Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Genre: YA, Magical Reality/Paranormal, AWESOME
Publication Date: February 5, 2013 (Macmillan – North America)
Source: ARC from Publisher
Summary: 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?
☆: 4/5 stars – a gorgeous “Cloud Atlas”-like tale for the YA set!
Review: There’s something so gorgeously unsettling about this book, yet I couldn’t put it down. I just knew that I had to find out what happened at the end, through this journey across time, going backward with each short story linked therein. If you want something new, dark, and luminously beautiful with sensory imagery and language that will make your skin crawl, “Midwinterblood” is most definitely your book.
I think the largest issue I had with this book was its sparseness – it was both the best and the most problematic issue of the book. While Sedgwick definitely has a way with sensory imagery and language, its sparseness both contributed to the mystique of this story, of all of the characters and how they tied into each other and the past(using the relationship web school of worldbuilding), and he can describe a whole lot in only a few words, I feel like he could have expanded upon some of that language, characters, and world just a teeny tiny bit more and still retain how gorgeously dark this book was.
However. The language itself was nothing short of dream-like – I plowed through the entire book in one (ONE) sitting. It definitely seduced me and it’s a breath of fresh air in the YA genre, that’s for damned sure. I was immediately sucked into Eric/Merle/Tor’s worlds across time of how everything related to each other, and I couldn’t get enough. The end was a bit abrupt, but for me, it worked quite a bit considering how Sedgwick crafted this book. There’s a lot of weighted mood here, a lot of pain, but all of it is crafted into something absolutely stellar.
Though the story as a whole itself is very complex when put together at the end, the base of the world and the characters themselves are very simply built – no convoluted overwrought characters fighting in a love triangle like so much of we’ve seen in YA as of late. The characters act simply, and though the seven stories help us understand their motives better, their generally very simple in all aspects even throughout all seven lifetimes compared so much of YA lit today in general. It was such a breath of fresh air. The great thing is that even young YA will enjoy this book because it’s so easy to follow. Yet at the same time, it’s extremely profound. We follow a set of people throughout a few thousand years of time, not keeping one single gender the whole way through, and their interactions do change from lifetime to lifetime. Its themes are also simple: reincarnation, forgetting/remembering, separation, and acceptance (as Erik keeps saying throughout the book, “And so it is”). But all of it is woven together into a plot so tight you’ll want to keep turning the pages.
There’s not a lot of happiness in this book. There’s a lot of painful reality, even for a magical reality genre book. There’s a lot of gloom, a lot of human darkness (even in a slightly inhuman setting), and a focus of studying the failings of humans – especially in regards to how they take care of each other in a social setting. This is not a light, fluffy book – but that’s what we need more of in YA. It makes you think. It makes you work for the final answer you find in the epilogue, even though it’s so simply constructed. There’s a lot of soul-searching (literally) that goes on in this book, and a lot of characters being used as symbols. And bringing together ALL of the aforementioned into one story? Not easy. Not easy at all. Yet it all worked, and worked beautifully. So I have to take my hat off to Sedgwick for constructing such a wonderful story.
Final verdict? This is the perfect book if you’re feeling a bit moody or you want to explore the idea of humanity as very faulty creatures. Definitely not the feel-good book of the year, but you know what? That’s one of its best features. Absolutely luminous and definitely one of my favorites of 2013 so far, “Midwinterblood” is out February 5, 2013 through Macmillan in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance!