Wendy Darling's Reviews > Midwinterblood

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
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Why are readers drawn to horror? Read our Q & A with Marcus Sedgwick, the Printz honor author of Midwinterblood. Plus win a finished copy of this fantastic book!

4.5 stars Blood-soaked nightmares. Of another time. Of another place. Of another life.

The unusual story of Midwinterblood begins in the future, in the year 2073. A young journalist named Eric arrives on a remote island, where it is rumored that the people live forever. He is immediately drawn to a woman named Merle, but soon begins to notice that the locals are behaving strangely...very strangely. Little does he know that his story is but one chapter in a piercingly poignant, savage saga that stretches across time and transcends the boundaries of life and death.

I love fiction that is unsettling, particularly when it comes to the YA genre. Eric and Merle's story has elements of the shrieking madness of the film The Wicker Man, including a distinct undercurrent of unease and disturbing pagan rituals. To tell you too much about the seven interconnected stories would be to give away too many of their delicious secrets. But following the opening segment, the plot moves backwards in time, and by the third story "The Airman," the pieces start fitting together. My favorite ones are "The Painter"(1902), "The Unquiet Grave" (1848), and "The Vampire" (10th Century), many of which are violent, pensive, and sad. One of the things I like best about the plot is how Eric and Merle are bound together throughout the centuries, and yet their relationship is never the same. Sometimes they are lovers, sometimes they are children, etc., but there is always a connective emotional thread between them.

The prose is descriptive and powerful, with fragments of rough beauty jutting out from the horror contained in the intricate framework of the story.

Behind them grew a tree, an odd tree, with a straight trunk, and a pointed crown of brilliant green leaves. Gold objects hung in the glossy leaves, and Bridget was startled as she saw they were skulls. Shining golden skulls.

Although I read a great many books for sheer entertainment value, it's coming across an author like Marcus Sedgwick that reminds me how very formulaic many YA books tend to be. When I read his chilling gothic mystery White Crow last year, it freaked me out--I couldn't believe the intensity of the emotional pitch, or how the persuasively suggestive writing played tricks with my perception. Midwinterblood solidified the author's place on my list of favorite writers, and I will be seeking out every title of his that I can get my hands on. I wish we saw more YA with this degree of depth and complexity.

If you're the type of reader who prefers goth over gore, mood over mayhem, or disquiet over digust, this is exactly the kind of horror story that will appeal to you--one that is odd and beautifully strange, and one written with passion, but also with great restraint. Unapologetically bold, horrifying, and desperately doomed, Midwinterblood is not a book any reader could easily forget.

Recommended for: fans of Monstrous Beauty, When the Sea is Rising Red, and other dark literary YA, and for adults who may want to try out some quality young adult fiction. Also recommended for fans of the time-crossing elements of Cloud Atlas, as well as the crazy fun of The Wicker Man. (view spoiler)

This review also appears in The Midnight Garden. An advance copy was provided by the publisher.

Midwinterblood Tour Stop

We're very pleased to be kicking off the official Midwinterblood Blog Tour next Monday, February 5th! Stop by for our Q & A with author Marcus Sedgwick, when you may also enter to win a copy of this spectacular book.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 82) (82 new)


message 1: by Stardrag (new)

Stardrag Five stars? Another book for my reading list! You gotta try a book when it says horrifying, brilliant and doomed. I mean, it has to be brilliant, right?


Sally I loved it :D


Stephanie well I'm sold!


message 4: by Els (new)

Els So torn right now, I hated the last book I read by Marcus Sedgwick but if you think this is good I kinda want to read it:(


message 5: by Hady (new) - added it

Hady Gómez :o


Wendy Darling Well, technically 4.5 stars, Stardrag, but still! I will say that I think a lot of readers will probably find this book too strange, hah. It's written by a UK author, and the style is very different from most YA.

SALLY!!! Yay. I will check out your review once I've written mine.

Stephanie--GOOD. I hope you like it.

Els, which book of his did you read? I've only previously read White Crow by him, which I loved. I'm thinking, though, that if you didn't like his other book you may not like this. He has a very particular writing style that maynot be for everybody.

Hady: :D .


message 7: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie Parent Yay! So excited to read this now!


Sally Wendy, I definitely recommend you read everything* Marcus Sedgwick has ever written, he is fantastic! Although funnily enough, I haven't read White Crow yet :/

*I was going to give you some flaily, fangirly recommendations but I couldn't narrow it down. The only ones I *didn't* love were The Kiss of Death, Witch Hill and Floodland. All the others I've read are solid 4.5-5 star books :)


Wendy Darling It's beautifully written, Stephanie.

