The Stone of Sorrow

Orca. (Runecaster: Bk. 1). Apr. 2020. 292p. pap. $14.95. ISBN 9781459824393.
Gr 6 Up–Runa has always felt strange and different. Growing up in the shadow of her powerful runecaster sister, Sýr, has made her differences all the more evident: snow white hair, pale skin, watery twitching eyes, and subpar abilities casting runes. She falls prey, often, to a fainting sickness, during which she has visions; and as the visions threaten to overwhelm her, only digging her nails into her palm restores her to the present. When a powerful witch from a neighboring clan attacks the village, poisoning or killing almost everyone and kidnapping Sýr, Runa must build her confidence and her skills as she journeys to win back the moonstone that will help save her people. Carter blends Norse mythology with elements of a classic quest to save the day. Runa’s travel companions, a half-elf and a fallen Valkyrie (who, while a part of an entirely female-identifying group uses they/them pronouns without explanation or clarification), round out the cast of characters. This first installment of the “Runecaster” series is rife with threats and danger, but there are also many themes that seem right out of Frozen or the Marvel universe. Readers will want to root for Runa and her sister, but it’s difficult to fully invest in such two-dimensional characters.
VERDICT Sensitive topics such as disabilities and self-harm are somewhat overpowered by clunky storytelling and Runa’s consistent self-deprecation and self-doubt. Strictly an additional purchase.

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