Jul 252013

Hannah takes a look at renowned author Joanne Harris’ first foray into the fantasy genre….

Now, I’m not much of a fantasy/sci-fi reader, but having read several of Joanne Harris’ other novels (Chocolat etc), I was curious to see how she handled a different genre, and if she could persuade me to give it a go, too.

Runemarks is tailored towards the young adult audience, but don’t let that put you off.  Many gems of novels can be found in this area, including a rather uncomfortable glimpse of a possible future in The Hunger Games, Gone (what would happen if adults disappeared and mutations appeared?), and of course the many wonderful works of Neil Gaiman.  But I digress.  This first novel in Harris’ fantasy series is a great introduction to this genre for both teens and people such as myself who have not really ventured down this route of reading before.  Harris creates a world that is easy to understand, and although the runes mentioned might be a little tough to get your head around at first, she includes a handy guide at the beginning of the book, as well as a rundown of the different characters and a number of maps.  Personally I’m a big fan of maps in fictional novels; it really helps the reader to visualise the world being described, and makes the whole experience much more engaging.

Maddy Smith, the protagonist of Runemarks, is a classic misfit in possession of powers she doesn’t fully understand.  Most teenagers can relate to these sort of feelings, which would help them in turn to relate to Maddy.  She’s a determined girl, and at times quite daring, which is fun to witness as you’re dragged into her adventures, which begin with a bit of a scuffle with goblins within the first few paragraphs.  Although this part is rather fun, Maddy’s encounters start to get scarier and more serious as time goes on and she realises just who she is.

Harris gently introduces more and more characters to the story, careful not to bombard the reader with too much at once.  She weaves each new event into the story as if creating a rich tapestry that after the first book is only going to get bigger, if the maps at the start are anything to go by.  I was certainly given the impression in the final chapter that this book was merely the start of something bigger and better to come.

Overall, I rather enjoyed Harris’ first voyage into the land of fantasy writing. I was as captured by this as I was by the chocolatier in Chocolat and the entrance of its owners in a mysterious wind.  However, for the more hardcore fans among us, it was perhaps a little tame in comparison to the likes of, say, Terry Pratchett, but maybe the best is yet to come.…

Hannah Nock


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