Midwinterblood: review

January 30, 2013 2013, 4.5 star books, horror, marcus sedgwick, Wendy 56

Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Release Date:
February 5th, 2013
Publisher: Roaring Brook
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC from publisher

Blood-soaked nightmares. Of another time. Of another place. Of another life.

The unusual story of Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick begins in the future, in the year 2073. A young journalist named Eric arrives on a remote island, where it is rumored that the people live forever. He is immediately drawn to a woman named Merle, but soon begins to notice that the locals are behaving strangely…very strangely. Little does he know that his story is but one chapter in a piercingly poignant, savage saga that stretches across time and transcends the boundaries of life and death.

I love fiction that is unsettling, particularly when it comes to the YA genre. Eric and Merle’s story has elements of the shrieking madness of the film The Wicker Man, including a distinct undercurrent of unease and disturbing pagan rituals. To tell you too much about the seven interconnected stories would be to give away too many of their delicious secrets. But following the opening segment, the plot moves backwards in time, and by the third story “The Airman,” the pieces start fitting together. My favorite ones are “The Painter”(1902), “The Unquiet Grave” (1848), and “The Vampire” (10th Century), many of which are violent, pensive, and sad. One of the things I like best about the plot is how Eric and Merle are bound together throughout the centuries, and yet their relationship is never the same. Sometimes they are lovers, sometimes they are children, etc., but there is always a connective emotional thread between them.

The prose is descriptive and powerful, with fragments of rough beauty jutting out from the horror contained in the intricate framework of the story.  

Behind them grew a tree, an odd tree, with a straight trunk, and a pointed crown of brilliant green leaves. Gold objects hung in the glossy leaves, and Bridget was startled as she saw they were skulls. Shining golden skulls.

Although I read a great many books for sheer entertainment value, it’s coming across an author like Marcus Sedgwick that reminds me how very formulaic many YA books tend to be. When I read his chilling gothic mystery White Crow last year, it freaked me out–I couldn’t believe the intensity of the emotional pitch, or how the persuasively suggestive writing played tricks with my perception. Midwinterblood solidified the author’s place on my list of favorite writers, and I will be seeking out every title of his that I can get my hands on. I wish we saw more YA with this degree of depth and complexity.

If you’re the type of reader who prefers goth over gore, mood over mayhem, or disquiet over digust, this is exactly the kind of horror story that will appeal to you–one that is odd and beautifully strange, and one written with passion, but also with great restraint. Unapologetically bold, horrifying, and desperately doomed, Midwinterblood is not a book any reader could easily forget. 

Recommended for: fans of Monstrous Beauty, When the Sea is Rising Red, and other dark literary YA, and for adults who may want to try out some quality young adult fiction. Also recommended for fans of the time-crossing elements of Cloud Atlas, as well as the crazy fun of
The Wicker Man. (Though this is much less phallically obsessed, hee hee.)

This review also appears on GoodReads. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

midwinterblood marcus sedgwick blog tour

Midwinterblood Tour Stop

We’re very pleased to be kicking off the official Midwinterblood Blog Tour next Monday, February 5th! Stop by for our Q & A with Marcus Sedgwick, when you may also enter to win a copy of this spectacular book.

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56 Responses to “Midwinterblood: review”

  1. Jen

    This book sounds fantastic. And I’ve just begun hearing of its glory. I think we definitely need more horror titles circulating the blogosphere. I feel like they get brushed aside, or maybe just aren’t promoted enough. I’ll be adding this one to my TBR, like, now.

    • Wendy Darling

      More YA horror would be awesome, Jen–particularly if it’s the more subtle, sophisticated kind like Midwinterblood. I do think they don’t get as much attention, or maybe publishers think they’re too much for teen readers. I’m just glad publishers like Macmillan (and Little, Brown, who did I Hunt Killers) take chances on material like this.

      I’m glad you’re going to give this one a chance!

  2. Kailia Sage

    Honestly, had it not been for your review, I would NOT have picked this book up! But now I want to read it ASAP! great review Wendy!

  3. Heidi

    Wendy, I adore this review! I think you’ve captured perfectly why I love this book. It’s the goth over gore…it had that haunting quality of beauty that I love oh so much that always captures me so much more completely than outright horror. I loved how Sedgwick did something so different in his formatting and how well it worked to make us think about the nature of love and relationships. Fantastic!

    • Wendy Darling

      Aw, thanks Heidi! I am looking forward to your review, too–he’s such an interesting writer. I’m so pleased he has such a treasure trove of back titles to dive into; just about all of them are highly praised by friends.

