Book Review: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

Seven stories, spanning years, intersect in this novel.  All seven stories–featuring all sorts of different characters, including a pilot, a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a king–take place on a remote Scandinavian island called Blessed where there’s a mysterious plant resembling a dragon.  What do all these stories have in common?

Midwinterblood has received a great deal of press in the last year, and rightfully so.  It’s an ambitious novel, and it’s memorable, without a doubt.  Just trying to summarize the plot above was no easy feat.  Heaped with critical praise, this is going to be one that divides readers: they’re either going to “get” it, or they aren’t.

I fall into the latter category.  Try as I might, I never fully connected with this one.  It could be that the hype machine got to me and I was never going to love it as much as I felt like I should, or it could be that it simply didn’t work for me.  What I do know is this: the writing is impeccable, the characters are fascinating, and the premise itself is compelling.  But it never came together for me.

While the characters are definitely fascinating, the reader never spends enough time with any of them to fully grasp what is happening or what their motivations are.  There’s this creeping feeling throughout the novel, and while that in itself should keep the pages turning for most readers, there wasn’t enough substance here for me to walk away feeling sated.

That being said, the writing is excellent.  Sedgwick writes each section of the story with an intriguing, haunting prose that hooks the reader.  The creeping feeling of dread that permeates the pages is due in large part to his talent, and even the most skeptical reader will have a hard time overlooking that.

It might be that this is a novel that demands a second or third read-through, but for the time being, I’m left wondering, “Yeah, and?”

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick. Roaring Brook Press: 2013. Library copy.

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