I WILL TRY to read everything he's written, Sally--problem is, I don't think many of his books have been released here, although of course there's always The Book Depository and Amazon.uk. Thanks for letting me know which ones to read first!

Are all of his books similar in tone to this one? White Crow has a similar feel to it, though there were actually also a couple of scenes that terrified me, too.


Sally I have found them all to more or less have that similar feel/tone to them, yes :) Something a little darker, a little creepier, a little colder, a little mysterious and unsettling, perhaps a little magical... My Swordhand is Singing was the first I read, The Dark Horse is *possibly* my favourite but I don't know. The Dead Days couplet is also delicious! You really don't find much else like what he writes out there, sadly.


message 11: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine I loved My Swordhand is Singing and Revolver is fantastic. I'm looking forward to reading this one too.


Wendy Darling Yes, exactly S.! The word "unsettling" kept floating through my mind as I was reading both books. I'm really happy to hear this is true for his other books as well. My Swordhand is Singing is one I've been eyeing but I hadn't heard feedback on those other two--thank you. :)

Christine, I've been curious about Revolver as well. I'm probably the only YA reader who says this, but I know it won the Printz and I generally don't have a great experience with those, hah. But that one may be the exception.


Wendy Darling P.S. I just checked, and more books of his have been published here than I realized! But you definitely don't see his books on the shelves nearly as much. I'd never heard of him until I came across White Crow.


message 14: by Els (new)

Els wrote: "Well, technically 4.5 stars, Stardrag, but still! I will say that I think a lot readers will probably find this book too strange, hah. It's written by a UK author, and the style is very differe..."

It was White Crow that I read.. I hated it:/ I dont like it when I dont like books, it was lucky that I hadnt bought that one..


message 15: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine Wendy Darling wrote: "P.S. I just checked, and more books of his have been published here than I realized! But you definitely don't see his books on the shelves nearly as much. I'd never heard of him until I came across..."

Since I work in a Middle School, often the Printz books are a bit too mature for this age (grades 6-8). I take the Prinz award as more of a warning label!

Revolver had me from page one. It is a tense, suspenseful read. It takes place in Alaska during the gold rush. It is a fast, effortless read but it leaves alot to think about. My Swordhand is Singing is nasty, dirty old-world vampires. No sparkling. No sexy.


message 16: by Wendy Darling (last edited Jan 08, 2013 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Wendy Darling Hah, sorry to hear that, Els. Might be best to skip this one, then. I had a look at your bookshelf; based on what I saw, you might like Break My Heart 1,000 Times or Unrest better.

Christine--man, everything you guys are saying about the books makes me want to read all his other books even more!! Nasty old vampires sound great, hah. I have so many books to read, though. But hmmm--I'm interviewing the author soon for the blog, maybe this is a good excuse to take a detour from the new releases. :D


message 17: by Els (new)

Els Probably best haha! Thank you Wendy! Im reading The Woman in Black at the moment, I'm about half way through and I'm not that spooked but it is good. I dont know if you've read it?


Wendy Darling Sure thing--I really liked those two books, I hope you enjoy them, too. I've had Woman in Black forever, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet! I do love a good gothic, though. And a lot of my friends love it.


message 19: by Els (new)

Els I hope I do as well! Ive just bought A Certain Slant of Light as well. You'll have to read it! I only started it yesterday and im half way through, bear in mind that I was in school all day as well, its so good!


Wendy Darling You should check my shelves before you recommend books to me, hah. That's one of my favorite books of all time, I'm glad you're enjoying it!


message 21: by Els (new)

Els I haven't read a certain slant of light yet, I was talking about woman in black, sorry hehe! I just finished woman in black by the way and I keep having to tell myself that my house isn't haunted!!! I read your review for a certain slant of light which is why I bought it, you seemed to like it so I thought I'd give it a go:)


message 22: by Chris (new) - added it

Chris Howard Sounds creepy and awesome. Hadn't heard of this... gonna check it out! Thx


Maria oh, me likes the blurb! *adding to my TBR pile*


Wendy Darling Ohhh, hah. No worries, El! Sorry for the confusion. I hope you like CSOL, it has...tricky ethics which bother a lot of people but I hope it won't be too much of a stumbling block for you.

This is such an odd and beautifully strange book, Chris--it's not for everybody, but I really loved it. I'm about halfway through your book, btw, and am very much enjoying it!

I'm curious if you'd like this, Maria. Hah, I'm sorry to be so cautious in my comments here, but this author might be an acquired taste for some. I'm glad people are at least willing to give the book a shot, though!


message 25: by Els (new)

Els I hope so too! It looks like a good book, hopefully it'll arrive today and I can start it tonight!


