Runemarks by Joanne Harris
I’m always on the lookout for “new” authors and Joanne Harris is someone I was delighted to find. She writes from England and is half French and half British. Her earlier books include Chocolat, Gentlemen and Players
and Holy Fools. All of her works are quite distinct from one another so she cannot be neatly pegged as an historical or mystery novelist. Her writing includes elegant elements of these genres and in Runemarks Ms. Harris expands her scope.
Runemarks is a fantasy based on the legends of Norse Gods and Harris has created a world where Order rules
but where there are rumblings of change from Chaos and Hel. Maddy Smith is the odd daughter of villagers inthe Stron dValley and as a misfit she spends long hours by herself. She has a runemark on the palm of her hand that her family would like to disappear along with her far too active imagination. In a society where Order is valued and change suspect they want to keep their daughter’s talents hidden and she has little idea of her own powers until at the age of seven she is befriended by a One-eyed Journeyer. He helps her to a partial understanding of her abilities and the part they will play in the war that is coming.
Each year One-Eye leaves and each year he returns to tantalize her with half truths and hints of her
When she is fourteen, One-Eye tells her that the legendary riches hidden
under Red Horse Hill are not gold but something worth far more.
The Whisperer. He has given her a glimpse of what she can do with her runes, cantrips, glamours and other
magic and sends her on a quest for the treasure. One-Eye shares little knowledge of what the Whisperer is or what dangers she will face. In the labyrinth that lies under the Hill, Maddy finds the Whisperer trapped andheld in a web of magic and runes. Retrieving it seems impossible and she follows Sugar, the Goblin she had forced to guide her in the World Below deeper and deeper underground. He escapes leaving Maddy on her own in the darkness and maze of tunnels where she meets Loki. He is really the Trickster, disguised as a youth but he helps her because he knows she has found the Whisperer.
Runemarks unfolds from this point. Motives of the Gods and One-Eye are as twisted as the tunnels in the World Below. Half-truths and almost forgotten feuds resurface as the heroic battle between Chaos and Order begins. The stability of the world depends on a balance between these opposing forces and should one world bleed into another Maddy and her Seer-folk kin will face extinction.
If an epic war of Norse Gods is not your taste, other Joanne Harris novels include Gentlemen and Players – a contemporary tale of revenge in an English private school and Holy Fools– a story of 1610 intrigue in Sainte Marie-de-la Mer Abbey on a small French island. I recommend any of them and am planning to include some of her other books for my winter reading list.
I am an avid reader and like to share some of my "finds" with others.