Sunday, November 27, 2016

Runemarks - Joanne M. Harris

Sent to me by Gollancz in exchange for an honest review

Released: 24/11/16

Book Info: Hardback, Fantasy/Mythology, 512pp (UK re-release)

Buy/Read Now (links):
Amazon UK

Rating: 4.5/5

Readers interested in Norse mythology and adventure stories that take place in huge worlds. (YA/Adult)

Summed up in a few words
Mythical. Power. Betrayal. War.

First Impressions
I requested this book as soon as I saw it, I have read The Gospel of Loki which I absolutely loved (I am a mythology addict) so I had to read Runemarks too. This is a re-release of the original book which was published in 2007 but this version has an epic, artistic and mythology based landscape on the cover which is absolutely stunning (it is also hardback which is a bonus). I am a huge fan of Joanne Harris so thank you to Stevie at Gollancz for providing me a copy of the book to devour almost immediately. 

Author Bio
Joanne M. Harris is the author of the Whitbread-shortlisted Chocolat (made into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp) and many other bestselling novels. Her hobbies are listed in Who's Who as 'mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion'. She plays bass guitar in a band first formed when she was sixteen. is currently studying Old Norse, and lives with her husband and daughter in Yorkshire, about fifteen miles from the place she was born. (Gollancz Bio)

Book Synopsis

In a world where magic and mystery are outlawed, Maddy has always been an outsider. With the strange marking on her hand and her unusual abilities, she's mistrusted and feared by 'normal' folk.

But Maddy's life is abut to change. From learning about the ways of the old gods, to travelling into World Below and meeting the infamous trickster, Loki, Maddy must embark on a journey the likes of which she has never imagined.

As the powers of Chaos and Order prepare for a war to end all wars, it is Maddy who unknowingly holds the key to the Worlds' survival.

My Thoughts
I was going to share a gorgeous piece of artwork that is in the book but I didn't want to infringe any copy rights... it is amazing though, it is an image of the YGGDRASIL (the world tree) with all the nine worlds surrounding it and it perfectly sets the tone for the whole book. Gollancz have taken this book and added a whole additional dimension to the book through the artwork and I am incredibly impressed.

I am a big Joanne M. Harris fan and I am making my way through her work just as fast as I can. I loved The Gospel Of Loki with a flaming passion, I adore any book that is rooted in mythology and this book was no exception. Though I felt where The Gospel Of Loki was more mythology than novel, Runemarks is the opposite. Runemarks is a novel set in a detailed, magical and turbulent world. Norse mythology, symbolism and characters are stitched into every fibre of the book and it is a cracking read. It is targeted at a YA/Adult audience, there is some foul language, graphic imagery and other adultish themes included but nothing overly disturbing as such. 

14 year old Maddy is confused and frustrated at her family, fellow villagers and the gods for shunting her and leaving her an outcast in her own home. A revolution is slowly sweeping the land, Order is taking over and as Maddy has Chaos flowing through her veins it won't be long until she is sentenced to death. A stranger called One-Eye appears in the village when Maddy is 7 and appears once a year after that, sharing the knowledge of her abilities and the worlds beyond the one she currently occupies. 

Eventually when the time is right, One-Eye sends Maddy on a mission to get in contact with the trickster god Loki and retrieve a relic call The Whisperer which will predict the future and tell her what path to take. His one piece of advice is trust no-one, but with Loki in her head and a dozen pissed off gods in her way, she needs all the help she can get. Maddy is a great character who is wise for her age due to living with her head on a swivel and a family who doesn't accept her. She wants to belong and that longing is finally addressed when she comes into contact with the all powerful gods and she is forced to become a god herself to survive Hel, Dream and beyond.

Runemarks is such an epic journey through all the of the Nine Worlds, with endless amazing mythological content and references. The book is quite a chunk at 512 pages but it is barely noticeable as I flew through the story and found myself laughing, amazed, indulged and at times horrified. I have to admit that it did not meet my expectations entirely, but that is because I had unfairly massive expectations after reading The Gospels of Loki which acted as sort of a prequel to this book. Had I read this first then I think it would have surpassed my expectations but in the end I thoroughly enjoyed it but it wasn't as drenched in mythology than I would have wanted. (But I always want more so who's problem is it really?)

The premise is superb, the characters are developed, recognisable and complex, or just a bit crazy and/or powerful. Usual Norse suspects like Thor, Loki, Odin, Heimdall and Hel are present as well as so many more. The fluency and depth of the book fascinates me and when Maddy leaves the safety of her villages and ventures into the other worlds, the book just gets better and better. I loved the fact that the ending didn't really conclude the story, it just generated so many more questions. I appreciate the fact the Harris has such a command of the information/knowledge of the Norse mythology that she has gathered over the years and I could listen to her talk about it all day, every day. 

Overall I really loved the book, it is memorable, masterful and most importantly it is enjoyable. Spending time with the gods in mythology is one of my favourite things to do when I read so maybe I am a bit biased but if you subtract the Norse part of the book, you are still left with a solid story about a girl running into the Chaos to find somewhere to belong.

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