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Runemarks Hardcover – January 8, 2008

3.8 out of 5 stars 53 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Starred Review, Publishers Weekly (circ: 34,456), November 19, 2007:
"[Harris] creates a glorious and complex world replete with rune-based magical spells, bickering gods, exciting adventures and difficult moral issues."

About the Author

Master storyteller Joanne Harris has created a magical and epic romp–a fresh, funny, and wonderfully irreverent new take on the old Norse tales sure to be enjoyed by readers young and old.
Joanne Harris’s books, which include Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange, have been published in over 40 countries and have won numerous international awards. She lives in England with her husband and daughter.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Lexile Measure: 930L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 526 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf; First Edition edition (January 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375844449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375844447
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646,633 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. D. Cox VINE VOICE on May 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My partner at the bookstore is much more well-read in Norse mythology than I am, but I like Joanne Harris, and I like young adult fantasy, so when I saw "Runemarks" listed as a BookSense pick a couple months back, I decided I'd like to try it. Wow!!!! I am so glad I did!!! Not only was it clever and enjoyable, I'd have to say it's the best book I've read in at least six months, and that's saying a lot. I don't sell as many hardcover books to the teens and families who come through the store, because price can be a factor, but I confidently stocked this book, in hardcover, 4 or 5 deep at a time, because I know I can handsell it. And I do! It's not a hard sell; I love the book, and the book speaks for itself. As many other reviewers have said, it takes an old theme, old characters, and gives them new life, a fresh twist, and a humorous, exciting story. I love when it's easy to get really absorbed in a good, long book, and this book drew me right in and made me want to keep flying through the pages. Satisfying, meaty, without being too intense, it's a great read for young adult and adult kid alike. So glad to hear rumors of a sequel!!
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Format: Hardcover
I found this book on a shelf and brought it home simply from looking at the dust jacket. I read it in an evening over several hours (I am a fast reader.). It was excellent. While I am familiar with the Norse Lore, I did not expect the story to turn out as it does. It is creative, and the young protagonist, Maddy, is clever and uses rune magic quite deftly. I would recommend this book for adults as well as children. It was shelved as a young adult book, but I found it just as engaging a work of fiction as many of the other novels I read.
As a mother to three, I think my children will enjoy reading this book, and I have passed it on to my daughter to read already and she laughed when she saw that the story features a traveller named One-Eye. The novel stands on it's own as a good story.

What I found even more useful was that the Norse Gods play a part in the story and the use of Runes as they journey through the nine worlds. As the story reveals who the characters are, you get to see a different view on the Aesir and Vanir, which is something that an Asatru or Heathen would enjoy sharing with their child, even if only to discuss how their views of the Gods differ. The author's knowledge of the runes and stories shine through in this work of fiction. Bring it home and share it with your family.
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Format: Hardcover
Maddy is as outcast as they come. In a Norse culture that views magic as evil and labels darkskinned folks as Outlanders, being born an orphan girl with a ruin-mark on your palm is just about the worst way to start things off. Infants and animals are often killed for such offenses, and even far from the reach of the Universal City in the village of Malbry, people still hide such signs. It doesn't help that strange events follow Maddy everywhere she goes. Goblins from the mysterious Red Horse Hill on the outskirts of town are drawn to her and have been seen staring at her from windowsills before taking off with stolen food. Belongings are damaged or disappear entirely. People die. No one quite knows what to do with her.

Enter the one-eyed scallyman, with a bent toward secrecy, prophecy, and the unexplained. During a "chance" meeting up near the Hill, One-Eye agrees to mentor Maddy. For seven years, he tells her the stories of the Elder Age, teaches her cantrips and runecharms, and more than anything, helps her feel normal. She has more natural power than One-Eye has seen in a youth in a long time, and it is because of this power that her training continues. Each year when their lessons are finished, One-Eye leaves for World's End with the promise that he will return, and each year he returns. Only this year, he's late.

Trouble is brewing up on Red Horse Hill when One-Eye finally returns. Rumors are spreading of the Nameless, a powerful new god controlled by the Order, and its terrible new power called the Word. Laws for proper use of the Word are laid out in the Good Book and can only be utilized by certain people. These same people communicate with each other and the Nameless via Communion and punish heretics, magicians, and Faëries with Cleansings.
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Format: Hardcover
Oh my! This book is epic enough to please a Tolkien fan, but has moments of humor, as in the wonderful first sentence: "Seven o'clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again." Maddy Smith, the fourteen-year-old witch-in-training who is at the center of this tale, has a "ruinmark" or runemark on her hand, a symbol, not only of her power, but of the role she is meant to play as events accumulate like clouds bundling on the horizon. Old One-Eye, the peddlar/tramp who has been coming around once a year to teach Maddy magic; the goblins who swarm beneath Red Horse Hill; and people like Nat Parson, who is eager to please the priests of the powerful Order--all have a part to play in the twisting and turning pieces of plot that make up Joanne Harris's Runemarks. Even Fat Lizzy, a pot-bellied sow, features in this adventure--reminding me happily of the magical pig in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain.

But the most important thread binding this book together is Norse mythology. In fact, you might want to brush up on those stories before you start reading Runemarks. Aside from Maddy, the star of the book is obviously trickster Loki, the most exasperating and intriguing of the Norse pantheon. In fact, a running joke beginning as early as the list of characters is that Loki has managed to make enemies out of absolutely EVERYONE over the centuries. The author goes on to make good use of the Trickster's dual nature throughout the book. Can he be relied on? No. Is he sometimes helpful, just the same? Of course!
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