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 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.