Monday, March 11, 2019


by Joanne M. Harris
Recommended Ages: 14+

Gods, seers, sorcerers and the serpent that gnaws at the roots of the world tree all appear in this story about a back-country village girl named Maddy who was born with a rune on her hand and an otherworldly power – both of which mark her as an object of suspicion, if not hatred, in the shadow of Red Horse Hill.

Then two men come to town – a grandfatherly, one-eyed, wandering storyteller, and an inquisitor for the monotheistic religion that has dominated the known world since the fall of the old Norse Gods 500 years ago. Between them, the town is soon divided, the hill torn open, and the boundaries between worlds pushed aside for a conflict that could destroy everything.

Maddy meets such mythic characters as Loki, Freyja, Heimdall and the huntress Skadi – beings that can change shape, hurl bolts of blazing death, raise the dead (in a way), and affect the balance between order and chaos that keeps all the worlds intact. She also meets a manipulative piece of rock called the Whisperer, a cowardly goblin named Sugar-and-Sack who has heroism thrust upon him, and many other remarkable creatures. But her biggest discovery is who or what she really is, and the importance of the power she wields.

I found this a pretty exciting story, enlivened by multiple lines of character conflict, a complex weave of agendas and loyalties, adventures on a literally epic scale, humor, love, horror, tragedy, courage, fate and spine-tingling suspense. It has characters who show unexpected dimensions or who grow to a new level of maturity. It has villains and cowards who are fun to despise. It has complex, gray areas in between. And apparently, it has a sequel titled Runelight.

Other titles by this author include The Gospel of Loki and The Testament of Loki, The Blue Salt Road and a short story collection, A Pocketful of Crows. Joanne M. Harris is a rather thin pseudonym for the Anglo-French author Joanne Harris, who wrote the novels Chocolat, The Strawberry Thief, Five Quarters of the Orange, Holy Fools, Blueeyedboy and several more.

This review is based on hearing the audiobook narrated by Sile Bermingham (first name sounds like "Sheila").

No comments: