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Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. Roaring Brook Press. 2013. Review copy from publisher.
The Plot: Always, there is an Eric and a Merle; a hare and a loss; and the island of Blessed.
These are the constants.
What changes in the seven stories of Midwinterblood is the time, starting in the future, 2073, and going back in time again and again until the seventh story set in a time so far past it has no date. What changes are who, exactly, Eric and Merle are; and how they connect or don’t. On what is lost. And always there is the hare.
What is happening? What is going on Blessed?
The Good: I adore stories told like this! Going backward — 2073, 2011, 1944, and so on — emphasizes the mystery. To start at the “beginning”, if that is even the start, would reveal all at once — any tension would disappear.
Instead, it’s 2073 and Eric’s work takes him to Blessed, an isolated island. He meets Merle and feels an instant connection. He also finds himself almost seduced by the island himself, forgetting why he’s there. “The sun does not go down. That is the first thing that Eric Seven notices about Blessed Island. There will be many other strange things that he will notice, before forgetting takes hold of him, but that will come later.”
Something is wrong: despite the friendly villagers, something is obviously not right. But what? And that story ends and suddenly the reader is in 2011.
The island is still Blessed, but there are changes, to the island and the people and what is known or not know. Edward, an archeologist, discovers a viking funeral with two skeletons. He meets two villagers: Merle and her son Eric. There are other changes: there was no hotel or place for visitors to stay in 2073; in 2011, a guest house is mentioned. Changes the reader notices, but unknown and unknowable to the characters who know only their time, their place, their knowledge of history.
One thread is followed, then another, and I loved the mystery of it all. And, as well, the horror. The stories include those of war, of ghosts, even a vampire. The words hint at something more, something worse, and how did this story begin? How can it end? “And there was something about the words she used to tell the story that made them realize something bad was going to happen.”
Because I adore the creepiness; because this type of backwards story, with the mystery falling back in time to be discovered, is the type I love. This is a Favorite Book Read in 2013.
Other reviews (warning: some have much more spoilers than my review): Sonder Books; Reading Rants; The Book Smugglers; educating alice; crossreferencing (Sarah and Mark).
Filed under: Favorite Books Read in 2013, Reviews
About Elizabeth Burns
Looking for a place to talk about young adult books? Pull up a chair, have a cup of tea, and let's chat. I am a New Jersey librarian. My opinions do not reflect those of my employer, SLJ, YALSA, or anyone else. On Twitter I'm @LizB; my email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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