Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez

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Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez

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Buy Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: A thrilling adventure set in the early medieval world of the Vikings, as fearless Alva's attempts to find a kidnapper lead her to even more complex and exciting discoveries.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: July 2018
Publisher: OUP Oxford
External links: [www.janinaramirez.co.uk Author's website]
ISBN: 9780192766335

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The name Janina Ramirez is well known: her television programmes on cultural history, especially of early medieval times, are both lively and informative. She shares her extensive learning with a light hand (and a frequent giggle) and her enthusiasm encourages students and viewers alike to explore further the subjects she discusses. But how will that translate into children's fiction? Will her academic desire for accuracy make the story dull and fact-packed? Will she hold up the action to display her considerable knowledge? Nope, not a bit of it!

Twelve-year-old Alva, Norwegian shield maiden, lives with her mother and uncle and baby brother in Kilsgard. Her father never returned from a Viking expedition, and Alva misses him desperately: he taught her to read runes and other clues, showed her the beauties and perils of the mountains and, like her uncle Magnus, encouraged her love of mysteries. Like many girls of her time and tribe she is fearless and endlessly curious, and regularly gets herself into trouble – much to the exasperation of her mother! But Alva has her pet wolf Fenrir to guide and protect her: what could possibly go wrong?

The adventure opens with the arrival of a monk from Lindisfarne who, with his companion are on the trail of a great treasure. But the two men were brutally attacked in the night and his companion was kidnapped so, despite the Englishman's fear of the warlike and occasionally ruthless Vikings, he turns to them for help. Is the man dead? Could he be lying injured somewhere on the high slopes? If so, he is unlikely to survive long in the bitter cold. Alva, who like all good detectives was eavesdropping on the discussion in the great hall, decides to be first to the scene of the crime so she can discover clues and prove to her uncle that she is a worthy investigator. But what she finds out leads her to further mysteries, not to mention all manner of dangers.

It is good to read a story about a determined young girl who will let nothing get in the way of what she feels is right. Alva is quick-witted and brave, and she knows clues can quickly be lost on the icy, rock-strewn mountain. The writing is vivid and fast-paced and her adventures come thick and fast (including a fall on the slippery trails which, without the quick actions of Fenrir, would have made this a very short story indeed!). The text is peppered with runes (plus their meanings) and other excellent illustrations by David Wyatt, and there is even a short glossary at the back for those who want to find out more about this intriguing period. Readers can trust the information here as Dr Ramirez is a well-known expert, but what they will enjoy first and foremost is an excellent story. And the good news is that three more books about Alva are planned, as she travels to foreign lands to solve further mysteries. Not to be missed.

For another series of historical detective stories, this time set in the wild West, try The Western Mysteries: The Case of the Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence and the sequels, The Case of the Good-looking Corpse and The Case of the Bogus Detective. Exciting, funny and fast-moving!

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Buy Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Riddle of the Runes by Janina Ramirez at Amazon.com.

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