1 February 2012

Review 11: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

"In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumour has it that no one ages and no children are born, a ritual sacrifice takes place. It echoes a moment ten centuries before, where, 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, after they come so close to finding what they've lost. But can love last forever?"

A refreshingly different young adult novel of love and people across the ages all centring around one mysterious island and two people pulled together in different ages. I struggled to put it down and was fascinated to see what story Sedgwick was creating for each of the distinct vignettes that span 2073 to a unknown time centuries ago. This is absolutely my favourite Marcus Sedgwick book.

First Line: 'The sun does not go down.'

I was really impressed with this novel. Marcus Sedgwick is an extremely popular author with my students; he visited my school last year and was super friendly and inspiring, so much so that he is coming back in May. I've really liked them previous novels of his I've read but none of the really captured my imagination like Midwinterblood. Midwinterblood, however, did that in a spectacular fashion and I couldn't stop talking it to people and recommending it to students and colleagues alike. It was one of those books that you start aggressively encouraging people to read just so you can discuss it with them. I can't wait for Sedgwick to visit my school again so I can ask him more about this strange and wonderful novel.

My main compliment is that it is not scared to be weird, complex and serious - whilst it is a novel for teens, Sedgwick does not talk down to them or simplify his story which will, I imagine, make it all the more popular with teens. The novel has been carefully planned and executed, it has real intent behind it and there is no superfluous inane dialogue clogging up the pages.It's a relatively quick read, in part due to the fact that I kept telling myself I would read to the end of the current chapter and then stop but ended up reading the next one as well as I couldn't put it down and wanted to find out what Sedgwick was going to do next.

The novel begins in 2073 with a journalist, Eric, arriving on the island of Blessed to investigate the stories that people do not age or die there. He meets an enigmatic woman named Merle but also some islanders who are less than impressed to have him asking questions. From there we work backwards, through seven different stories named after the moon they occurred under. We visit an archeologist in 2011, a crashed pilot in 1944, a little girl and a painter in 1902, twins in 1848, Vikings and vampires in 800 and an ill-fated king and his queen in a time before that. I don't want to give away how Sedgwick weaves his story through all of these but it is magical to see him do it. The ideas of love and sacrifice run through the whole novel, and it is made more powerful in the way that Sedgwick demonstrates the different types of love we encounter.

Sedgwick uses little repeated themes throughout all of the stories, phrases or symbols that crop up in different ways, linking all the stories together. Again, to give them away would spoil the magic of reading it for yourself but look out for them. One of the things that links them all together is the story of the painting that inspired the novel, Midvinterblot by Carl Larsson, I love that the painting is real and that Sedgwick is not only inspired by it but weaves the painter and painting into the actual story.

This is a superb, unique novel that is wonderfully constructed to build a story of love and magic and sacrifice.

Try it if... you like young adult novels that break the mould and try something a bit different or you like clever and unnerving stories 

1 comment:

  1. Great review which has now moved this book further up my To Be Read Pile! Sounds really interesting and I'm keen to find out how the story is linked together.