Author: Marcus Sedgwick
Published: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Roaring Book Press
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Rating: 3.5 stars
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“If a life can be ruined in a single moment, a moment of betrayal, or violence, or ill luck, then why can a life not also be saved, be worth living, be made, by just a few pure moments of perfection?"My Thoughts
― Marcus Sedgwick, Midwinterblood
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? From award-winning author Marcus Sedgwick comes a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love. (Goodreads)
Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick is unlike anything I've read before. This book takes you on a long but rewarding journey of despair and heartache, love lost and found again. Of course, other books have chronicled a series of lives where reincarnated lovers meet again and again, but these types of books usually move forward in years and not in reverse. Midwinterblood is the exception to the rule, as it spirals backwards in time, and we find ourselves at the end of the story in the beginning and vice versa. My mind was left reeling as the story jumped wildly from one time period to the next, always going backwards in time, but I also appreciated this unique twist on what could have been an overused storyline.
Midwinterblood is a quick read, with a page count of only 272 pages, but never mistake it for a light read. Its rich storytelling and sinister undertones had me racing through the pages, all the while feeling a deep sense of foreboding. Told in seven parts, each story is masterfully written, hand-feeding us bittersweet morsels until we can no longer deny the inevitable outcome. Some of these tales were darker and were even disturbing, setting a creepy atmosphere that sent chills down my spine. To me, they read like stories one would tell to listeners gathered at the fireside, or folktales told to children before bed (one of them actually is told to children at their bedtime). Every one of them teaches us the importance of family and loved ones, and it is the unbreakable bonds of love that connect each of these stories, leading two loved ones together again and again.
What I loved most about Midwinterblood is that it doesn't just focus on romantic love; Eric and Merle are not always lovers when they cross paths. Sometimes, they are siblings, or a mother and son, and so on. What matters is not that they are in love, but that they are willing to sacrifice anything for the well-being of the other. That kind of love is never to be taken lightly, and we realize that all of their suffering and heartache is meant for something much more, and that their pain is worth it when a few moments of happiness can be snatched here and there.
Despite my deep appreciation for Sedgwick's lovely writing, I felt little to nothing for the main characters. When the reader is constantly being whisked from one tale to the next, it is difficult to connect with the characters, seeing as they are always changing. Just when I was growing accustomed to new characters, the story changed and we were thrown even further back in time. Yes, they may have been the same two characters reincarnated, but they are still entirely new individuals, with complexities and characteristics we cannot hope to understand in just a brief section. I needed full-fleshed characters and not the hastily sketched outlines we were given in Midwinterblood. I was never fully invested in Eric and Merle's lives because I needed more character development, and this left me feeling somewhat unsatisfied after finishing the book. I feel like this book could have been a little longer, so that more character details could be added to each tale.
Regardless of my complaints, Midwinterblood is a excellent read, as Sedgwick skillfully interweaves seven tales of passion, with each escalating in tension until the final story reveals all. This suspenseful read had me sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of each new tale, and I can fully understand why it won the Printz Award.