With the recent release of The Way of the Waves, I thought I would refresh memories about the first book in the Viking Mysteries series The Riddle of the Runes in case you had missed out on this fabulous book the first time round.
Dr Janina Ramirez is a Wonder Woman in mine and my daughter’s opinions, a Shield Maiden of historical literature packed with knowledge and facts in a quiet understated manner digestible and accessible for children with believable fleshed out characters you root for and get swept away with their saga.
The story involves a rollicking romp through the Viking settlement of Kilsgard and surrounding wild landscape as the inspiring Alva and her pet wolf Fenrir alongside her Uncle Magnus and mother Brianna endeavour to solve the riddle that an English monk brings to the village in the dead of night speaking of buried treasure, mysterious runic carvings and a mysterious threatening presence on the nearby mountain.
Everything seems linked back to her father’s disappearance when the clues seem to be speaking about Alva herself.
In her twelve winters, she had been drawn back to the mountain time and time again, in search of evidence for the Tales her people told of the Great Battle, when giants and dwarves carved out the landscape
The Vikings are a classic primary subject and so perfect for readloud during study of this topic but this is genuinely a brilliant piece of historical fiction to just read regardless.
We first read this when Littlefae was 5 and after trying out the first chapter this was decreed our immediate ‘read aloud book’ and I admit I read ahead to the end after the first session as I couldn’t put it down.
We were both captured, our imaginations fired up immediately with the runes, the riddles, the adventure, Fenrir the wolf and most of all the indomitable Alva, who for me is up there with our beloved Hermoine Granger as a quick witted and brave heroine for young girls. Even better for the fact that she isn’t ‘perfect’, Alva makes mistakes, she gets angry and frustrated but she keeps on trying and learning, an amazing literary role model I want to see more of.
Interestingly this is a Middle Grade novel that is illustrated with beautiful artwork by David Wyatt throughout something that is a big of a rarity beyond early chapter but excellent for readers not quite ready to give up pictures in their books..
As a former History teacher and Ancient History graduate the capturing of life and experience in a Viking settlement was exciting and inspiring, and for my daughter this was inspiring to talk about, and the section on the Futhark runes at the back made me actually squeal with delight, as whilst reading I was scrambling through my dusty knowledge of runes to interpret the chapter headings for my fascinated daughter only to find the section at the back.
I’m so pleased when I say I’ve had to not only translate both my daughters names into rune but also give them symbols like Alva’s daddy did, this kind of book roots a lifelong love of history.
I actually can’t praise this book highly enough, I’m so impressed with the construction, character development and the embedding of advanced vocabulary and historical terminology just so naturally, then the story itself puts a fire in your belly to discover more.
The Riddle of the Runes by Dr Janina Ramirez is published by Oxford (OUP)
I received this book originally through a review scheme on another website this has not affected my opinion.