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Library - dukedom


As far as I know Runemarks, by Joanne Harris, is the author's only foray into the realms of Young Adult fantasy. I've only read one other book by her (her French 'food' type books not really appealing to me) and that was Gentlemen and Players, a psychological crime tale, which I absolutely loved and which made my top ten best reads of last year. I also love YA fantasy so when I saw Runemarks in the library I grabbed it quickly because even though a lot of her books don't appeal, Joanne Harris can certainly write.

The story concerns Maddy Smith, a fourteen year old girl living in a remote village where she is 'different'. She she has a runemark on her hand, what the villagers call a 'ruinmark', and to them that marks her as magical... someone to avoid or make fun of. Her only friend is One-Eye a nomadic old man from the Outlands, who she meets when she is seven and who reluctantly takes on her magical education during his infrequent visits to the area. It's during her fourteenth year that the goblins from Red Horse Hill are suddenly behaving much worse than normal. The village is becoming overrun with them and it's clear that something is going on. One-Eye sends Maddy on a mission, through the eye of the horse, and into the hill. Alone and having no idea where to go, she finds a goblin, Sugar and Sack, to guide her and they go on a quest to find the thing that One-Eye wants - The Whisperer. The Goblins are being led by a human, known as The Captain, and Sugar and Sack is very anxious not to be caught by him, helping Maddy. They are of course, and the rest of the story hangs on who The Captain actually is, what he has to do with One-Eye and why they both want The Whisperer. The adventure leads them through a subterranean underworld to find The Sleepers and from there Maddy goes on a journey like no other. Not only to the depths of Hel and Dream, but also to find out who she really is and why the future of the Nine worlds depends upon her.

It took me about a hundred pages to get into this story. With another author I might not have persevered but I felt this was worth the effort and so it proved. Truthfully, I'm not that great on stories about gods and know very little about the Norse gods featured here. I'm not sure why god stories don't appeal to me in fantasy books, perhaps it's the whole omnipotent thing, the fact that can behave as they like without having to face the consequences, whatever - it's not my thing. And that was a feature in this book too but somehow I didn't mind. They weren't all powerful here and I took a particular shine to Loki, the trickster, whose character definitely reminded me of someone. ;-)

Also nice was Harris's use of a female main character and sticking with her to the bitter end. No replacing her with a boy with whom she has to Fall in Lurve (take note, Mr. Pullman) or giving her fainting fits or hysterics when the going gets rough; Maddy is tough and determined and I liked her a lot.

Complaints? None really. Maybe I would have liked more goblins... I'm still looking for the perfect evil goblin book, (although Clare B. Dunkle's 'Hollow Kingdom' series *is* perfect it's more of a 'romantic goblins' sort of series, not evil ones) so that search will continue.

It's possibly not a book that will go into my best reads of 2009 list. I liked it, enjoyed some of the ideas, and even found the Norse mythology pretty interesting. But it didn't set me alight as, for instance, Robin Hobb's books do. I may be mistaken but the ending indicated to me that Joanne Harris may plan to return to this world and actually, I hope she does, because I would definitely read more.

Oh and *MAP love*! Not one but three at the start of this book. This is the best one, the map of The Nine Worlds:



Oh, I haven't even heard of this, but I've loved every other book Harris has written, including the French/food ones (they're sort of dreamy somehow - gorgeous stuff) so I must see if I can find it! Haven't read your review yet, but I'll try and remember to come back - thanks for the heads-up! *g*
I have two of her books on my tbr pile - Holy Fools and The Evil Seed. What did you think of those? I like her writing I must admit. I like the fact that she's so versatile. I may try one of the French foody ones sometime - I saw the movie of Chocolat and quite liked that.

Anyway, good luck with finding Runemarks... I think you'll enjoy it, and reckon it's worth reading just for 'Loki' personally. ;-) There's a nice website for the book here:

Ooh, I've never heard of The Evil Seed either - oh, and I've just checked it out via your link here, and it's set in Cambs.! It's... it's here! I so have to read this, quite apart from the fact that I would so have had to read it even if it hadn't been set in Cambs. Sorry - am I over-excited? Interesting to see that it was one of her first books, reprinted since, now that people have heard of her... Oh, I must find it! Thank you, thank you! *g*

Holy Fools I liked - not as gorgeously written as the food-y books, I think (I adore Chocolat, and I loved Blackberry Wine, and must read it again soon, but it kept me engrossed. She's one of those writers who I think really pulls you into the characters, so you're not sure if you're them, or if you're working them out from the inside, or... And it didn't hurt that Pros gets a mention in Holy Fools either... *vbg*
Not for the first time I wish my flist were all my next door neighbours instead of the ones I've got. You could borrow The Evil Seed, no problem. *sigh* You won't have any problem finding it, I'm sure, but even so...

Pros gets a mention in Holy Fools! 8-S Well, well. Yes... I agree JH is superb at making you care about her characters; not all authors can do that by any means. Gentlemen and Players had me completely engrossed and even when I thought I'd got it all sussed out, I actually hadn't... Wonderful. I certainly plan to read more of her books this year.
Oh hang on - no, it's Gentlemen and Players that mentions Pros - it's on in the gatehouse one night, the lad's father is watching it, I think! Sorry, gettin' all confused, just for a change... Ooh, in fact now I'm wondering if I've read Holy Fools yet, or if I was waiting for the paperback... Oooh... just a few more paycheques, and there's going to be such a spree! *g*
You're so right, G&P *did* mention Pros... I'd completely forgotten that. Holy Fools is one I've fancied reading since it came out so I must get to it. Too many books on the tbr pile that's my problem. And reading about m/m romance books on a certain person's LJ doesn't help *g*. Very tempted by a couple you've mentioned.
Although your review seems to say that you have a few reservations about this book, it's clear that you like it, and it DOES sound intriguing.

Personally, I like stories in which "The Gods" turn out to be something other than people suppose. Like the short story I read years ago (and can't recall the title, darn it) about a woman warrior who persuaded the "Goblins" to transport her to Fairyland on a quest for some magical object that would greatly increase her beloved husband's renown. And, just as in old stories about Fairlyland, the light was weird and seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once. And the time was strange, too. She was with the Goblins for only a few months of subjective time, but found when she returned home that she'd been gone for fifty years or so, and her husband and everyone else she loved were all dead of old age. The only person who recognized her was an aged individual who had been a small child when she left.

And, of course, the people she traveled with weren't "Goblins" at all: they were space faring traders whose journeys at nearly light speed took only months in their perception, while decades passed planetside.

I LOVE that kind of "seen-from-another-angle" story.
I *did* like the book and have no hesitation in recommending it. It's just me who has a slight thing about 'god' characters in books. I'm not that fond of retold fairy tales either and I know a lot of people love those. I'm weird.

And that short story sounds brilliant! Haven't come across that one in my travels so if you ever do remember the title or author give us a shout.