It’s been five hundred years since the end of the world and society has rebuilt itself anew. The old Norse gods are no longer revered. Their tales have been banned. Magic is outlawed, and a new religion – the Order – has taken its place.
In a remote valley in the north, fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith is shunned for the ruinmark on her hand – a sign associated with the Bad Old Days. But what the villagers don’t know is that Maddy has skills. According to One-Eye, the secretive Outlander who is Maddy’s only real friend, her ruinmark – or runemark, as he calls it – is a sign of Chaos blood, magical powers and gods know what else…
Now, as the Order moves further north, threatening all the Worlds with conquest and Cleansing, Maddy must finally learn the truth to some unanswered questions about herself, her parentage, and her powers.
From the bestselling author of CHOCOLAT and THE GOSPEL OF LOKI comes a fantastical tale of magic, adventure and Norse mythology.
I’ve not made a secret of my love of Norse Mythology. When I read Joanne Harris’ The Gospel of Loki last year I was completely absorbed by how well she combined the mythology into a work of fiction. With Runemarks she has done it again (or rather before given that this is a re-release).
Our central character in this novel is Maddy Smith, a fourteen year old human, who was born with a ruinmark (runemark) on her hand. Set five-hundred years after Ragnarok the time of the Gods has passed and a new ‘religion’ is in place and they abhor anything that links to the old gods, intending to wipe it out entirely.
Maddy befriended a wanderer when she was a young child and looks forward to seeing him whenever he returns to tell her tales and teach her new things. But this year things are set to get strange, she will learn new things about herself, discover exactly what happened to the old gods and go on an adventure that will take her all the way to Hel.
Joanne Harris writes frankly but in that frankness there is a warmth that keeps you enclosed and reading on. It is enjoyable getting to see the gods in a different setting and coming together to face an unusual enemy in a new time. Their personalities distinct and easy to recognise on the page.
There is a different character in this who totally stole the show for me his name is Sugar-and-Sack and he is a goblin. He is definitely just a secondary character but he is witty and pops up at key points. He is what I would describe as a reluctant hero, and unexpectedly saves the day at a key point. I had a few laugh out loud moments with him, and while I’ve always (not just from Joanne Harris’ books) been a huge fan of Loki and Thor, this little guy won my heart in this novel.
This novel is a steady read, an epic fantasy with strong world building, great characterisation and a story that packs a punch. Joanne Harris writes wonderful mythological fantasy and this is by no means a winner on all counts.
A huge thanks to Joanne Harris and Gollancz for the eARC of this book in return for my honest review.
Book & Buy Links
Series: Runemarks #1
Author: Joanne Harris
Genre: Fantasy | Mythology | Norse Mythology | Epic Fantasy | Magic
Publication Date: 24 November 2016
Review Format: eBook
Other Formats: Hardcover | Paperback | Audio
Buy: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo | iBooks