Hay Festival: Riddle of the Runes


Whilst browsing in the Festival Bookshop, I was intrigued to find a book called 'Riddle of the Runes' which I had not seen before by an author I did not recognise. Having read the first chapter, I was hooked and knew this was a book I wanted to read. This led me to investigate the programme and when I spotted Janina's event, I hurried to buy a ticket- and I'm so pleased I did!


Full of enthusiasm and energy, Janina Ramirez explained how she had come to write 'Riddle of the Runes', the first book in a series of four. She has always wanted to be an author and has read avidly all her life, but was distracted from this path by early medieval literature which she studied at university and started to immerse herself in that culture and period. Whilst teaching ( I assume at university!), OUP contacted her and asked her to be a consultant on a new series and saw her chance! So she convinced them that she should write the books instead.

Having dispelled some common misconceptions about the Vikings (including the fact that calling them that is not really correct), Janina introduced us to her new book- which is not out until next month. Alva, the main character in the story, came to Janina 'fully formed'. She had wanted to create a strong independent female and Alva just spoke to her, meaning the story came quite quickly.


Janina was delighted by David Wyatt's illustrations, telling us that even though they had never met, he had captured her characters perfectly.


It was wonderful to listen to someone so passionate and enthusiastic about their subject. The book is a great read so far (I am on page 112), full of historical detail and rich characterisation. I think it will be an excellent addition to libraries and book corners and very useful to those teaching the Vikings looking for a great class read. A review will follow soon...


Riddle of the Runes Janina Ramirez, illustrated by David Wyatt

OUP      ISBN: 978-0192766335

LONGLIST REVIEW: Treasury of Norse Mythology

This book contains the tales of the Norse Gods and Goddesses, their lives, their loves and the world they lived in. From Creation through to Destruction, it brings their stories vividly to life. Alongside the stories are fact boxes which offer additional information about the historical or cultural context. 

The book is lavishly illustrated and puts the myths into their geographical setting. Each story is beautifully re-told, echoing the language of the original sagas and the afterword explains the inconsistencies the author came across when researching the myths and how she dealt with them.

For anyone about to teach about the Vikings, this book is an absolute gem. I am often asked what text could be used to support learning in this area and this would be one which I would recommend. There is so much work that could be based on these re-tellings, right across the curriculum. The fact boxes pick up on things in the stories which relate to things in the everyday life of the people and so could be used to start research in these areas. The story of 'Thor the Greedy', for example, links to 'The Norse Diet'.

Links to stories from other cultures can also be made- Loki, the Viking trickster, could be compared to characters like Brer Rabbit or Anansi. 

There are a wealth of writing opportunities which could come from looking at this lovely book or it could simply be used to introduce a new generation to Norse mythology.

Treasury of Norse Mythology: Stories of Intrigue, Trickery, Love and Revenge

by Donna Jo Napoli, illustrated by Christina Balit

National Geographic     ISBN: 978-1426320989