Runelight by Joanne Harris
Doubleday, 2012. ISBN: 9780857530820
(Ages: 16+ Advanced readers)
Highly recommended. Runelight is the second book (begun in Runemark) in the continuing adventures of the now 17 year old Maddy Smith. In the previous book she discovered that she is one of the new gods, daughter of Thor and a demon, and granddaughter to Odin. This story follows her continuing attempts to control and develop her magical powers, whilst trying to avert the end of the world, being brought about by the disgruntled and insane Mimir, aka the Whisperer. Her newly found family, who are the dysfunctional remnants of the pantheon of Norse gods, are not helping with their continual bickering and undermining of each other. Having lost most of their own powers in the other 'End of the World' 500 years previously, and having formed an uneasy alliance with demon-kind and the Vanir, it falls to the resourceful and intrepid Maddy to bring all these disparate forces together. She is never sure who to trust or put her faith in, and when she discovers the existence of a sister, she finds herself conflicted in her loyalties.
Set in an alternative, vaguely medieval universe (not unlike Terry Pratchett's Discworld), this book is peppered throughout with anachronisms which add to the enjoyment. This is an amazingly intricate, rich and very funny book. There are secrets, lies, betrayals and wonderful descriptions of the Nine Worlds and the incredible creatures that inhabit it. Not to mention Loki, The Trickster; a truly memorable character. The only quibble I have with this book is its complexity. I got a bit impatient with the breath taking speed that the story switches between characters and storylines. This made it hard at times to keep up, but once I got into the rhythm of the storytelling, those concerns fell away (and the list of characters is useful!) This is a minor criticism, more than made up for by the invention, humour, imagination and beautifully realised characters and situations.
Though different in tone, I enjoyed this book as much as Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock and Froi of the Exiles. Wonderfully written, a joy to read.