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Midwinterblood Hardcover – February 5, 2013
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Beginning in July 2073, Sedgwick's new novel makes its way backward through time, drawing readers into seven stories from different eras. Whether it is a 21st-century archaeologist, a World War II pilot, or a Viking king, there are subtle but tell-tale signs of the threads that bind them together over the centuries-the echoes of particular names and phrases, the persistence of a mysterious dragon orchid, and other seemingly innocuous moments that all hint at the dark mystery at the center of this lyrical yet horrifying tale. The plot is reminiscent of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (Sceptre, 2004), with its themes of love and reincarnation, as well as of the cult-movie-turned-book Robin Hardy's Wicker Man (Crown, 1978), with its setting of remote and sinister island inhabitants. The many characters are vividly real and distinct from one another, despite making only brief appearances. Each of these vignettes seem rich enough to be worthy of a novel of its own, and readers might almost wish they could pause in each fascinating, detailed moment rather than be swept through time-and the novel-on the current of a cursed love. Although fans of the author's Revolver (Roaring Brook, 2010) will likely flock to this book to relish more of Sedgwick's stark, suspenseful writing, new readers might find that there are more questions left unanswered than are resolved.-Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DCα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* In the year 2073, a reporter named Eric is sent to Blessed Island to research a rare flower called the Dragon Orchid. There he finds an insular community of mysterious villagers, a delicious tea that has him losing days at a time, and a beguiling girl named Merle. In just 50 pages, we reach a shattering conclusion—and then start anew in 2011. An archaeologist is digging on Blessed Island, where he meets a quiet boy named Eric and his mother, Merle. So begins this graceful, confounding, and stirring seven-part suite about two characters whose identities shift as they are reborn throughout the ages. Sedgwick tells the story in reverse, introducing us to a stranded WWII pilot, a painter trying to resurrect his career in 1901, two children being told a ghost story in 1848, and more, all the way back to a king and queen in a Time Unknown. It is a wildly chancy gambit with little in the way of a solid throughline, but Sedgwick handles each story with such stylistic control that interest is not just renewed each time but intensified. Part love story, part mystery, part horror, this is as much about the twisting hand of fate as it is about the mutability of folktales. Its strange spell will capture you. Grades 9-12. --Daniel Kraus
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Top Customer Reviews
Moreover, the love story that should tie it all together has no origin. There was no explanation of how they fell in love or what it was that they loved about each other; they simply were in love and this was taken for granted. This made the characters very difficult to relate to and made the story feel as though it was a flower simply appearing from nowhere and lacking roots or even a stem. This was possibly also due to the story almost always picking up near to the end of one of their lives, so that we saw many times how Eric and Merle were separated, but never understood how they came to be so connected.
Overall, while the writing is beautiful and the plot absorbing the characters and relationships which should anchor the story leave much to be desired.
But I never really connected with the characters who seem like archetypes. Merle didn’t seem like a real human being to me. The three main characters circle endlessly in various configurations throughout the seven vignettes–but I never felt I knew who any of them were on a deeper level. The secondary characters, especially various sets of parents and other family members, are muted and shadowy:
“Tor’s questions about his parents come back to him, and he realizes that it’s been many years since he thought about them. Almost as if they were dead. And though they’re not dead, they may as well be. He hasn’t seen them or spoken to them in years...”
What? Seems a little strange to me. And there’s no further explanation forthcoming.
I particularly didn’t understand “The Archaeologist” and how it fit with the others. Again, what happened to Eric’s father? Who is Edward, the narrator, in relationship to the greater story?
I struggle with whether to give this book three or four stars. The characters seem flat, the plot is a bit clunky, and the set up is farfetched at times–but as a puzzle and fairy tale, it works. Lucid and well-written, but I didn't resonate with it emotionally.
You can dream of a story, see the words dancing in your head, but alas can you put them down on paper?
Can you make others interested in the characters that you have created? Can you shape them from a world that does not exist other than for you? Marcus Sedwick has done that in this wonderful novel!
I have never been one to spoil a novel for a reader. Therefore, all I cay tell anyone is that if you enjoy reading about "past lives" or anything in that realm, you will love this book.
Actually, Mr. Sedwick does not consider this book about past lives, though some of you might if you read it.
That being said, I implore you to read the book and come to your own conclusions.
I loved it very much and look forward to reading more from this imaginative author!