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Seven o'clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the End of the World, and goblins had been at the cellar again. Mrs. Scattergood-the landlady at the Seven Sleepers Inn-swore it was rats, but Maddy Smith knew better. Only goblins could have burrowed into the brick-lined floor, and besides, as far as she knew, rats didn't drink ale.But she also knew that in the village of Malbry-as in the whole of the Strond Valley-certain things were never discussed, and that included anything curious, uncanny, or unnatural in any way. To be imaginative was considered almost as bad as giving oneself airs, and even dreams were hated and feared, for it was through dreams (or so the Good Book said) that the Seer-folk had crossed over from Chaos, and it was in Dream that the power of the Faerie remained, awaiting its chance to re-enter the world.
And so the folk of Malbry made every effort never to dream. They slept on boards instead of mattresses, avoided heavy evening meals, and as for telling bedtime tales-well. The children of Malbry were far more likely to hear about the martyrdom of St. Sepulchre or the latest Cleansings from World's End than tales of magic or of World Below. Which is not to say that magic didn't happen. In fact, over the past fourteen years the village of Malbry had witnessed more magic in one way or another than anyplace in the Middle Worlds.
That was Maddy's fault, of course. Maddy Smith was a dreamer, a teller of tales, and worse, and as such, she was used to being blamed for anything irregular that happened in the village. If a bottle of beer fell off a shelf, if the cat got into the creamery, if Adam Scattergood threw a stone at a stray dog and hit a window instead-ten to one Maddy would get the blame.
And if she protested, folk would say that she'd always had a troublesome nature, that their ill luck had begun the day she was born, and that no good would ever come of a child with a ruinmark-that rusty sign on the Smith girl's hand- which some oldsters called the Witch's Ruin and which no amount of scrubbing would remove.
It was either that or blame the goblins-otherwise known as Good Folk or Faerie-who this summer had upped their antics from raiding cellars and stealing sheep (or occasionally painting them blue) to playing the dirtiest kind of practical jokes, like leaving horse dung on the church steps, or putting soda in the communion wine to make it fizz, or turning the vinegar to piss in all the jars of pickled onions in Joe Grocer's store.
And since hardly anyone dared to mention them, or even acknowledge that they existed at all, Maddy was left to deal with the vermin from under the Hill alone and in her own way.
No one asked her how she did it. No one watched the Smith girl at work. And no one ever called her witch-except for Adam Scattergood, her employer's son, a fine boy in some ways but prone to foul language when the mood took him.
Besides, they said, why speak the word? That ruinmark surely spoke for itself.
Now Maddy considered the rust-colored mark. It looked like a letter or sigil of some kind, and sometimes it shone faintly in the dark or burned as if something hot had pressed there. It was burning now, she saw. It often did when the Good Folk were near, as if something inside her were restless and itched to be set free.
That summer, it had itched more often than ever, as the goblins swarmed in unheard-of numbers, and banishing them was one way of putting that itch to rest. Her other skills remained unused and, for the most part, untried, and though sometimes that was hard to bear-like having to pretend you're not hungry when your favorite meal is on the table-Maddy understood why it...
About the Author-
Master storyteller Joanne Harris has created a magical and epic romp--a fresh, funny, and wonderfully irreverent new take on the old Norse tales sure to be enjoyed by readers young and old.
Joanne Harris's books, which include Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange, have been published in over 40 countries and have won numerous international awards. She lives in England with her husband and daughter.
Starred review from November 19, 2007
In Norse myth the whole world ended with Ragnarók, the last battle, at which the gods were defeated and after which eternal winter descended. In her highly successful first children’s novel, however, the author of the bestselling Chocolat
tells readers what happened next. The supposed end of all things is now centuries past and the Middle World is ruled by the Order, a repressive theocracy reminiscent of the Magisterium in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass
. Maddy, born with a rune of power on her hand, is deeply unpopular in her backwoods village. Thorny and imaginative, she is believed to be a witch by the locals who would have cast her out long ago if she didn’t have a convenient talent for controlling the goblins that infest their cellars. Such creatures are thick in the village because of its proximity to Red Horse Hill, a place of ancient power. Then Maddy’s life is transformed when she meets first One-Eye, a mysterious traveler who agrees to train her in the ways of Faërie, and then Lucky, the trickster captain of the goblins under the hill. Throughout, Harris demonstrates a knack for moving seamlessly between the serious and the comic, and her lengthy book moves swiftly. Playing fast and loose with Norse mythology, she creates a glorious and complex world replete with rune-basedmagical spells, bickering gods, exciting adventures and difficult moral issues. Maddy’s destiny, readers realize, is to remake the world, but to succeed she must first remake herself into someone worthy of that fate. Ages 10-up.
January 1, 2008
Gr 7 Up-In this fantasy set "five hundred years after the End of the World," after the battle of Ragnarok, as predicted by Norse mythology, anything imaginative or magical is taboo. Fourteen-year-old Maddy Smith has a strange birthmark on her hand. A wanderer called One-Eye tells her that what she has is a runemark, and he teaches her about magic and the legends of the Aesir and Vanir. When Maddy's powers awake sleeping magic, she discovers that the legends are true and that she has an important role to play in the next battle between good and evil. Aided and opposed by a variety of gods, goblins, and humans, she learns the truth about herself as she tries to find the truth about her world. Harris has created a realistic and detailed world, and the action scenes are both vivid and engrossing. Maddy's abilities develop in a logical manner while her youth and naïveté contrast strongly with the age and wisdom of One-Eye and Loki, her companions on her quest. This epic-strength novel may bring as much attention to Norse legends as Rick Riordan's "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series (Hyperion/Miramax) has to their Greek neighbors, and fantasy enthusiasts will find much to enjoy in this complex tale."Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI"
Copyright 2008 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
December 15, 2007
Versatile has been one of the most common adjectives used to describe Harris, a best-selling author for adults whose genre-hopscotchingbooks include the romantic Chocolat (1999)and Gentlemen and Players(2006), aliterary thriller.Her latest finds her not just switching genres, this time to fantasy, but also shifting to an entirely new audience, young adults. Reminiscent of Nancy FarmersThe Sea of Trolls (2004)in its Norse-myth-steeped fundamentals, this novel, set in a kind of rustic Old World Europe, will hook readers in the initial chapters, where 12-year-old Maddy discovers that herrune-casting mentor is actually a decommissioned Odin. Sensing the next great clash between Chaos and Order (here represented by a rigid, witch-hunting church), Odin sendshis chargeon a missionthat awakensancient rivalries among the worlds scattered, discarded gods and goddesses. Its in the subtle, sometimes biology-defyingrelationships among the immortals that Harris may lose her audience, despite attempts to incorporate explanations. Even more basic, the premise lacks clarity: its hard to feel concerned about deities loss of a war when the stakes are so fuzzy (do they become a little less immortal if they lose?). And while Maddys fate is more likely to matter to readers, her presence in the narrative often feels overshadowed by the increasingly prominent roles of gods and grown-ups.What will appeal is Harris down-to-earthportrayal of the deities, whose peevish squabbling and casual, sometimes profanelanguage could have been lifted straight from a high-school cafeteria.Even so, the publishersmajor marketing campaign may not be enough to give this dense epic legs.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2007, American Library Association.)
PublisherRandom House Children's Books
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