Sally Revolver I also thought was fantastic :) And I hope you do enjoy Swordhand, Wendy! It's so refreshing as well to read something where the vampires are dangerous and malicious and evil and non-sparkly ;) I also just adore his settings, how well you can get the feel for the cold, dark woods. So delicious.


message 27: by Sarah (saz101) (new)

Sarah (saz101) WENDY. WOW. This as a review alone is kind of amazing :O Can't wait to see what you have to say ♥


message 28: by Chris (new) - added it

Chris Howard "odd and beautifully strange" is often my cup of tea :) good to hear!


message 29: by Christine (new) - added it

Christine This is a little off topic, but..remembering your comment about the Prinz books, and awards announced today...I noticed that In Darkness, this year's winner, is on your to-read list. I do think it is one of the best YA books I've read. It may be another exception for you :)


Wendy Darling Ah, thanks for the insight, Christine. You're right, for some reason I don't tend to connect with too many Printz winners, but there's always an exception. :)


message 31: by Lora (new) - added it

Lora Great review, Wendy. I've had this one on hold at my library for a couple weeks now; I'm looking forward to it.

And thanks so much for the recommendations. They sound really good.


message 32: by Jill (new) - added it

Jill I've had this on my tbr for a while, and I'm so so glad to hear that it's a more complex story than often seen in YA. Lately, YA has been so hit and miss for me (mostly miss, though), that I've been wondering if I am no longer a young adult and merely an adult! I don't want to give up on one of my favorite genres, however; so I'm seeking out YA books that are more inventive.


Wendy Darling This isn't a book that'll work for a lot of readers, Lora--but I'm curious what you'd think of it! I don't remember a lot of horror books on your shelves, hah.

Jill, this is definitely so, so different from most YA that's being published. The author is from the UK, so the whole feel of it (and I hate to say this, but also the sophistication of the writing) stands out from the majority of more cookie-cutter YA projects that we see here in the U.S. I hope you don't give up on the genre! Let me know what you think of this one when you read it.


message 34: by Lora (new) - added it

Lora Wendy Darling wrote: "This isn't a book that'll work for a lot of readers, Lora--but I'm curious what you'd think of it! I don't remember a lot of horror books on your shelves, hah.

Jill, this is definitely so, so dif..."


It is true that I don't typically read horror, but I love anything strange, and I love Scandinavia. So I'm almost positive I'll like this one.


message 35: by Francine (new)

Francine Going to have to read this now - what a great review!


Stacia (out of inspiration) This looks good, and it has a male POV? I had to add it.


✽ Sharon is an emotional book junkie ✽ great review Wendy...sounds really interesting!


Wendy Darling YES. And ah, thank you Francine!

Well, it's third person, Stacia--but some of it is from the male POV. A tricky book, but definitely a rewarding one if you like this type of writing.

Thanks Sharon! I loved this one. :)


message 39: by David (new) - added it

David Green WOW! If just reading your review was enough to give me chills, the book must be fantastic! Great review as always, Ms. Darling!


message 40: by Kritika (new) - added it

Kritika I agree with David - your review gave me chills! I have never read anything by Marcus Sedgwick, but it seems like I would really like his books. Is this one a collection of short stories, or do they all connect to make a larger story?


message 41: by BiblioJen (new)

BiblioJen Beautifully written review, Wendy! :-)


Wendy Darling Ahh, if the review gave you chills, just think what the book will do, David! ;) And thank you.

Kritika, I don't know where I've been but I hadn't even heard of the author until I randomly read White Crow last year. I think he's an author you either love or you don't--but so are most of the authors I love best, hah.

This is a collection of short stories, but they all weave together to make a larger story. It's fascinating how he connects all the dots.

And thank you, Jen! Much appreciated. :)


message 43: by Kala (new) - added it

Kala Might have to get this one. I LOVED Monstrous Beauty!


message 44: by NotoriousGOT (new) - added it

NotoriousGOT And this is now on my radar. Great review!


message 45: by Johannah (new)

Johannah this sounds perfect to me! I love dark moody stuff!


Wendy Darling I bet you'll love this then, Kala. :) let me know if I'm right!

Thanks Margot--this is such a weird book, but if you like weird you might enjoy it.

This is pretty dark, Johannah, so it sounds perfect for you indeed. :)


message 47: by Lucy (new)

Lucy This seems a very interesting book.


message 48: by Nicki (new) - added it

Nicki This sounds very interesting! I added it upon seeing your review.


message 49: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Insightful review as always, Wendy! I might have to pick this one up.


Wendy Darling I love it, Lucy, although I don't know that everyone will. The writing style is very different from most YA books.

I'm glad you are going to give it a try, Nicki! Hope you enjoy.

And thank you, Courtney! Maybe worth checking out at the library at least. :)


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