Book Review: Runemarks

April 10, 2010
Aaman Lamba

The world ended five hundred years ago and Order has reigned for over a hundred years in World's End. Dreams are feared, because the Good Book warns that the Seer-folk crossed over from Chaos through Dream, and Faerie lurks in Dream.

This is the setting for Joanne Harris' remarkable comic fantasy, Runemarks, where fourteen-year old Maddy Smith, cursed with a ruinmark and the ability to dream encounters many strange people, notably the old Norse Gods, looking for a way to get back their power, or mostly settle ancient scores. Maddy has a friend, One-Eye, an Outlander who has watched over her since she was seven, returning every year to teach her 'tales, maps, letters, cantrips, runes'. She's therefore wise to the goblins and the ways of Faerie, even though her townsfolk would rather believe nothing was out of the ordinary in their village.

In Maddy's fourteenth year, everything changes. Induced by One-Eye, Maddy goes underground into the nearby Red Horse Hill, which has long been associated with tales of wonder. She is searching for a treasure trove, but not even One-Eye can tell her what it is. There she encounters a sly trickster and discovers the treasure, which is an Oracle. She also learns that One-Eye has not quite been on the up-and-up with her, concealing his real identity and motives.

One-Eye is the old and scarred Norse god Odin, and the trickster is his half-brother Loki. The plot thickens, as it were, with the arrival of an Examiner from World's End, whose task is to track down and eradicate magic, chaos, dream, and any semblance of Faerie, as often indicated by ruinmarks.The Order embodies the new age, which has no place for magic, although they adapt magic for their own ends through The Word.

The book takes Maddy and Loki through a fantastic journey to the edge of Hel and beyond, a journey where each must play their part, and Vanir, human, god and Examiner must face their destinies, not to forget the child Maddy, who we might discover has her own wondrous identity and the realization that Anything that can be dreamed is True.

Aaman Lamba is the Publisher of, a Blogcritics network site. He also blogs, more infrequently nowadays, at Audit Trails Of Self
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