Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick
Intertwined stories that range from the near future of 2073 to the distant past of the Vikings, this book lures the reader in with dark promises, strange happenings, and dares you to follow your curiosity deeper and deeper. When Eric Seven arrives at the island of Blessed to see if the claims that people have discovered how to live longer (if not forever) are true, he is greeted with warmth and immediately set up in house of his own. No one lives on the western side of the island and the eastern side only has adults, no children. Eric starts out with drive to discover what is wrong, but the longer he spends on the island and drinking the tea the community provides him, the less he wants to explore at all. When he travels to the western side of the island finally, his story forms the door to those that follow. Layer upon layer, the lives of the people on Blessed are told, each layer revealing something new and equally odd. This impressive novel is impossible to put down until the final story and the real truth is revealed in all of its horror.
Immediately upon opening this book, the strangeness of the story was apparent. As Eric slips into complacency, I was almost screaming at him with frustration. It was the ideal way to open this book where so much hinges upon the moments of hair raising oddity that link the stories. Sedgwick has built this book so exquisitely that there is no guessing at the ending until it comes. It is a story of love but also of revenge, of brotherhood but also of murder.
Set on a Scandinavian island that is remote, Sedgwick uses the unusual formation of the island as a large part of the story. The two halves nearly severed from one another, they are two worlds connected only slightly. So the island itself reflects the story of generations of people who remain connected as well. The inclusion of the dragon orchid and the powerful tea it brews is also a great symbol within the story. The orchids are powerful, strange but also beautiful and delicate.
This compelling novel is amazing teen literature. It has enough depth to be used in a classroom where the symbolism and incredible writing can be celebrated. It is also a riveting combination of romance and horror that will thrill discriminating teen readers. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.