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Literature / Runemarks

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"Five hundred years after the end of the world, and goblins had been at the cellar again..."

Maddy Smith has always been an outsider. Born with a rusty-coloured rune on her hand - what the villagers call a ruinmark - she is scarred by this symbol of the old gods, a sign of magic.

And everyone knows that magic is dangerous. Except for Maddy, who actually thinks it's rather fun. Until now. For suddenly her friend One-Eye, a rascally Outlander, wants her to open Red Horse Hill and descend into World Below - a world filled with goblins and far worse - to retrieve a relic of the old gods...


A novel by Joanne Harris, Runemarks is the story of Maddy Smith, a fourteen year old girl who is sent on a quest to retrieve an artifact of the old gods called the Whisperer.

A sequel, Runelights has been released, set three years after the original book; a prequel, The Gospel of Loki, was released in February 2014, detailing the "Lokabrenna" that Runemarks and Runelights quote.

Tropes found in this book:

  • The Ace: Skadi. In addition to being good at everything besides controlling her temper, even things she doesn't actually like, her rune, Isa or |, has no reversed position. This means she's lost none of her magical oomph.
  • After the End: The story takes place 500 years after Ragnarok.
  • And Man Grew Proud: With bonus Norse gods.
  • Apocalypse Wow: As soon as Jormungand starts tearing apart the neverworld, there's splashes of this. It never quite takes out the whole universe, but it came pretty close and was more impressive than most portrayals of Armageddon.
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  • The Chessmaster: The Whisperer.
  • Color-Coded Characters: Each person's glam gives off a specific color.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Loki.
  • The Ditz: Idunn and her husband Bragi, to a somewhat lesser extent.
  • Elemental Shapeshifting: Loki's wildfire Aspect.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Jormungand seems a little irritated when Loki calls him "Jorgi" for short.
  • Exact Words: How Loki got out of having his head cut off when he offered it in a bet with the dwarfs and lost. He claimed that he had never mentioned his neck in the bet and, since they couldn't get his head without harming his neck, he kept his head on the technicality. However, he got his lips sewn together for his trouble.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Much like Norse Mythology itself, with numerous mythologies referenced and indicated to be coexisting. (Hel, for example, tried to induce Balder to stay with her in the land of the dead by feeding him her food, having heard of a previous ruler who pulled that trick with pomegranates.)
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  • Fate Worse than Death: The MO of imprisonment in Netherworld, complete with a gaoler appointed from the prisoner's worst fears. Ominously, it's revealed that the Gaolers themselves are trapped as a result of those that fear them being there, and get pretty bitter about it
  • Fiery Redhead: Thor. Played with for Loki who, although having a Wildfire aspect and the fire rune Kaen on his arm, keeps his temper almost completely in check.
  • God Was My Copilot: Many times. A large number of people, including Maddy, turn out to be fallen Norse gods. And by the final, many more have seemingly inherited the titles. or something. It's kinda ambiguous exactly who is who after the River Dream bursts it's banks.
  • He Who Must Not Be Named: The Nameless.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Balder, who gives up his second chance at life in order to save the world.
  • Human Popsicle: The Seven Sleepers are seven Vanir gods frozen in blocks of ice.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Runemarks and Runelights, which are also examples of Portmantitle, and One-Word Title, with their being compound words and starting with Rune and both being plural.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Balder.
  • I Know Your True Name:
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: It is revealed that Maddy is Thor's daughter.
  • Omnicidal Maniac: The Whisperer seeks to start the End of Everything so that it can create a new world where it is in supreme control of everything, a desire stemming from being used as, essentially, a Magic 8-Ball by the Norse gods.
  • One-Word Title: Runemarks and Runelights, which are also examples of Portmantitle, and Idiosyncratic Episode Naming, with their being compound words and starting with Rune and both being plural.
  • Pals with Jesus- Maddy encounters, and in some cases befriends the entire Norse pantheon. And she's trained in magic by Odin One-Eye himself.
  • Portmantitle: Runemarks and Runelights, which are also examples of One-Word Title, and Idiosyncratic Episode Naming, with their being compound words and starting with Rune and both being plural.
  • Primal Fear: The coin of the realm in Netherworld.
  • Prophecy Twist: Everyone except the Whisperer assumes that the "traitor" is Loki (instead of Mimir), and everyone assumes that the "sacrifice" is Maddy (instead of it actually being Balder).
  • Quirky Bard: Bragi.
  • Scars Are Forever: Both Odin and Tyr suffer under this, in keeping with the Norse myths. Loki's scarred lips also seem to be this.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: When the Aesir and Vanir shift back to humanoid form after transforming into something else, they tend to be naked. Loki and Skadi don't seem to care much.
    • Use of Freyja's magic cloak can avert this.
  • The World Tree: Yggdrasil.
  • The Chosen One: Maddy turns out to be Modi, who is chosen by destiny to rebuild Asgard.
  • Trickster God: Loki, obviously.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Pretty much everyone is one for the Whisperer.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifter: All the Aesir and Vanir.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Loki's biggest fear is snakes; rather ironic considering that the World Serpent is his son.


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