Knopf, Jan 2008, $18.99
Five centuries have past since the battle of Ragnarok in which the gods lost and eternal winter became the norm. With the gods gone and allegedly no more magic existing, filling the leadership vacuum of the Middle World of the Nine Worlds is the Order, who rule with an iron fisted theocracy.
Maddy Smith born with a runemark on her palm knows some residue magic still exists. However the eight hundred villagers of Malbry in the Strond Valley region of the civilized Inland island scorn her because her “ruinmark” make them believe she is a witch. They would exile her except that their hamlet is on the edge of Red Horse Hill, a locale containing the pre-Ragnarok power. Thus they need the witch’s skills to control the goblin plague that comes with being so close to the ancient magic. Everything changes for the needed pariah when a traveler One-Eye enters the village. He recognizes her having a world destiny if she can believe in herself; he offers to teach Maddy in Faerie; she avidly accepts.
The biggest problem for parents with this excellent young adult Norse fantasy is their children will be so hooked with the Potter syndrome they will stay up several nights to read this wonderful five hundred plus page tale. The story line is fast-paced from the first rune to the last while the supportive cast is fully developed from Adam the Bully to the heroine’s family to the Devotees to the goblins Lucky and Sugar and Sack, etc. However, Maddy and to a lesser degree her mentor own this coming of age Middle World saga.