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English teacher interested in language and culture, and also in fiction using magic, myth, folklore and the supernatural. Now teaching part-time in a Leicester Upper School (ages 14-19) and also writing for children, teens and teachers.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Thrilling Thursday: Review of Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

A spellbinding tale of love and death. What could be more thrilling?

Title: Midwinterblood
Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Publisher: Indigo
Publishing: 6th October

Find it at Amazon UK

The blurb says:
Have you ever had the feeling that you've lived another life? Been somewhere that has felt totally familiar, even though you've never been there before, or felt that you know someone well, even though you are meeting them for the first time? It happens.

In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumour has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visiting journalist, Eric Seven, and a young local woman known as Merle are ritually slain. Their deaths echo a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire they come close to finding what they've lost. In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon - the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter's moon, the blood moon - this is the story of Eric and Merle whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting. 

Beautifully imagined, intricately and cleverly structured, this is a heart-wrenching and breathtaking love story with the hallmark Sedgwick gothic touches of atmosphere, blood-spilling and sacrifice.

My verdict: beautiful, haunting and unlike anything else I've read. Highly recommended for those who enjoy a well-crafted story. Don't let the teens keep it to themselves!
This book gripped me instantly. I read it over three days of a very busy working week, which says a lot on its own. I'm not going to leave it there though *grin*. The novel has superb writing and makes intelligent use of folklore/myth, so it was always going to be a winner for me. I still managed to be surprised by just how fantastic it was though. I read recently somewhere that Marcus Sedgwick spends a long time planning (I think I read months), and this book is testament to that degree of careful thought.

The novel as a whole is like an orchestral suite, with different movements all sharing a key theme and a set of motifs which flow through the whole, adding cohesion and providing (I'm sure) satisfying recognition on re-reading. As always, Sedgwick's prose is relatively sparse yet beautifully lyrical. He doesn't waste words, nor does he need to use complex vocabulary to weave a clever story.

A particularly effective aspect of the opening story was the Wicker Man-style creepy vibe. This helps build the sense of inevitability which propels us through all the stories back to the beginning of it all. The trailer conveys this dark and spooky tone brilliantly.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely and it's a real contender for the best book I've read this year. I think it's worth saying that, for all the 'doomed lovers' stuff implied in the blurb, it's not a 'romance' title. Also, as an Indigo publication, it's being targeted at the Young Adult market, but I think there's life in it as a literary chiller for adults too.

My grateful thanks go to Orion for providing me with a proof copy of this wonderful book for review.
This is my nineteenth review for the British Books Challenge. 


  1. Most YA can be enjoyed by adults though. But this book sounds awesome. I will have to add it to my gotta head out and buy it pile. He wrote The Dark Horse too. I love his writing. I like how you say it gripped you immediately. Yep. I gotta have it. :-)

  2. You know why I don't like to come here? You always make me get more books and I already have a big pile next to my bed! :) This one particularly sounds great. Need to get it now! Man...
    - andrea
    PS: I've given you the Versatile Blogger Award, if you'd like to take it, you can find it here: http://wordyliving.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/thank-you/


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