  4. Maree

    Lovely review Wendy! Thanks for introducing me to another good book! I will definitely be adding it to my to-read list.

  5. Sara @ Forever 17 Books

    This one wasn’t really on my radar before, but I do enjoy a read with some horror, and without too much gore. I may have to check it out! I was thinking of having myself some sort of horror and mystery themed readathon in October and this sounds like the perfect book to add to that list. :)

  6. Rachel

    I just finished the audio of Monstrous Beauty on the way to work and really enjoyed it so this might appeal to me as well. I definitely prefer mood over mayhem and this sounds very errie. In a good way. Wonderful review Wendy. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I’d love to know what you think of this one, Rachel, especially if you enjoyed Monstrous Beauty! They’re tricky books to recommend, but they’re wonderful if you like this more subtle style of horror. :)

  7. Sunny Duvall

    I’m not really sure yet if this book is for me, but your review made me really interested in it. I don’t read too many “dark” books, but I love your review. The quotes are fantastic as well :)

    Sunny @ Blue Sky Bookshelf

  8. starryeyedjen

    Okay, Wendy, you had me when you rec’d it for fans of Monstrous Beauty, but the fact that it’s gothic horror makes it all the more alluring. It sounds like the kind of story that I’ll have to wait until I’m in the mood, but I feel like I will definitely love it once I get to it…or will find myself utterly creeped out, but either result is okay with me. :) Thanks for calling my attention to this book…this is the first I’ve even heard of it!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Jen! I think you’d like this one. Agreed, definitely a book you want to wait to be in the right mood for, but such a wonderful experience for the right reader. I hope you enjoy!

  9. Keertana

    I’m usually not a big fan of horror stories, but I do love dark and gothic tales, so I think I’ll really enjoy this. It sounds very captivating and different from what I usually read, which is always a nice change. Thanks for putting this on my radar, Wendy, and amazing review as always, dearest! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I think–I think–you might like this one, Keertana. I hope you pick it up sometime just to see if you like the author’s writing. I have a feeling he might hook you.

  10. Livvy

    I saw this one a while back and it certainly has caught my eye. Yours is the first review I’ve read and the word Gothic immediately captured my attention and made sure I was utterly enthralled for you review.

    This book is definitely the type of book I want to read and I am always searching for. I like mood and disquiet just as much as gore, but the atmosphere of a more Gothic novel is exciting. Especially one that’s set so far in the future and explores lots of different eras.

    I definitely like the sound of the complexity of this one.

    Great review! :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Livvy–White Crow is more traditionally gothic than Midwinterblood, but I think as a fan of that genre (as I am), you’ll find this quite compelling, too. And it does have some gothic elements to it. It IS so exciting to have a book like this on the marketplace. I hope you enjoy this just as much as I did.

  11. Amy

    I had started this and put it aside, but am going to be getting back to it very soon. I was enjoying it so far. I was instantly intrigued so I think I will enjoy it. I just had to get to some tour books first. Awesome review!!

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks Amy! I can’t wait to see what you think of it. It’s such an unusual book, and not for everybody. But so, so rewarding if you like this kind of horror and this kind of writing!

  12. Alexa Y.

    I thought this book was creepy, but in a good way (if that’s possible). I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to, and I loved how it all ended up being interconnected :)

    • Wendy Darling

      Creepy in a very good way! I ended up loving it even more than I thought I would, too. And so many friends rave about so many of his other books, so I suspect this will be my reaction on finishing all of them. :)

  13. Nikki

    I think that a lot of horror authors, especially those geared more towards a YA audience, go for the obvious scare factor. It’s nice to hear that Sedgwick uses a more subtle approach. Building the mood and creating a slow crescendo is always more effective for me. I also really like the idea of having several interconnected stories— using pieces to reveal the whole. Genius! Great review, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      Exactly–there’s nothing wrong with the other kind of horror, and I occasionally enjoy it myself. But this kind of horror is much more powerful, at least to me–and it’s nice to find a YA author who does that. You’re absolutely right that there is a mood and a slow crescendo–and the pieces revealing a whole. Love your insight from reading just the review!

