End of the World - Again!
review by Maryom
Maddy Smith has always known that she is different to the other folk in her village - the rune mark that she was born with makes her so and gives her powers to deal with the magical world whose existence is denied by her neighbours. But just how different, she doesn't realise till the day Old One-Eye asks her to open the way under Red Horse Hill and go in search of the Whisperer, a relic of the Old Gods. Here she discovers adventures beyond her imaginings, journeying through the World Below to Hel on the borders of chaos.
I stumbled across Runemarks accidentally on the Serendipity Reviews blog - until then I'd associated Joanne Harris with adult fiction in warmer French settings (Chocolat being my favourite) so found the idea of a teenage fantasy novel very intriguing. I asked my library to order it and settled back to wait. Imagine my surprise and delight then when I was lucky enough to win a competition on the same blog offering not just Runemarks but also a signed copy of the sequel, Runelight!
Runemarks is a marvellous, magical adventure story, of double and triple cross, with so many twists and turns that at times it's hard to remember who is on whose side! Maddy is an engaging, feisty heroine, able to pluck up the courage to do what needs to be done - no matter how frightful or gruesome. But I must say my favourite character was Loki - charming and witty, cunning and devious, he always has an answer for everything, trying to shift the blame on to others and away from himself - a sort of Old Norse spin doctor! They're backed up by a sweeping cast of Gods, goblins, shape-shifters, parsons and pot-bellied pigs, and the sinister members of The Order who would like the world to be a duller, more ordered place without magic and with themselves in charge!
A word of caution to anyone who's a little claustrophobic, as I am - it contains the most frightening and realistic fictional tunnels since Alan Garner's The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Harris captures the cramped (terrifying) underground feel so well that, in the early parts of the story as Maddy ventures through the tunnels of the World Below, I found myself having to break off and come up for air!
A book for anyone who enjoyed the Sabriel series by Garth Nix, although lighter and funnier.
Maryom's review - 4.5 stars
Publisher - Random House Children's Books
Genre - Teenage Fantasy Adventure
Buy Runemarks from Amazon