Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Runemarks / Joanne Herring

I can't say enough good things about Joanne Harris' first young adult book, Runemarks. All of you Harry Potter, Inkheart, and Tamora Pierce fans out there, you've got to try this one!
The story is set five hundred years after the End of the World in a small country village called Malbrey. Here we are introduced to 14-year old scullery maid Maddy Smith, a whip-smart young woman with a strange mark on her hand that sets her apart from the other kids her age. In Malbrey, folk don't like people who are too smart for their own good -- or who ask too many questions, or dream too much, or have runemarks visible on their person. Maddy would have endured a pretty lonely childhood, had it not been for her mysterious friend, One-Eye.

One-Eye is a travelling journeyman who shows up in Malbrey once a year near Maddy's birthday. He's a strange fellow, with an odd mark on his face similar to the one on Maddy's hand -- and he can do magic. Once he agrees to take Maddy on as a student, her destiny begins to open up before her. She embarks on a quest to retrieve a mysterious object from World Below and finds that while One-Eye can teach her to control her natural gift for magic, Maddy must rely on her wits if she is going to have any chance of re-entering World Above in one piece. Along the way, Maddy encounters goblins, nearly-forgotten (though still bickering!) gods of old, and makes a deal with Hell herself.

Maddy is a plucky heroine whose wry observations of the world around her keep the plot moving fast throughout this engrossing novel. Fans of Norse mythology will recognize many of the gods and goddesses that pop up throughout the novel -- but readers who haven't read up on mythology first won't have trouble following the storyline, either -- although beware, you may get hooked!

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