should recognize it when she sees it. She finds the Whisperer, but she also finds Loki, the Norse trickster god. Turns out that old One-Eye is Odin and the Whisperer is the oracle that predicted Ragnarok.

I liked Maddy a lot. She is a strong character who is always true to herself. I also rather like Loki. Yes, he is the trickster that almost the entire Norse pantheon wants destroyed, but he is also charming--a charm that Maddy knows as one of his powers and must guard against.

Norse Mythology is not as familiar to us as Greek Mythology is, but I have been noticing a few books using it as a starting point, such as The Sea of Trolls and The Land of Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer. I don't think it's necessary to know much about the Norse gods to enjoy this book, but it does help to understand their relationships (such as why everyone wants to get rid of Loki.) This is not a retelling of the myths, but an original story imagining what might have happened after Ragnarok and the destruction of Asgard.

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