  14. Eunice

    Call me a loser but I’d never heard of this author before. (Yeah, fail) But thanks to your review and I think I and his books are going to bond sometime soon. This had definitely piqued my curiosity. Although most of the time I prefer gore over goth, I think trying this book would definitely be an interesting experience for me. Maybe I’ll develop some fascination on them too. Hehe. Brilliant review, Wendy. :)

    • Wendy Darling

      I hadn’t heard of this author until last year when I came across WHITE CROW, Eunice, so I am right there with you in the hall of shame. But I plan on reading everything I can find now! Thanks Eunice. :)

  15. Jenni @ Alluring Reads

    Wow This sounds really really good. I love the little clip you included and it showcased the beauty in the darkness you were describing perfectly. I am definitely a fan of actually being scared, over simply having gore shoved in my face (though a little gore never killed any one) It’s always really nice to come across a GOOD horror movie nowadays because it seems that now they are more about grossing you out than scaring you. I haven’t read anything by this author but you have me wantin to pick up some of his work as soon as possible! Fabulous review, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      Well, I don’t mind a little gore now and again either. ;) But sometimes people go into these things expecting one kind of horror and I just think it’s better when they know right up front this isn’t that type of book! But it’s just as haunting in its own way.

  16. Sam

    If you’re the type of reader who prefers goth over gore, mood over mayhem, or disquiet over digust, this is exactly the kind of horror story that will appeal to you

    You knew exactly what to say there to get my attention. ;) This sounds brilliant! I’ve heard of this book (and its author) before, but for some reason or another, I overlooked both. I’ll have to rectify that soon and get my hands on a copy of this. I also really liked the tone of Monstrous Beauty, so you have me utterly convinced now. Brilliant review, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      You’re over there in the UK with access to all his books, Sam! I hope you get ahold of one soon. I think book MB and this book are hard to recommend to people, but I think their audiences overlap. :) Let me know if I’m right, hah.

  17. Alise (Readers In Wonderland)

    I’ve seen this one around Goodreads but didn’t give it much thought because it didn’t sound like my type of book. I didn’t even know it was YA. Eric and Merle’s connection sounds disturbingly fascinating, and I love books that easily stay with you after reading them. You made it sound creepy, in a way that is delightfully intriguing. I love the way you do your reviews, how could anyone not pick it up after reading this? I’ll have to check out White Crow as well. Thanks for messaging me back on Goodreads, I appreciate it!

    • Wendy Darling

      It’s a tricky book to recommend, because I think you either respond very strongly to and love the author’s style…or you don’t, hah. But if the review intrigues you, this one might be worth giving a shot sometime.

      And thank you! I wonder how anyone could refuse my persuasion all the time. ;D

  18. Candace

    “it’s coming across an author like Marcus Sedgwick that reminds me how very formulaic many YA books tend to be”
    YES, that! I really notice that when I read a very different and extremely well written book. I may enjoy some of those others but it’s books like this that stick with me. There are actually some publishing houses that I have started to avoid more because it feels like all their books are of the same formula.
    Thanks for the heads up on this one, I hadn’t heard of it before.

    • Wendy Darling

      Yeah, you don’t come across books like this one too often. Tor/Macmillan really does a great job of publishing books that are pretty daring–the two YA books I referenced above are actually from the same company.

  19. Bekka @ Pretty Deadly Reviews

    I read this a couple weeks ago and was totally blown away by it. After reading (and being horrified by) White Crow, I knew that I needed to read everything by Sedgwick. Now that I’ve read Midwinterblood, he’s my new favorite author.

    The very last story, where everything was put together and explained – it just blew my mind. My review will be up sometime in the next few days.

    Bekka
    Pretty Deadly Reviews

    • Wendy Darling

      We were both horrified by the same two books! I have to come check out your review for this when it’s up, Bekka–I only know a handful of bloggers I talk to who have read it yet. But everyone should give his books a try, IMO. Mind-blowing for sure.

  20. Shirley

    This sounds really creepy but I personally LOVE horror stories! This one sounds like an unforgettable read :) Looking forward to reading this!

    • Wendy Darling

      I love creepy books, too! Especially ones like this, that are more subtle and raise the hair on the back of your neck, rather than hammering you in the face, if you know what I mean.

  21. readingdate

    I haven’t heard of this one at all! It certainly does sound very dark and atmospheric. And from the books you reference I can tell exactly what the tone of this book is. Looking forward to the author interview next week, Wendy!

    • Wendy Darling

      I had never heard of this author until I randomly came across a copy of WHITE CROW last year, Lucy–I am thrilled he has so many titles to enjoy, all of which seem to have excellent reviews. “Atmospheric” is a great way to describe the two novels I’ve read.

  22. Lottie Eve

    This seems really interesting :) I love books with darker themes so I will be sure to try this out! As always, wonderful review!