Written by: Marcus Sedgwick
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy/Horror
Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined—this is a tale of horror and beauty, tenderness and sacrifice.
An archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact, an airman who finds himself far from home, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking: the seven stories in this compelling novel all take place on the remote Scandinavian island of Blessed where a curiously powerful plant that resembles a dragon grows. What binds these stories together? What secrets lurk beneath the surface of this idyllic countryside? And what might be powerful enough to break the cycle of midwinterblood? From award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.
Sometimes, just sometimes, a book stays with you. It can be do the story, perhaps the prose, or the characters. Midwinterblood was one of those books for me. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of this book is Wicker Man, but that isn’t quite accurate. It certainly has that feel when Eric Seven, a journalist, finds himself on the island of Blessed he is looking for a strange orchid reported to give the island inhabitants longer lives. It’s a haunting little island in the middle of nowhere where there seems to be no electrical outlets for your computers, you only get there by the most basic of means, and the natives look at you a bit oddly. What he finds on the island is a strange little group of villagers, no children, no conventional technology, and a young woman named Merle he swears he has seen before. And she seems to recognize him as well even though they have never met before. The more time Eric spends on the island, the more he seems to be forgetting his old life, the more he seems to remember another.
Things I liked: Inspired by Carl Larsson’s painting Midvinterblot, Midwinterblood is a novel about many things. It is about love, sacrifice, and blood. Haunting and chilling are also words that come to mind when I think of this book. There is something disquieting about each of the chapters and yet they urge you on. What is it about this island of Blood? And why are the residents so peculiar? This was a hard review to do because I want to discuss it all, but I want you dear reader to discover it for yourself as well. I don’t want to give away too much other than we live many lives.
The Island is one of the main characters. As you travel back through time you learn about the island’s history, its inhabitants, of the wild hares and dragon shaped orchids. It’s an eerily beautiful island, strange and chilling, timeless and exquisite. The description of the island is infused with an eerily haunting magic. Merle and Eric are both wonderfully real and relatable characters, something which is true even at the very beginning but becomes even more so by the end of the book.
Each chapter is another tale from the island, another glimpse into its eerie history. Each has a different tone and a different time period on the island from an archaeologist’s dig to a reclusive painter’s home. They are unique but have some threads that bind the novel together as a whole. Of the seven short stories, the two that stuck with me the most were the Vampire (full of Gothic dread) and the Ghost Story from 1848.
The prose is wonderful. Sometimes simple, but overall the effect, the way it all unfolds… It’s a different sort of horror. It lingers, it builds, and is more about the impending dread than all of your gore. Like I said before, it was a different sort of novel and I can see why it was a Printz Honor winner because there is not a lot out there like this. It gets a shiny gold star for being unique. And another for the sheer sensory output through the prose.
Things I didn’t like so much:
It is an unusual and original addition to the Young Adult genre though not really sure why it is shelved in young adult. I also think the biggest problem I had with the book was how short it was and how brief it was in its storytelling. This is its biggest strength at the same time. It shows, not tells…takes the reader on a journey through the ages. This helps with the mystery and the creepiness. And yet I wanted more at times. I wanted more than just a quick snippet. I wanted more of the telling.
Buy or Borrow: Buy. While the book is lighter far, in that you can finish it in a couple of hours like I did, it lingers with you…stays with you. Perhaps even haunts you.
Part of:Stand Alone
Also Recommended: Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake and more by Marcus Sedgwick such as White Crow
4 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks