Review: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick


February 4, 2013 by Heidi

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick book coverTitle: Midwinterblood [Amazon|Goodreads]
Author: Marcus Sedgwick [Website|Twitter]
Standing: Stand alone novel.
Genre: Young Adult, Horror, Fantasy
Published: February 5th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
Format: Hardcover; 272 pages.
Source: ARC from publisher.

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? This is a book about passion and preservation and ultimately an exploration of the bounds of love.

I love a book that resists being pinned down into one thing or another.  Midwinterblood could have been a Salute Your Shorts post–it is a series of seven short stories after all.  It could be categorized as science fiction, fantasy, or horror, futuristic or historical; it has elements of all these things.  At the end of the day, Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood is a book that will defy easy categorization, but more than anything it is a love story–if only we can remember that love does not equate to romance.

Midwinterblood is a book that plunges us back through the annals of history.  The history of Blessed Island, and the history of a particular set of characters.  As we descend into the depths of the past, the overarching story becomes a puzzle that is slowly and cleverly clicked into place.  We begin in the future, fall to the present, and move back and back to times uncharted through seven distinct but intertwined stories.  As we move back through time, we move forward by moons–forward from June and the Flower Moon to December and Midwinter under The Blood Moon.

Each story in Midwinterblood is connected by a series of common threads.  The island, a peculiar flower, repeated phrases, and a series of characters who are ever original but strangely familiar in turn.  The overall tapestry of these tales does not present the picture one might expect upon picking up a book with the line “Seven stories of passion and love…” on the cover.  The stories are no doubt filled to the brim with passion and love, but as I stated–Midwinterblood is not a romance.  It highlights the various potential connections that one soul may have to another.  Some tenuous, some strong, each relationship is shadowed with significance and love.  There are also horrors to chill every reader, whether your fear be the paranormal, such as ghosts or vampires, or thoughts closer to reality such as war, claustrophobia, or death.  One particular thread that I loved was the tale of sacrifice, passed to us through the hands of an artist, Eric Carlsson, or, as reality would have it, Carl Larrson.  The painting described in the book is pictured below, featuring a king who is sacrificed to his gods and people so that they will suffer from poor harvest seasons no longer.

In Midwinterblood, Marcus Sedgwick makes expert use of setting as character through Blessed Island.  As we stumble back through time, taking pages to find our footing with each story, one thing is constant–the island.  We learn its geography, its history, its flora and fauna, those things that build upon themselves to create the notion of place.  This book is as much about Blessed Island as it is about the characters, maybe even more so.   The island plays host to each tale, witnesses the horrors, joys, and mysteries therein–but not just as a setting, as an active participant.  As I have mentioned previously, this is one of my favorite constructions that can come about in the world building of a novel–I am growing curious as to why it always seems to happen with islands.

I do realize that I have not mentioned a single character by name as of yet in this review, let alone discussed them in detail, and I don’t particularly intend to.  I have to hope that those words I’ve said thus far are enough to entice you into reading this richly emotional and chilling book, as it is one of those stories where the reader ought to go in knowing as little as possible.  I do wish that some connections were better explained or given foundation throughout (like the history/properties of the dragon orchid, the island’s disconnect from mainland society, the almost Hot Fuzz feel about town), but regardless Midwinterblood is a surprising, dark, and beautiful quick read.  It will remind you of the power a place can have over a soul, make you think closely on the bonds we form throughout life, and make you question how much really changes about people throughout time.

Eirikr lies on the table, staring into the night sky, staring at the uncountable stars that are shining brightly down on him.

What lives, he thinks, are lived by the men up there?

What do they do?

What do they believe?

What do they see?

Do they see me?

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedwick UK book coverHe wonders about them all, all the many lives that have been, and that will be, and wonders why they are not all the same, why they are what they are.  It cannot be, he thinks, that when our life is run, we are done.  There must be more to man than that, surely?

That we are not just one, but a multitude.

Midwinterblood was originally published October 6th, 2011 by Orion in the UK.  I have to say, I like how the figure in the front matches the figure in Carl Larrson’s painting.

Midvinterblot by Carl Larrson

Midvinterblot by Carl Larrson–Painting from the National Museum in Stockholm
Image via My Delineated Life (Click for full size).

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Marcus Sedgwick was one of my “Big Three” tbr authors in 2012, and I’m happy to say I ticked them all off the list before the year’s end (even if I failed dismally at the rest of that list).  I had an inkling I’d love Sedgwick’s work, and if Midwinterblood is any indication, I’m quite excited to pick up more.

