Rune is a two-centuries-old werewolf who has spent his life seeking to give meaning to his curse while atoning for the damage it has caused. Despite his efforts to resist the seductive allure of his otherworldly nature’s siren song, the monster within proves difficult to control.
During a blizzard, a family of war refugees chances upon his secluded home while seeking shelter. Though Rune hesitates to welcome them, fearful they will discover his secrets and come to harm, he relents when they invoke a sacred rite of hospitality. Despite his efforts to keep his distance, Rune comes to care for the family, unaware his bond with these strangers will change the fate of everyone.
As the family prepares to depart, Rune learns of unforeseen dangers that lie ahead for them, dangers from which he alone has the power to guard them. Bound by his oath of hospitality and his growing concern for the family, Rune vows to guide them to safety. However, the greatest danger proves to be that posed by the darkness he bears within his own heart.
Despite the threat of Rune’s wolf-self, Runeheart proves as emotional as it is suspenseful, as Marchetti deftly builds tension among the many characters, first due to the forced proximity of Rune and the Harvaldssons, hunkered down in close quarters, and then as they face the grueling natural elements. Marchetti’s depiction of a werewolf has teeth, but it’s ultimately humane, a mature treatment that finds fresh angles.
Sharp and distinct character development, a sure hand at evocative description, and a fast-moving plot line will rivet readers interested in serious treatment of lycanthropy and questions of guilt and redemption. The novel’s long, but it’s often urgent. Here’s a wolf tale that gets caught up in the heat of blood but also takes seriously the weight of killing. The novel’s highlight isn’t its crisp action—it’s the confession that follows when someone close to Rune asks the hardest of questions, “How do you live knowin’ the truth ’bout what you are?”
Takeaway: A superior werewolf story, with moral weight and serious teeth.
Great for fans of: Elodie Harper’s The Wolf Den, Glen Duncan.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A
Sinister secrets and otherworldly intrigue abound in Marchetti’s page-turning supernatural thriller. Two-centuries-old werewolf Rune has spent his life trying to give meaning to his curse while atoning for the damage it has caused. When a destitute family of war refugees arrive at his door seeking shelter from a vicious snow storm, Rune lets them in despite his hesitation, unaware his decision will change not only his own life but also the family’s. Marchetti excels when it comes to weaving legends and folklore into the fabric of his story, making it feel real, and his characters are both authentic and believably vulnerable. He is equally adept at knitting the supernatural into the setting aspect of the story, letting spooky suggestions linger in readers’ minds. For all its fantastical elements, the story is a poignant exploration of loneliness, pain, trauma, regret, redemption, and the power of human connection. Dark, ethereal, and suffused with supernatural intrigue; a read-in-a-single-sitting kind of book.
When I finished reading Runeheart last week, I was awestruck at how engagingly Gino Marchetti's inquisitive mind explored the deeper themes of human life: the exhausting struggle for personal redemption, the inner conflicts between our flawed nature and our longing to be better, and the burdens of love when we truly believe that our mere presence will bring harm to those we love.
The story and characters were so compelling that it was very hard to put Runeheart down, even when my eyes were too tired to read on. I love the world Gino Marchetti creates that mixes fantasy with real-world historical periods. He masterfully interweaves insightful situations that explore devotion to God, family love, the beast within, and the power of unconditional love to provide salvation. I look forward to rereading Runeheart in a few months so that I can discover even more nuances, and I plan to recommend Gino's novel to my college students, colleagues, friends, and loved ones. I will never forget Runeheart.
Angelo Volpe, J.D.
Writing Studies Department
University of Minnesota