Reviews for Runemarks

Booklist Reviews 2007 December #2
BOX Versatile has been one of the most common adjectives used to describe Harris, a best-selling author for adults whose genre-hopscotching books include the romantic Chocolat (1999) and Gentlemen and Players (2006), a literary thriller. Her latest finds her not just switching genres, this time to fantasy, but also shifting to an entirely new audience, young adults. Reminiscent of Nancy Farmer's The Sea of Trolls (2004) in its Norse-myth-steeped fundamentals, this novel, set in a kind of rustic Old World Europe, will hook readers in the initial chapters, where 12-year-old Maddy discovers that her rune-casting mentor is actually a decommissioned Odin. Sensing the next great clash between Chaos and Order (here represented by a rigid, witch-hunting church), Odin sends his charge on a mission that awakens ancient rivalries among the world's scattered, discarded gods and goddesses. It's in the subtle, sometimes biology-defying relationships among the immortals that Harris may lose her audience, despite attempts to incorporate explanations. Even more basic, the premise lacks clarity: it's hard to feel concerned about deities' loss of a war when the stakes are so fuzzy (do they become a little less immortal if they lose?). And while Maddy's fate is more likely to matter to readers, her presence in the narrative often feels overshadowed by the increasingly prominent roles of gods and grown-ups. What will appeal is Harris' down-to-earth portrayal of the deities, whose peevish squabbling and casual, sometimes profane language could have been lifted straight from a high-school cafeteria. Even so, the publisher's major marketing campaign may not be enough to give this dense epic legs. Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2007 December #2
The Lightning Thief meets The Sea of Trolls in this well-executed, if rather plodding children's debut by the author of the adult novel, Chocolat. In a world where the intolerant "Order" has deemed the old Norse myths as blasphemous, village misfit Maddy Smith discovers she is the daughter of the Norse god Thor. Guided by Loki and advised by Odin, Maddy travels to the "World Below" to try and thwart the prophesied war between the old gods and the new. The heroes win the day, but at least one villain escapes, hinting at a sequel. Unfortunately, Harris's determination to include just about every Norse god in her narrative brings Maddy's quest to a standstill at times. Some youngsters not well-versed in Odin's family tree may find the discussion of the gods' past grudges confusing, while others will be inspired to dig out their old copy of D'Aulaires' Norse Gods and Giants to refresh their memories of the Vanir and Aesir. A mini-course in Norse mythology for the tween set. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2007 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 November #3

In Norse myth the whole world ended with Ragnark, the last battle, at which the gods were defeated and after which eternal winter descended. In her highly successful first children's novel, however, the author of the bestselling Chocolat tells readers what happened next. The supposed end of all things is now centuries past and the Middle World is ruled by the Order, a repressive theocracy reminiscent of the Magisterium in Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass . Maddy, born with a rune of power on her hand, is deeply unpopular in her backwoods village. Thorny and imaginative, she is believed to be a witch by the locals who would have cast her out long ago if she didn't have a convenient talent for controlling the goblins that infest their cellars. Such creatures are thick in the village because of its proximity to Red Horse Hill, a place of ancient power. Then Maddy's life is transformed when she meets first One-Eye, a mysterious traveler who agrees to train her in the ways of Farie, and then Lucky, the trickster captain of the goblins under the hill. Throughout, Harris demonstrates a knack for moving seamlessly between the serious and the comic, and her lengthy book moves swiftly. Playing fast and loose with Norse mythology, she creates a glorious and complex world replete with rune-basedmagical spells, bickering gods, exciting adventures and difficult moral issues. Maddy's destiny, readers realize, is to remake the world, but to succeed she must first remake herself into someone worthy of that fate. Ages 10-up. (Jan.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2008 January

Gr 7 Up-- In this fantasy set "five hundred years after the End of the World," after the battle of Ragnarok, as predicted by Norse mythology, anything imaginative or magical is taboo. Fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith has a strange birthmark on her hand. A wanderer called One-Eye tells her that what she has is a runemark, and he teaches her about magic and the legends of the Aesir and Vanir. When Maddy's powers awake sleeping magic, she discovers that the legends are true and that she has an important role to play in the next battle between good and evil. Aided and opposed by a variety of gods, goblins, and humans, she learns the truth about herself as she tries to find the truth about her world. Harris has created a realistic and detailed world, and the action scenes are both vivid and engrossing. Maddy's abilities develop in a logical manner while her youth and navet contrast strongly with the age and wisdom of One-Eye and Loki, her companions on her quest. This epic-strength novel may bring as much attention to Norse legends as Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series (Hyperion/Miramax) has to their Greek neighbors, and fantasy enthusiasts will find much to enjoy in this complex tale.--Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI

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