Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Review: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Release date: October 6th, 2011
Info about the author: Goodreads - Twitter - Website
Publisher: Indigo
Age group: YA (?)
Pages: 272
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

Have you ever had the feeling that you've lived another life? Been somewhere that has felt totally familiar, even though you've never been there before, or felt that you know someone well, even though you are meeting them for the first time? It happens. In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumour has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visiting journalist, Eric Seven, and a young local woman known as Merle are ritually slain. Their deaths echo a moment ten centuries before, when, in the dark of the moon, a king was slain, tragically torn from his queen. Their souls search to be reunited, and as mother and son, artist and child, forbidden lovers, victims of a vampire they come close to finding what they've lost. In a novel comprising seven parts, each influenced by a moon - the flower moon, the harvest moon, the hunter's moon, the blood moon - this is the story of Eric and Merle whose souls have been searching for each other since their untimely parting.


Marcus Sedgwick's Midwinterblood definitely surprised me in several different ways. It wasn't as "YA" as I expected and I think I would rather categorize it as an adult fantasy/paranormal novel to be completely honest - it starts with an adult protagonist and though through the "timetravel" format we do get perspectives of younger individuals, I still think this was a lot grittier and darker than most titles decribed as "YA paranormal". 
I have to admit that I do not quite know what to think about Midwinterblood and how to actually write this review. On the other hand, I did like it and find it interesting, but on the other, I just wanted to it end so I could read something else. I hope to find reasons for those feelings while writing this review.

Midwinterblood starts from the future. It is 2073 and a journalist Eric Seven travels to the mysterious Blessed island to investigate the island itself and the people who live there for a story. Though the island is beautiful and the people are almost too friendly, Eric feels like something is not right, but always when he seems to start to doubt himself and the islanders, he drinks a cup of soothing tea and forgets his worries. Then he speaks to Merle, a beautiful young woman Eric feels like he has met before, and things start to get suspicious. The islanders get a hint of Eric's suspicions and do something that had actually been done before, years and years ago.

What happens to Eric at the island in 2073 (kind of given away in the Goodreads synopsis) is then echoed through several different lives, time periods and characters through stories that all are set in Blessed and which all intertwine and connect to the previous stories and the stories that follow them. Sedgwick excels in making a connection between the stories and manages to make them very different, but still deep down quite the same, which in this case is a very good thing. I really liked how Sedgwick described the people and the island itself during the different time periods - he talked about customs, about the people who lived there and about the weird things that took place within each period. The moon (harvest moon, blood moon) aspect was also well established and added depth to the story. The changes in Eric and Merle's story are also very interesting - they are lovers in one story, mother and son in one, and so on - throughout, they are connected more closely than anyone else, as if they were meant to be together, one way or another.

This section is a bit difficult to get into due to the sectionality of this novel. Eric and Merle are the main characters, I would say, but do to the fact that there are seven stories here, we get seven different versions of both characters. 
Let's just say that I think one of my main problems with this novel was the characters. I just did not connect with either Eric or Merle AT ALL, which is something I usually need to be able to do in order to enjoy a novel. And even if there is not a connection, I usually need to feel something for the characters, and in case of Midwinterblood, I didn't really feel anything. To be comletely honest, I think Eric and Merle were the least interesting part of this whole novel. 

It could be argued that the island itself becomes a character in this novel. If that is the case and if you see that argument as valid, then I would say that the island was my favorite character in this one. It changes throughout the stories, but still stays "honest" to itself - it is mysterious, a bit dark and full of people who might be hiding something.


Sedgwick writes beautifully and it feels like the words just flow on the pages. His language is very poetic, yet very easy to read. He is also very descriptive, especially in relation to the island and the different time periods that take place there. 
As mentioned, the novel is divided into seven different time periods in which Eric and Merle all play a role. These time periods are well established and Sedgwick paces the stories well to keep the mystery and intrigue intact until the last pages of the novel. This is a fairly short novel and the different sections and chapters are all quite short as well. I am usually a fan of short chapters, so I personally really liked that aspect of this novel!


As I mentioned before, throughout reading this I felt like I liked it, but at the same time I wished that it would end so I could start reading something else. Now that I've put more thought into this through the process of writing this review, I think a lot of those feelings can be connected to the characters of Eric and Merle and how little I actually connected with them or felt for them. I was probably 2/3s into the novel when I started to continually check how much I have left to read and I was already thinking what to read next at the back of my mind. I think that at that moment I had already read so much about my favorite "character", the island, that I wanted other characters I could read about and be interested about.


Midwinterblood was in no way a bad book. It is beautifully written, well paced and quite unexpected and unique plotwise. The major issue I personally had was with the characters, which pulls my rating down a bit. In general though, Midwinterblood is a short, quick and a very different paranormal read.

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