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A Breath Into Silence

United States

She likes sugar, notebooks, and existence. A dreamer, scientist, and musician. In love with the night sky. Incurably shy. Always willing to listen.

It's nice to meet you!

Message to Readers

I really love this book, so I thought I should share it with you guys!

Thank you for reading my review on it! :)

Runemarks by Joanne Harris

February 7, 2019

"Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the end of the world, and goblins had been at the cellar again. . . "  Don't tell the Norse gods that. Why? Because they've disappeared without a trace. The world is now controlled by a group known as the Order, who does not tolerate dreams, imaginative storytelling, or anything pertaining to the old histories of the Nine Realms. 

Enter Maddy Smith, a young girl in a small village in the middle of seemingly nowhere, born with a strange "ruinmark" on her palm. With this mark comes a host of unnatural powers, including the ability to magically exorcise goblins from local cellars. The entire village, convinced that Maddy is a witch, shuns and isolates her. Maddy's only friend is the strange Outlander known as "One-Eye" who also bears a "ruinmark" (his is reversed, however), and sees Maddy as an opportunity and an apprentice.

Soon Maddy, at One-Eye's request, is heading deep underground her village on a quest for an old object known as the Whisperer that will spark an epic quest to the End of the World and back, with pit stops at Helheim and Dream for good measure. And Maddy will soon discover that there is more to the ruddy mark on her palm than she could ever have imagined... and that maybe the old tales of the gods were true all along.....

Runemarks, published in 2007, is a Norse mythology fantasy targeted at young adults. It contains a complex and oftentimes heavily myth-based storyline, which is broken up by the lighthearted tone in which the book is written. One needs look no farther than the book's character description to see Joanne Harris wielding the familiar Norse myths to introduce Loki with wit and the book's signature humour-

"GODS (VANIR)
Skadi, of the Ice People, bride of Njörd, the Huntress; goddess of destruction; principal enemy of Loki
Bragi, god of poetry and song; has no reason to love Loki
Idun, his wife, goddess of youth and plenty; was once abducted by Loki and handed over to the Ice People
Freyja, goddess of desire; once mortally insulted by Loki
Frey, the Reaper, her brother; no friend to Loki
Heimdall, golden-toothed sentinel of the gods; hates Loki
Njörd, sea god, once married to Skadi but now separated due to irreconcilable differences; agrees with her on a single subject—dislike of Loki

GODS (ÆSIR—SEER-FOLK)

Odin, chief of the Æsir, blood brother of—and ultimately betrayed by—Loki
Frigg, his wife; lost her son because of Loki
Thor, the Thunderer, son of Odin; has more than one bone to pick with Loki
Sif, his wife; once went bald because of Loki
Týr, god of war; lost his hand because of Loki
Balder, son of Frigg; died because of Loki
Loki "


The characters, including Loki, are always built upon in Runemarks; forced into increasingly complex situations and deceptions as each character attempts to reach their goal. And that is one of the beauties of this book - no two characters have the same goal at the end of the day, but play on each other's desires to get their way. The characters are half of the story, and more than pull their weight. From introductions to their voices, each character cements themselves as different.

“I'm warning you now," said Freyja stiffly, "I have...certain issues...with Loki." (Maddy wondered briefly whether there was anyone in the Nine Worlds who didn't have issues with Loki.)” 

Maddy Smith herself proves to be a captivating protagonist, ignorant as she is of the old legends. Thrust into situations she doesn't fully understand, Maddy uses her wits and moral compass to guide her along her quest. Her interactions with the other characters are believable, and honest. She allows herself to change and adapt to the circumstances, resulting in a dynamic character that makes mistakes and learns from them.

I personally read Runemarks when I was seven or eight, having encountered it in the public library system. And over the past seven years of my life, I have checked out Runemarks at least six other times. When I moved, and couldn't find the book on the new library's shelves, I was prompted to learn how to request books. And eventually, after I requested the book far too many times, Runemarks ended up staying at the new library. Needless to say, I was enthralled. If I am honest, Runemarks still captivates me.

It is not the most complex or thought-provoking book I have ever read, but it one that has cemented itself as a childhood classic. 

Of course, Runemarks may not be for everybody. Likely not for young children, due to its complex plot (things you learn while researching!). Perhaps for audiences yearning for a mythological fantasy that doesn't contain romance. The mythology itself is a fresh take on the old stories -- while Joanne Harris leaves most tales as they were, she plays with some narratives to better fit the world of Runemarks. The universe of Runemarks is presented as a slightly alternate version of our reality, where the legends were true but possibly exaggerated. A world where anything is possible....... even goblins in a cellar five hundred years after the end of the world.
All quotes are drawn from the book Runemarks by Joanne Harris. 

I highly reccommend this book.

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1 Comment
  • Kahasai

    Someone else who's read Runemarks! And it's a similar story.
    Like you, I picked up the book at eight or nine in the public library. I don't think I checked it out more than twice, but I definitely enjoyed it and intend on rereading it sometime in the future.

    Good review! I had forgotten how she introduced Loki.


    5 months ago