Runemarks (Runemarks, #1)
by Joanne Harris
4 out of 5 stars
Maddy was born with a rune mark on her hand, and the people in her village despise her as a possible witch. As she grows up, she discovers that she does have a small amount of magic. Most of the magic in the land died with the old gods hundreds of years before, but there are small traces of it to be found. An old peddler begins to teach Maddy how to use her magic, but he has plans of his own to retrieve a magical artifact from deep within the Underworld.
I loved this imaginative story! It takes elements from old Norse mythology and legends, and weaves them together with the world of faerie and fae. The world has a deep history and I loved discovering the magic along with Maddy. The story starts out in this little country village, but then the scope gradually widens and becomes more and more epic until the fate of the entire universe is hanging in the balance.
One of things I enjoyed about the history of this world is the etymology of certain words. For instance, people with magic were originally called “Fieries” because their magic is like a flame. But through the centuries that turned into “Fury” and then “Faerie” or “Fairy”. Another one is the change from “rune” to “ruin” as people begin to distrust magic. So a lot of legends have come through the years, and there are several words like that with a history showing the depth of this world. It’s almost Tolkienesque, and I love it!
I was happy that there was no romance in the story at all. It’s refreshing to have a main character and falling in love is not their main goal in life.
I really loved Maddy’s character, and several of the supporting characters that I can’t mention by name without major spoilers. I loved seeing how Maddy interacts with them, and gradually begins to trust them, until eventually she thinks of them as family. The character development is so incredible and really grabbed my heart. It was especially intriguing because, like Maddy herself, you never quite know who to trust. You want to believe that character, but what are they hiding? Fascinating characters!
However, there are way too many POVs. I think there were at least 13 different character points of view, and it was tiresome to be constantly switching from one to another. Sometimes there would be five different perspectives in ONE scene! It wasn’t too badly written. I mean, it was clear who each different voice was, but gosh, it was just too much.
The adventure and action really kept me interested, but the pacing of the book sometimes breaks up the scenes in an odd way. We’ll be in the middle of a scene and Maddy is talking to Character A. Then Character A sees someone walking up behind Maddy. Maddy sees Character A’s expression change and they get angry and walk away, but Maddy has not yet looked behind her to see who is coming. The reader doesn’t know who has entered the scene either.
The scene cuts off, leaving us wondering, and we go to Character B who is off on their own adventure with someone else. We follow Character B through a few pages, and then Character B walks up behind Maddy. Aha! Now we finally find out who was behind Maddy in the previous scene, and we can continue with the “present” storyline.
I can understand that this is a great writing tool to create suspense and to juggle a lot of different simultaneous storylines, but it was overused. Every other scene was cut off this way, and it was exhausting to be constantly jumping through time to another character’s perspective.
There was some profanity, about five curse words in the entire book. I didn’t like it, but I can sort of see how it served a purpose in the story. It was used in dialogue to show how certain characters are villainous and nasty. It was only a few, so it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book.
I was not exactly happy with the ending. Their immediate problems were solved, but I feel like the solutions just brought up the possibility of more problems in the future. Imagining those characters moving forward into their new lives, I can see a lot of holes in the ending that are questionable.
Plus one of my favorite characters died, and I’m just not okay with that.
Overall, a fantastic fantasy adventure! I enjoyed it, and I might read more from this series.