Reviews for Midwinter Blood
Booklist Reviews 2012 December #1
*Starred Review* In the year 2073, a reporter named Eric is sent to Blessed Island to research a rare flower called the Dragon Orchid. There he finds an insular community of mysterious villagers, a delicious tea that has him losing days at a time, and a beguiling girl named Merle. In just 50 pages, we reach a shattering conclusion--and then start anew in 2011. An archaeologist is digging on Blessed Island, where he meets a quiet boy named Eric and his mother, Merle. So begins this graceful, confounding, and stirring seven-part suite about two characters whose identities shift as they are reborn throughout the ages. Sedgwick tells the story in reverse, introducing us to a stranded WWII pilot, a painter trying to resurrect his career in 1901, two children being told a ghost story in 1848, and more, all the way back to a king and queen in a Time Unknown. It is a wildly chancy gambit with little in the way of a solid throughline, but Sedgwick handles each story with such stylistic control that interest is not just renewed each time but intensified. Part love story, part mystery, part horror, this is as much about the twisting hand of fate as it is about the mutability of folktales. Its strange spell will capture you. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Fall
Sedgwick takes us backwards through time in seven short stories set on a remote island. Each begins with love and ends with death--of young lovers, parents and children, or brothers and sisters. It's only in reading through all seven that we begin to understand the ritual that brings bloody death and forbidden love to "Blessed Island." Sedgwick's prose is taut, careful, and chilling.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2013 #2
Sedgwick takes us backwards, first by sixty-year intervals and then by leaps of centuries, in seven short stories centering on a remote northern island and the potent, drug-laden flower that blooms there. Each story begins with love and ends with death, whether of young lovers, parents and children, or brothers and sisters. It's only in reading through all seven that we begin to understand the prehistoric ritual that brings bloody death and forbidden love to "Blessed Island." In each of these stories -- set in 2073, 2011, 1944, 1902, 1848, the Viking period of the tenth century, and "time unknown" -- Sedgwick's prose is taut, careful, and chilling, as it moves through the bright, gentle language of love and the island's beauty to the abrupt, deliberate sacrifice that ends each section. The dark deceptiveness of words themselves underlies the island's shift from "bloody" to "blessed" (as the narrator says in a philological moment, tracing the word's evolution from Old to Modern English). But it's the earthy, the romantic, and the ghostly -- rather than the cerebral -- that make this book such a complete work of art. deirdre f. baker
Kirkus Reviews 2012 December #2
The Time Traveler's Wife meets Lost in this chilling exploration of love and memory. A dystopian start to the novel finds journalist Eric on remote Blessed Island in the extreme north in the year 2073. Tasked with gathering information on a rare orchid that is rumored to stop the aging process, he feels instant attraction to native islander Merle. As Eric drinks a strange tea brewed from the orchid, he begins to forget his life on the mainland yet remembers feelings for Merle. But how and when did he know her? Seven linked stories progress backward across centuries, following Eric and Merle's relationship as it takes on many forms, such as father/daughter or brother/sister, throughout time. Presented as different cycles of the moon, the stories feature various genres, from realistic and war stories to stories about ghosts and Viking vampires, ending with a hint of mystery to be revealed in subsequent chapters. This form, as well as the novel's reliance on adult protagonists, is a rarity in literature for teens. Inspired by Swedish artist Carl Larsson's controversial painting, Midvinterblot (translated as midwinter sacrifice), Sedgwick crafts these seven treats with spare, exact prose in which no word is unnecessary. Together, their reoccurring motifs of orchids, moons, blood and language--to name a few--reinforce Eric and Merle's enduring love. Haunting, sophisticated and ultimately exquisite. (author's note) (Fantasy. 13 & up) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Media Connection Reviews 2013 October
Not many YA novels feature adults as the primary characters, and even fewer begin in the future and progress centuries into the past, but both are the case in this book. Through seven different sets of stories, two people continually re-emerge in different identities, in a kind of reverse reincarnation. In each iteration they end up on a remote Scandinavian island called Blessed. Fantasy and time travel fans will be hooked until the end (before recorded time began), but the book otherwise does not have broad appeal. For a riveting story about waking up in others' bodies, check out Every Day (Knopf, 2012) by David Levithan. Bernie Morrissey, Middle School Librarian, The Harker School, San Jose, California [Editor's Note: Available in e-book format.] ADDITIONAL SELECTION Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Library Journal Express Reviews
Sweden's most controversial painting inspires this tale of a centuries-old cycle of love and tragedy. Hanging in Stockholm's Nationalmuseum, Carl Larsson's Midvinterblot (1915) tells the story of a king who is sacrificed by his people in order to end a famine. In Sedgwick's telling, connected stories of a dragon-flower cult, an archaeological dig, a painter, a vampire, and a ghost point further and further back to the bloody beginnings of the northern isle of Blessed, ultimately landing on the same Norse legend. Themes of love and loss play out in each story, which are tied together by the island, familiar-sounding names, and a foreboding sense of danger. Fans of the television series Lost will find much to like in this atmospheric and emotionally resonant literary achievement. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 December #3
"I always prefer a walk that goes in a circle.... Don't you?" a woman named Bridget says to her daughter, Merle, at one point in this heady mystery that joins the remote northern setting of Sedgwick's Revolver with the multigenerational scope of his White Crow. Sedgwick appears to share Bridget's sentiment: as he moves backward through time in seven interconnected stories--from the late 21st century to an unspecified ancient era--character names, spoken phrases, and references to hares, dragons, and sacrifice reverberate, mutate, and reappear. Set on a mysterious and isolated Nordic island, the stories all include characters with variations on the names of Eric and Merle. In a present-day story about an archeological dig, Eric is a oddly strong, brain-damaged teenager and Merle his mother; in the 10th century, when the island was inhabited by Vikings, Eirek and Melle are young twins, whose story answers questions raised by what the archeologists discover. Teenage characters are few and far between, but a story that's simultaneously romantic, tragic, horrifying, and transcendental is more than enough to hold readers' attention, no matter their age. Ages 12-up. (Feb.) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC
School Library Journal Reviews 2013 March
Gr 9 Up--Beginning in July 2073, Sedgwick's new novel makes its way backward through time, drawing readers into seven stories from different eras. Whether it is a 21st-century archaeologist, a World War II pilot, or a Viking king, there are subtle but tell-tale signs of the threads that bind them together over the centuries-the echoes of particular names and phrases, the persistence of a mysterious dragon orchid, and other seemingly innocuous moments that all hint at the dark mystery at the center of this lyrical yet horrifying tale. The plot is reminiscent of David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas (Sceptre, 2004), with its themes of love and reincarnation, as well as of the cult-movie-turned-book Robin Hardy's Wicker Man (Crown, 1978), with its setting of remote and sinister island inhabitants. The many characters are vividly real and distinct from one another, despite making only brief appearances. Each of these vignettes seem rich enough to be worthy of a novel of its own, and readers might almost wish they could pause in each fascinating, detailed moment rather than be swept through time-and the novel-on the current of a cursed love. Although fans of the author's Revolver (Roaring Brook, 2010) will likely flock to this book to relish more of Sedgwick's stark, suspenseful writing, new readers might find that there are more questions left unanswered than are resolved.--Evelyn Khoo Schwartz, Georgetown Day School, Washington, DC [Page 174]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.