Real life repercussions of reading this book:  Just wanted to say that I read Midwinterblood in a single sitting the week of Halloween back in October when we were out of power from the Hurricane.  Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect read for my current setting–this is a great fall/winter book!

Recommended for: Those who like unconventional stories, or tales that look at things from various angles.  Anyone who likes to see a puzzle fall together, and a rich setting.

Get a second opinion:
The Book Smugglers – Ana’s take – “From the beginning it brims with tension and one can’t help but to be engulfed by a suffocating sense of Impending Doom (making it a perfect Halloween read) but more than that, it is a story with heart and it’s full of sadness and sweetness and beauty. I loved it.” Thea’s take – “Midwinterblood is pretty near perfect. Absolutely recommended, and I’ll definitely be around to read more from Marcus Sedgwick in the near future.”
The Midnight Garden – “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”


MidwinterbloodBlogTour_BannerThe Midwinterblood Blog Tour kicks off today over at The Midnight Garden, and will be swinging back around to end here at Bunbury in the Stacks on the 13th.  Nothing gets you ready for romance like a bit of sacrifice, eh?  Be sure to stop by for a guest post by the talented Marcus Sedgwick and your chance to win a finished copy of the book!


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  1. What a beautiful review! I haven’t heard of this one yet though Sedgwick is an author I have been wanting to read! I am adding this one to the TBR for sure, I kind of only wish it was October again so I could read it during a nice autumn day!

    • Heidi says:

      I hope you check this one out, Alyssa! I really think it’s your kind of read–it’s dark and creepy, but also really touching.

  2. After reading your review and Wendy’s at The Midnight Garden, I’m dying to read this book! Thanks for putting it on my radar.

  3. White Crow by Sedgwick was one of my favorites from 2012, and I’m eagerly looking forward to reading more from him. Midwinterblood, as you describe it, sounds like it would be right up my alley. I love the idea of a set of inter-related but somewhat separate stories that revolve around the same place and share similar themes. Actually, it sounds a bit similar to Edward Rutherford’s historical novels, if you’re familiar with those.

    • Heidi says:

      I ALMOST read White Crow for Halloween last year, but ended up reading a different horror instead–I do still plan to read it though! I am NOT familiar with Edward Rutherford, but I’m heading on over to Goodreads to check him out right now, I love that sort of thing.

    • Heidi says:

      Lol, just checked out Rutherford and he totally sounds like of the James A. Michener of cities.

  4. Yay! I’m so glad you enjoyed this as I plan to pick it up soon and make it my first Sedgewick read. It sounds so fascinating and I love the idea of re-incarnation through multiple generations, especially as it’s one that is prevalent in my own religion. Plus, an island setting? Why are all island settings the best? Rollrock, Thisby, the one in Hannah Moskowitz’s Teeth…I’m sure this just continues to fit into the pattern. Fantastic review, Heidi! :)

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! This was an excellent first Sedgwick read for me, and I hope you dig it as well. It’s so unique, and such a quick read. OMG I want to read Teeth like crazy btw…I check to see if my library’s ordered it about every day. Sooner or later i’m going to buy it. :)

  5. Man, what an amazing review Heidi–I knew this would be worth waiting for! I love how you talk about the island itself–it really is almost a character on its own. I agree that it’s best people don’t know too many details going into this book, too. I’m so glad you loved it! And you and I both have lots of Marcus Sedgwick books to look forward to. :)

    Thanks for linking to my review–I’m so looking forward to your tour stop later this week!

    • Heidi says:

      Thanks, Wendy! I’m really excited for both of us to dig into his back catalog, I’ve been wanting to for a while, it’s about time that I finally do!

  6. I’m excited about this one — just put it on hold at my library. I love dark books, and books with unconventional story structure.

  7. VeganYANerds says:

    I haven’t read anything by Marcus but this is the second review of this book I’ve seen today and I am thoroughly intrigued, Heids!

    Islands always seem to have a life of their own and I like the reference to Hot Fuzz!

    • Heidi says:

      Yes! I’m loving island settings these days for this reason–setting as character is one of my favorite writing conventions ever. I really want to read more of Sedgwick’s work now, to me this was creepy but not scary, which I love.

  8. […] his wonderful new US release, Midwinterblood.  If you stopped by last week, you saw that I was a huge fan of this unconventional tale that was simultaneously atmospheric, eerie, and positively original. […]

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.