I remember when I had the pleasure of reading Runemarks, a fantasy novel by Joanne Harris. I’m always on the lookout for new and exciting books in the fantasy genre, and Runemarks definitely delivered. In this review, I’ll give you an overview of the plot and share my thoughts on what I enjoyed most about the book.
|Publication Date||August 21, 2007|
Where to Purchase
An Overview of the Story
Runemarks tells the story of Maddy, a young girl born with a runemark on her hand. In the world of the Seven Realms where Maddy lives, runemarks are seen as a sign that someone has an affinity for old magic and the runes. This is frowned upon, as magic has been outlawed for the last 300 years by the Order, a powerful religious group that controls the Seven Realms.
Because of her runemark, Maddy has been shunned her whole life by the people of her village. She has found solace in studying the runes and secretly practicing magic. When we first meet Maddy, she has befriended the outlaws of World’s End, a forbidden area outside of the Order’s control. After the murder of one of her friends, Maddy sets out on a quest to find the lost runes and avenge his death by awakening an ancient power.
Accompanied by her companions – a sardonic dwarf named Sugar-and-Sack and a snarky, one-eyed raven named Odin – Maddy’s journey takes her across the fantastical lands of the Seven Realms. She contends with giants, goblins, talking dragons, and the agents of the Order who are trying to stop her. Along the way, she learns more about the history of the runes, the Order’s rise to power, and ultimately, how to embrace her own long-suppressed magical abilities.
What I Loved About This Book
Magical World Building
One of my favorite aspects of any good fantasy novel is immersive world building, and Runemarks delivers. Harris paints a vivid picture of the Seven Realms, blending recognizable elements like Vikings, Norse mythology, and runes with imaginative details. I loved picturing the domed city of Asgard, the World’s End wasteland, and the various creatures Maddy encounters. Harris’ world feels well-developed and easy to visualize.
Unique Magic System
The magic system in Runemarks is also really inventive. Runes are seen as dangerous and powerful, with each one representing a different concept or entity. Maddy learns to access the runes’ magic through memorization, meditation, and even blood sacrifices. I’m a sucker for a unique magic system, and unraveling the secrets of the runes along with Maddy was fascinating. Harris’ knowledge of Norse legends shines here.
A Relatable Protagonist
As much as I enjoyed the world building, the highlight of Runemarks for me was Maddy herself. She’s an immediately sympathetic character – an outsider thirsting for knowledge and a greater purpose. Her curiosity, integrity, intelligence and sarcastic sense of humor made her a protagonist I truly cared about. Seeing Maddy come into her own and gain confidence in herself and her powers was incredibly rewarding.
While suitable for young adult readers, Runemarks also tackles some deeper themes. The Order’s authoritarian control and religious orthodoxy is an interesting villain, which prompts discussions about knowledge, conformity, and challenging the status quo. Maddy’s personal struggle to understand her identity and hidden talents resonates as well. For a fantasy adventure, the book prompted me to think more than I expected.
An Engaging Page-Turner
Lastly, Runemarks is simply a fun and enjoyable read. The pacing clips along, balancing action scenes with Maddy’s introspective journey. The humor and rapport between Maddy, Sugar-and-Sack and Odin provide plenty of laughs as well. The mysteries surrounding the runes and Maddy’s quest kept me eager to turn the pages long into the night.
For fans of fantasy books with creative world building, memorable characters and a dash of Norse mythology, I’d definitely recommend picking up Runemarks. Harris crafts an enthralling tale that kept me entertained and engaged from the first chapter to the last. I’m excited to dive into the other books in the Runemarks series soon to spend more time with Maddy and her magical companions. Runemarks is an imaginative coming-of-age story that both young adult and adult readers can enjoy.