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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Runemarks Lacks the Harris Sparkle

Books like Chocolat, Five Quarters of the Orange, and Gentleman & Players keep me reading (and loving) English author Joanne Harris. Unfortunately, her newest book The Girl With No Shadow seems to be earning mountains of negative reviews. I hate to be disappointed by my favorite authors, so I decided to ignore Chocolat's sequel and check out Harris' first YA novel, Runemarks, instead. Here's the story ...

In the village of Malbry, where magic is feared and the goblins in the cellar are routinely ignored, 14-year-old
Maddy Smith stands out like a sore thumb. The "ruinmark" on her palm brands her an outsider, a witch, a Faerie - animals born with similar marks are regularly put down. Because her father is respected in town, Maddy's presence is tolerated ... but not entirely trusted. A one-eyed traveler is, in fact, her only friend.

One-Eye returns only once a year, but he uses his visits to teach Maddy about subjects no one else will broach. He fills her head with talk of runes, glamours, goblins, and dormant gods. He tells her of the epic wars between Order and Chaos, battles that continue to brew. Finally, he describes "the Whisperer," an ancient treasure hidden deep within a goblin-infested hill. As One-Eye warns, "This - treasure - may turn out to be as dangerous as it is valuable. Even speaking of it has its risks. And in many ways it might be safer for it to have stayed sleeping and forgotten" (48). Still, says the old Outlander, it's a key to maintaining Order in perilous times. Because of Maddy's special magic, he asks her to retrieve it.

Thus begins Maddy's journey into the turbulent Underworld, where goblins and other creatures scrabble about and nothing - nothing - is what it seems. Aided by an unlikely crew, Maddy makes her way through dangerous territory. She will face countless goblins, angry gods, an enormous snake, a dangerous enemy and Death herself on the journey. On her way, Maddy will also find the answers to questions that have plagued her all her life: Who is she, really? What does the runemark on her hand mean? What's her purpose? Is she brave enough to fulfill it?

While I enjoyed Runemarks - it had interesting characters, solid writing, and lots of action - it didn't enchant me the way other of Harris' books have. The story seemed overly long and a little generic. It was a fun, fast-moving story, but still a little disappointing for me. I don't know how to explain it - for me, Runemarks just didn't sparkle the way a Harris novel usually does. I could have used just a little more magic.

Grade: B-

1 comment:

  1. I think you used the exact right word to describe Harris' works - enchanting. I haven't read Runemarks, though, but I'm a huge fan of all of her works and am about to begin reading The Girl With No Shadow. Good post!


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