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Runemarks [Hardcover]

Joanne Harris
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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Book Description

8 Jan 2008
Seven o’clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the end of the world, and goblins had been at the cellar again. . . . Not that anyone would admit it was goblins. In Maddy Smith’s world, order rules. Chaos, old gods, fairies, goblins, magic, glamours–all of these were supposedly vanquished centuries ago. But Maddy knows that a small bit of magic has survived. The “ruinmark” she was born with on her palm proves it–and makes the other villagers fearful that she is a witch (though helpful in dealing with the goblins-in-the-cellar problem). But the mysterious traveler One-Eye sees Maddy’s mark not as a defect, but as a destiny. And Maddy will need every scrap of forbidden magic One-Eye can teach her if she is to survive that destiny.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 526 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (8 Jan 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375844449
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375844447
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 16.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,039,631 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joanne Harris is an Anglo-French author, whose books include fourteen novels, two cookbooks and many short stories. Her work is extremely diverse, covering aspects of magic realism, suspense, historical fiction, mythology and fantasy. She has also written a DR WHO novella for the BBC, has scripted guest episodes for the game ZOMBIES, RUN!, and is currently engaged in a number of musical theatre projects as well as developing an original drama for television.
In 2000, her 1999 novel CHOCOLAT was adapted to the screen, starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp. She is an honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge, and in 2013 was awarded an MBE by the Queen.
Her hobbies are listed in Who's Who as 'mooching, lounging, strutting, strumming, priest-baiting and quiet subversion'. She also spends too much time on Twitter; plays flute and bass guitar in a band first formed when she was 16; and works from a shed in her garden at her home in Yorkshire.

Photo © Kyte photography

Product Description


"Especially enjoyable are Harris' aphorisms, her satire of joyless piety and the comically irreverant vernacular spoken by a dissolute goblin and the trickster god Loki" (Nicolette Jones The Sunday Times)

"Joanne Harris deploys a big cast in relentless action across a cosmic panorama. This is a mighty feat of storytelling and a fascination re-envisionment of Norse mythology" (Books for Keeps)

"Her dramatic story rollocks along for 536 pages with magical transformations, nets of blue fire and a spunky heroine" (Amanda Craig The Times)

"This is a fantastic romp through the world of ancient magic, which should appeal to all adventure lovers aged 10-12 and above" (Ruth Coleman Inis) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


Maddy Smith is a girl who has got it bad. Born with the runemark of the title on her hand, she is an oddball in her village, befriended only by a mysterious old man called One-Eye, who teaches her all she knows of magic. Unlike ordinary humans, Maddy can see goblins, and knows that where her friend's glam (magic) is weak, hers is strong, though quite how strong she only discovers when she goes underground and meets a young man who calls himself Lucky. Before long Maddy is coping with the reawakened Sleepers, formerly Norse gods. Together with a pleasingly cynical oracular head called The Whisperer, who has plans of his own, she has to prevent the Nine Worlds from descending into Chaos.

Ever since Chocolat, Harris has played with the idea that magic might actually work, and it was only a matter of time before she, like many other adult authors, wrote a book for children. Her enjoyment at being able to go the whole hog is palpable, and her dramatic story rollocks along for 536 pages, with magical transformations, nets of blue fire and a spunky heroine. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining and enjoyable read. 11 Nov 2008
I picked this book up while looking for something to read during my nightshift and was immediately hooked.A truly great fantasy story woven into the world of myth and legend of the Norse gods of old with modern,upbeat humour as a side dish.The characters are wonderfully believable and the author's treatment of the gods of the Aesir and Vanir is a tonic bringing them to life showing their failings ,frailty and ,dare I say,humanity much denied them for centuries .A book I would highly recommend( I can't wait for a sequel.)
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Norse god go forth! 17 Dec 2007
By sarah J
This is Joanne Harris's first novel for young adults. Its the story of maddy Smith a fourteen year old girl who lives in the distant future in a world entirely different to ours. Maddie is born with a mysterious rune mark on her hand which in her world is considered a very bad omen.
The novel which is quite long for a childrens novel relates Maddie's adventures as she crosses over into the different worlds. On her journey she encounters many colourful characters including norse gods. No-one is quite who they appear to be and who actually can Maddie really trust! There are lots of twists along the way. Joanne Harris in this book demonstates her ability as a storyteller. Although i did feel that she did not explore the character of Maddy strongly enough that said a very readable story.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and enchanting 10 Nov 2008
I absolutely loved 'Runemarks'. Although it's been marketed as a Young Adult book, I enjoyed reading it as much as my daughter and her friends did, and view it as a crossover book that any age group with a penchant for fantasy and magic will thoroughly enjoy. I found it engrossing from the first wonderful sentence: "Seven o'clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again."

