Book Review of Runemarks by Joanne Harris

June 21, 2013 Lyn 8

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Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 8th 2008
Pages: 527
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Series: Runemarks #1

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Description from Goodreads: 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.

Review: 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:

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3/5 Stars


8 Responses to “Book Review of Runemarks by Joanne Harris”

  1. Amy

    I hate it when you are expecting to love a book and you just don’t. It does sound like this would have been better as a series and that too much was being crammed into this. I like getting to know the secondary characters, but not if it takes away from the story or the MC. Great review hon!!

  2. Christina

    I am loling at how this book cover doesn’t really work with your theme because it’s too similar. Haha. weird.

    Also, I tried to read this book a couple of years ago, but DNFed. I was thinking I would try again, but with the way Harris just reacted, I think I’m going to pass on all of her books but the ones I already own – nothing I can do about that. I do remember this being dry and slow as well, which is no good.

    Oh man, is there anything you would recommend to see Freyja in all her glory, because that sounds AWESOME. I think I need to dig into more norse mythology. I am officially convinced with that on them appreciating women. UMM, YES TO THAT.

    • Lyn Kaye

      I thought about choosing one of the other covers. I should have gone with my gut instinct.

      It was dry. I was going to rate it 2 stars, but I loved Loki. Meh. What is done is done. Thank you for your support – it means a lot coming from someone as awesome as you.

  3. Lexxie Lin

    So sorry you didn’t like this one, Lyn… You and I share the same huge love for Norse mythology, so I’m gonna pass on this one. Freya is supposed to be strong, and you’re right about the valkyries! I’m a proud viking myself, and seeing women in Norse stories acting like frail Victorians pisses me off! It’s not the was it was, and if someone wants to write a story where some women are strong and others weak, they should maybe try to find another mythology than the Norse to include in their work, since there is quite a few readers who already have read a lot pertaining to actual Norse mythology, and know a little bit about how it should work.

    Great review, Lyn, you even point out the things you liked – Loki!! – but I won’t be picking this up now, neither you nor Kara deserved any response at all from the author. *hugs*!

    • Lyn Kaye

      Lexxie, you are such a doll – thank you so much for your kind words and your support.

      Kara is the real champ. She was attacked for MY review, and I still feel horrible that she had to endure all the stupidity.

  4. Melanie

    I’ve been very keen to read some Norse mythology as I’ve loved every other mythology category. Loki sounds freakin awesome!

    Sadly, I’m not going to read this now. After that crazy crap you and Kara had to go through- UGH. Stuff them all. They’re crazy. In a bad way. *hugs*

    Fantastic honest review, hon!

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