Review: Runemarks

TITLE: Runemarks
AUTHOR: Joanne Harris
PUBLICATION: 2008 by Random House Inc.
FORMAT: Audiobook (read by Sile Bermingham)


Maddy Smith was born with a rusty-coloured runemark on her hand – a symbol of the old gods and definitely cause for suspicion. For magic is dangerous. Or so everyone thinks. But Maddy enjoys working magic. Even if it is just to control some pesky goblins. And every time her friend, One-Eye – a good-for-nowt Outlander – comes by, he teaches her more and more about the gods and the runes. Now he wants Maddy to open Red Horse Hill and descend into World Below to retrieve a relic of the old gods. Otherwise it is likely to be the End of Everything.


This book follows mythology from the Norse region. It’s not strictly necessary to be familiar with the legends, but if you’re like me you will want to know about the legends before tackling the novel. Some of the myths of the Norse gods are explained in some detail in the novel when they are deemed important enough to elaborate upon such as the reason for the scars on Loki’s mouth. As much as I enjoy stories that center around the Greek and Egyptian mythologies, I find myself a bit excited by the Norse pantheon as I am still new to it. I found myself becoming enraptured by the story and really enjoying it as I listened.

It’s been 500 years since the Tribulation, or Ragnarok as One Eye informs Maddy. I think it’s interesting that this book takes place after the world has ended. I think I skimmed over a review somewhere that mentioned this book was confusing, but I didn’t find myself confused. Perhaps that means that I have chaos inside me like Salvador Dali advises? One could see the pagan versus Christianity at times. Still it seems plausible since the Order seeks to banish all traces of magic and the old gods from the world to impose it’s own theology in service to the Nameless.

The characters are a delight. I rather like Maddy Smith and I found myself intrigued to see what she would do throughout the story. Although there were times where it seemed like Maddy should have known about things from One-Eye’s stories of the old gods, like the fact that Hel and the World Serpent were the children of Loki. However, I suppose that it goes without saying that I liked seeing Loki in this story and couldn’t wait to see what tricks he would be up to. Just a little bit of a crush there. I wasn’t sure whether I would fancy the goblins, but oddly enough it didn’t bother me. Sugar started to grow on me actually. I like how Harris doesn’t focus on one or two characters, but rather jumps around so that we get the perspective of the key players in the situations. Even if we don’t like them.

For the most part I would agree that Sile Bermingham is a decent narrator for this audio production. Although there were some of her voice inflections that simply grated on my nerves as in the case of the Examiner. I think I’d almost rather have her not try to distinguish the speaker so much in that case. It seemed like Hel should have had a different sounding kind of voice. being the guardian of Death. Now I don’t mean that I wanted Christopher Lee style Discworld Death voice, but something more regal as befits the guardian of death. Something more like what was given to Frigg. I wasn’t sure I would fancy the voice she created for Loki, but it seemed suitable for the trickster.

So the real question is whether this book is worth reading and I think that it most assuredly is and I’m glad that there was someone out there in the blogsphere to bring it to my attention. I would very much like to purchase a copy of this book (in paperback, of course) for my own collection. How can this be? I’m supposed to be trying to reduce books on my shelf and avoid buying more to add to the chaos of finding a place to keep them! I would really like to read the sequel, Runelight, but the library system doesn’t have one so I will have to buy it if I want to read it and that means I need to wait with my current restrictions in place.



4 thoughts on “Review: Runemarks

  1. I’ve seen this around but it’s never registered that it’s based in Norse mythology. If I see it again on swaps or charity shops I’ll be picking it up 🙂

  2. I bought a copy of this on when it was a bargain book. I really like the new cover much better! I haven’t read my copy yet, but I loved Joanne Harris’s Chocolat, and bought a copy of The Girl With No Shadow (a sequel!!! squee!) when I noticed it on bargain buys at B&N.

  3. Oooh this sounds interesting. Like you I’m interested in Greek Mythology but I’d like to dabble in other mythologies as well. Guess this one is a book I need to look into!

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