An outsider who has to discover and grow into her power, runes, magic, Norse gods, goblins, sharp humour, action and adventure, and an abundance of clever twists all combine to make this a high-voltage read that's hard to put down. I've read reviews that say you would need some knowledge of the Norse gods to understand this book, but I don't agree. Their characters are part of the story and it's not important to know their mythical backgrounds - though you may find you want to explore them, and the runes, further after reading 'Runemarks.' There's a list of characters and a brief description of the individual runes at the beginning of the book, which makes it easy to see who's who - the cast of characters made me laugh, because it swiftly becomes clear, before you even start to read the book, that Loki is Trouble with a capital T.

If you're expecting a novel along the lines of 'Chocolat', 'The Lollipop Shoes', 'Gentlemen and Players', 'Sleep, Pale Sister,' or any of Joanne's adult books, you'll find 'Runemarks' to be very, very different but just as well-written. As an author she has always admirably resisted being typecast, and 'Runemarks' reveals how extraordinarily versatile she is as a writer.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it! 29 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm a big fan of Joanne Harris, especially the more magical of her novels (Chocolat and The Lollipop shoes are my favourites) and I'm also a fan of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman so it's no surprise that I loved Runemarks. The tale of Maddy shunned by the ordinary Folk because of her imagination and magical tendancies is reminicent of Tiffany Aching in Pratchett's Wee Free Men books, and the Gods in all their flawed glory made me think of the characters in Gaiman's American Gods. I think it's the funniest of Joanne Harris's books - it had me laughing out loud, but it's also a gripping and well constructed adventure with a huge and satisfying conclusion. What versatile talent Joanne Harris has - hats off to her.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've read 9 Jun 2011
I read this book some time ago absolutely loved it. The norse Gods dominate the book with their colourful personalities and I especially loved all the mythology involved. Although the main character, Maddie, does fade into the background with the introduction of the Gods more interesting personalities, overall the book is an amazing experience. I know I thoroughly enjoyed it and I hope, if anyone does buy it, they do too :)
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Haunting tale 30 Oct 2007
By Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
A novel that will continue to stay with the reader long after it's been finished and demonstrates that Joanne's writing is going from strength to strength. I know Joanne more for her adult writing rather than YA and her talent clearly shows throughout the readers time with the novel. Gripping with interesting characters who will keep the reader guessing as to their motives with an additional touch to keep the reader glued to the pages through the use of dry humour many of us associate with Terry Pratchett. Highly enjoyable, addictive and something that may inspire the younger readers to want to know more about Norse myth.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastical! 24 Oct 2007
I thought this book was really great. Yes, it is a bit complex at times - but definitely not too much so. The story is really interwoven, full of suspense, intrigue and that makes it a real page turner. I bought it at the airport - as a frequent traveller I buy most books here and am frequently disappointed. However, even when I put this down (hard as it was) and returned to it a couple of days later, I got right back into the story immediately.

The characters are interesting, different and some really magical. I'm a fan of Joanne Harris anyway, particularly of '5 quarters of the orange' and the 'lollipop shoes', but this (in my humble opinion) is the best so far in terms of substance, storyline and excitement.

I would think it's appealing to such a range of people; men and women, young and old... it's very different.

And, what's more, the ending is left quite 'open', so let's hope there's another to follow..!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Journey of unknown
A good fantasy story with many levels to keep you guessing. Enjoyed it more as it progressed, loved the variety of characters
Published 23 hours ago by Rebecca Heaps
4.0 out of 5 stars Harris can make me read anything
I would never read a book of this genre normally. The only reason I read this was because I've read all of Harris's books and she has a knack of gently leading you into a story and... Read more
Published 2 days ago by emily mills
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeps you gripped throughout
More brilliant Joanne Harris
Published 22 days ago by Mags
5.0 out of 5 stars Trick or Treat?
and all things sweet.... Confession: I never read Chocolat, or watched Thor. My knowledge of the Norse gods is adequate,but Joanne Harris takes the stories and turns them inside... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Pete Statham
5.0 out of 5 stars Norse mythology, great story telling
This is a real a page turner that I thoroughly enjoyed from the first line to the last. A lovely mix of mythology, humour and high fantasy.
Published 3 months ago by stuw13
3.0 out of 5 stars I like the idea.
I thought the idea was great. The book itself went on far too long and became complicated. I dragged myself to the end simply because I liked some of the characters. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Claire Louise Lennox
4.0 out of 5 stars Meeting the Norse gods!
Great fun - a riveting read!
This is so atmospheric and an unusual way to engage with gods and mythologies. Not your usual "fantasy" read.
Published 3 months ago by Dr S.
5.0 out of 5 stars Candy for the imagination
A magical writer of magical things. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of Joanne Harris' books and hope there will be many more.
Published 5 months ago by oceanswim
5.0 out of 5 stars Runemarks-Joanne Harris
Forget Twilight, forget Hunger Games. This book is amazing. I read it nearly a year ago and still can't get it out of my head. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
This was a really good romp. Well researched and well written. I would recommend it to any Joanne Harris fan.
Published 6 months ago by KPM
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