The villagers think Maddie is a witch because of the runemark on her palm. People and animals with runemarks are usually killed at birth but Maddie is not because the midwife who delivered her is considered mad and no one took her seriously when she told of the runemark.
After her birth, the villagers begin seeing goblins who are known to watch Maddie. She is ostracized and wild until she meets One-Eye, the man who tutors her in performing magic using her runemark. For 7 years, One-Eye teaches her for a short period of time traveling from the World's End. He is late this year and when he does arrive he finds that Maddie's powers have grown and he wants her to help him open a gateway into the Red Horse Hill to retrieve the Whisperer. Thus begins Maddie's quest where she meets the Norse gods of old who wage a battle with the religious rulers of the world who want to rid themselves of the gods forever.
This book is going to be a difficult read without any knowledge of Norse mythology and the creation stories. Because I had read three Norse books prior, I didn't have too many problems following the story. There are quite a few references to the myths but not in-depth explanations which was good because I think it would have taken away from the main story. The reader should know the difference between the Aesir and Vanir and Order and Chaos. A knowledge of Mimir's story is necessary and I think they should have included that in the story (or had it in an appendix) because the Whisperer, Oracle, and Mimir are the same people.
I thought the author did a nice job of developing Loki as the lying trickster who incorporates both good and evil and order and chaos. The reader should be familiar with his story in Norse mythology in order to fully understand his contradictory behavior. While he is presented as charming, I wished he had been more playful. The story is heavy handed at times with religious aspects. The villagers who represent order are narrow-minded zealots and only Nan seems to be presented as a less extreme person.
The ending has some interesting twists. I didn't really understand what the author meant with Adam running away with the golden key. Maybe she was referring to Grimm's fairytale that has no ending. A boy finds a golden key and unlocks a box but the reader doesn't know what happens after that.
The book has violent parts and some might be uncomfortable with when the gods shift shapes into animals they come back to their human form with no clothes on. This creates some odd situations for them - some funny, some not. Fantasy lovers should find this an interesting read with plenty of action.
:-) :-) :-) 3 Smileys