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Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

October 7, 2011

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. 

Marcus Sedgwick is one of my favourite YA authors so I was extremely excited to receive a copy of his latest novel Midwinterblood for review. There is something about Sedgwick’s work that makes me feel in awe of his talent to create something wholly original and different in each of his novels. Midwinterblood is definitely no exception.

It is a story told in seven parts, from the year 2073 right back to a time unknown before the 10th Century. It follows two lovers, Eric and Merle, who are destined to live out seven lives on the island of Blessed, and find one another in each life. They go from lovers to mother and son, to artist and child, to forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire and more… The island of Blessed is definitely a strange and mystical place. In 2073 it is a place where no children exist, where strange magical flowers grow which hold the promise of eternal life, and where ancient secrets live beneath its very soil. The love that exists between Eric and Merle are definitely intertwined with the island, but I dare say more for giving away the ending!

This is a beautiful love story that is told in such an intricate and carefully crafted way, but one that appears almost effortless. There are some very intriguing elements that appear in most of the seven stories, linking them together, such as the existence of the hares on the island which hold much more meaning the further back in history the story goes, as well as the drinking of a special tea that has some rather strange effects on anyone who drinks it. Although each story is unique and set in a different time period, and the names of Eric and Merle change a little to reflect this, it’s a lovely feeling when you instantly recognise these characters that you have become so fascinated by. I can only imagine how much time it must have taken Sedgwick to flesh these ideas out and make them work. Although the ideas in the novel are intriguing, I can sense just how difficult it must have been to make it work and make it believable. It’s obvious that a lot of careful planning went into this novel, but I can say with absolute certainty that it has paid off.

What I love most about Sedgwick is the way he doesn’t over-write his stories. His prose is simple and lyrical, and his words flow straight through you so that you absorb them instantly and have to turn page after page to find out what will happen next. I was immediately gripped by this novel from the very first page, and it all comes down to Sedgwick’s talent at being a masterful storyteller. I’ve read plenty of books in my time by people who are brilliant writers without a doubt, but not all of them are great storytellers. Marcus Sedgwick has no such problem; in my mind he was born to be a storyteller, and I sincerely hope he will never run out of stories to tell!

I think this may be the best Sedgwick novel I’ve read so far. It’s unique, original, gripping, and utterly memorable. I cannot recommend it enough, and I’m very excited to see what Sedgwick will come up with next!

Midwinterblood is out now, published by Indigo, imprint of Orion. Thanks goes to the publisher for sending me a copy to review.

To read my review of Floodland by Marcus Sedgwick click here.

To read my review of White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick click here.

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