2 August 2012

Runemarks - Joanne Harris

Five Hundred years after the end of the world, and the goblins had been at the cellar again.

This is everyday life for Maddy, who was born with a strange coppery symbol on her hand, known as a runemark. It marks her out in her simple village as an outsider and someone not to be trusted. Her only friend is an old man called one-eye, who suddenly wants her to travel into Red Horse Hill, where the goblins come from. Maddy's world is soon ripped apart as secrets are revealed, enemies and allies resurface from the old world and all Hel breaks loose.

If there's one thing Joanne Harris can do and do well, it's to tell a great story. This book is no exception. But what we have to remember is that this is her first novel for Young Adults, and is therefore slightly less sophistiated than what we are used to from her. As a result, her characters are lacking a little in complexity. The protagonist, Maddy, doesn't really star as much as she should, instead making The Captain (don't worry, you'll work it out when you read it) a much more prominent character in the readers eyes. She also does what she's told most of the time, which isn't the most spunky attribute in a protagonist. However, she is so integral to the plot, I can almost forgive this minor lapse. And anyway, I've always had a soft spot for The Captain.

However her plot is, as always, beautifully thought through. The action is in place from the beginning, which gets you right int the plot. Her descriptions perfectly capture imagination and the imagery puts you right in the middle of the story. Fantasy teen fiction is usually to do with education, groups, a selfish streak and almost always has a love interest. 'Twilight' is a nice example of this, as is the likes of 'Matched' or 'Divergent'. 'Runemarks', like the popular 'Hunger Games' trilogy, is so much more than a simple teen story. It turns away from angst and romance, and into the fray instead. It talks about religion, mythology, family, betrayal and a battle of wills. Maddy has so much more on her shoulders than your usual teen heroine - ie: the end of the universe.

Finally, I have to comment on the subject matter. Norse mythology is something that I haven't really taken a great interest in compared to the likes of Greek and Roman myth. When 'Thor' came out, I took a bit more interest in the matter, but now I think I definitely need to read up. I commend Joanne Harris for choosing this mythology as her basis. Not a lot of people are educated in the liked of the World Tree and Ragnarok, but I certainly hope that this book helps with that.

Oh, and one more thing.. this is no Percy Jackson.

8 out of 10. Only because I wasn't quite prepared for the amazing contrast to her other works and the change to her style because of the teen genre.

Runelight, the sequel, is out now.