Series: Runemarks #1
Published by Doubleday on August 2nd, 2007
Genres: fantasy, young adult
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Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the end of the world, and goblins had been at the cellar again. . . . Not that anyone would admit it was goblins. In Maddy Smith’s world, order rules. Chaos, old gods, fairies, goblins, magic, glamours–all of these were supposedly vanquished centuries ago. But Maddy knows that a small bit of magic has survived. The “ruinmark” she was born with on her palm proves it–and makes the other villagers fearful that she is a witch (though helpful in dealing with the goblins-in-the-cellar problem). But the mysterious traveler One-Eye sees Maddy’s mark not as a defect, but as a destiny. And Maddy will need every scrap of forbidden magic One-Eye can teach her if she is to survive that destiny.
I was supposed to love this book. The Norse influence was very strong with this one, and the author had a wonderful take on one of my favorite “gods,” Loki (I loved him before he was cool – totally hipster of me). Not even a fabulous Loki, however, could help this book recover from the muddled, horrible mess of a storyline.
I’m not sure why the description for this book was so small. It seems a tad bit misleading. Maddy, our main and very bland MC, is sent out to stumble through a complicated obstacle course of events. Just when one mission is complete, the storyline continues on. I honestly believe that this book would have done much better if it had been chopped up into a series, instead of cramming every plot, feeling, and character into this one. It was over 500 pages, and I felt every bit of it.
One of my biggest complaints about the whole story was the unneeded glimpses into the mind of every single person who stumbled into the plot. I understand that Harris was trying to flesh out the characters, and I appreciate her effort to evolve her cast past the 2D stage. Unfortunately, it only served to bog down this seemingly dry and complicated tome. Sometimes, we do not need to know the story behind X, Y and Z villager, especially if they only appear in the first section. We have plenty of other characters to focus upon. Oddly enough, it seemed that the character who was robbed the most was Maddy herself. I never really understood her motivation, and I never seemed to connect to her or care about her well being.
My other major thorn of this book is Freyja. I’m unsure why people wish to portray her as some simpering lady because she is the goddess of desire. She is not Venus. She is not ladylike in the least. That is why I honestly love her. Freyja commands half of the dead. She gets to pick the dead for her hall, and the rest if given to the leader, Odin. I am fairly sure she doesn’t give a damn about a muddy dress or a pretty trinket. The story already had one strong, brazen woman. But this is not a reason to push her to the side and cause her to become some weak willed whiner. The Norse did not see women as the weaker sex. Norse women we given the keys to the house, and if her husband screwed up, she locked his ass outside. Women could fight. The Vikings had a thing called Valkyries – warrior maidens who hauled off your dead butt. It is still debated whether or not Freyja was the leader of this group of women. So, to be honest, it offended me to see Freyja reduced to some snotty flit of a woman for the book.
The storyline never seemed to make much sense to me as well. The huge twist of the story was not fully fleshed out. The magic and the entire system of runes and spells seemed so vague that I often felt that I was on the outside, listening in on a conversation, half informed and frustrated. Honestly, I felt very lost and confused for a majority of the story.
On the brighter side, I will say that I loved Harris’ take on Loki. He was the one bright spot in the novel, and I enjoyed his cunning attitude and his general sense of chaos. My hats off to Harris – this was Loki at his best. This character alone helped me finish the novel, in fact. Without it, I would have given up on it and moved on.
Bottom line, here is my general overall feeling of the book: