Book Review: Midwinter Blood, by Marcus Sedgwick
This is a book I have recently finished reading with my junior reading group at school. Funnily enough, I found out today that the author, Marcus Sedgwick actually went to my secondary school, the same school I am working at, and he was in the same class and close friends with my Dad when he attended the same school back in the 70's! It's a small world. Sedgwick has done amazingly well, being shortlisted for the Carnegie medal (several times), the Costa award and the Edgar Allen Poe award too.
I'm not a great reader of fantasy- I love it in films, but I hadn't found a fantasy book I really liked the look of- until now. Vampires have definitely been done or even overdone in teenage fiction, but Sedgwick brings something original to the often clichéd type of tragic heroes and heroines. There is just a taster of vampire legend in Midwinter Blood; with Sedgwick focusing solidly on more classical, beautiful archetypes, such as shape-shifters, royalty and village folk. The book takes the traditional folklore you would find in children's tales, and adds an often dark, grown-up and philosophical stance.
In summary, but without spoiling the plot, the book starts from the point of view of young journalist, Eric Seven. It is 2073, and Eric is travelling by plane to the remote but exceptionally beautiful Blessed Island- a talked about place, for it is rumoured to have a supernatural quality that allows its inhabitants to exist forever. Midwinter Blood is divided into seven parts and an epilogue, all characterised by a time of moon. These different moons are: The Flower Moon, The Hay Moon, The Grain Moon, The Fruit Moon, The Hunter's Moon, The Snow Moon and the Blood Moon. I think this is a charming and intriguing concept that does enrich the novel, both plot-wise and in terms of creating a sense of romanticism.
As you literally make your way through the intersecting parts of the novel, you take a metaphorical journey into the past,while experiencing elements of Blessed Island's present and future. This is done through an array of distinctive characters who are reincarnated numerous times into each other.The characters - ranging from a fighter pilot, a fisherman and a world famous painter, to the striking idea of the daughter of a wealthy mayor, trapped in a hare's body - experience different realms and stages of life. Most of these personalities, or all, but some very subtly, hold a kind of sixth sense in that they run on the fuel of memories of a former existence, but without knowing exactly who they are or what their pathway should be through life. Sedgwick is so skilled at his craft that the to-ing and fro-ing into alternative stories doesn't get disorientating, in fact it is liberating. Sedgwick leaves endless questions, yet drops enough clues for you as a reader to play along with his puzzle. The novel's seven parts circulate around two vital characters, who we eventually learn were king and queen of their time, until one was disturbingly slain in a ritual sacrifice. The whole way through the novel you find yourself rooting for this long-lost love story, despite not knowing which characters to trust and which to idolise.
The novel, aimed at teens, is reccommended for ages thirteen to eighteen, However I loved it and do think it is so carefully constructed and bursting at the seams with depth. It's a must read for this chilly season- curl up by the fireplace with a hot chocolate and I guarantee you will devour Midwinter Blood in one sitting!