You’ve got a brooding island where no-one grows old, but also where there are no children, you’ve got a plant like a dragon, which possibly heals, or possibly kills. You’ve got a map that deliberately sets out to confuse. A possibly possessed bicycle. A vampire. The spilling of an awful lot of blood. But at its heart, there is a love story.
Welcome to the enjoyably sinister world of Marcus Sedgwick’s ‘Midwinterblood’.
In typically Sedgwick-style, as well as a brilliant, engrossing story, you get sophisticated structural complexity that feels like it is teasing and challenging all the the way through. It’s an enviable feat to start a story in 2073 and move relentlessly backwards, taking in the second world war, through a Viking settlement and ends in the tenth century.
But not only does each story intertwine magnificently, with echoes of the past, portents for the future to be picked up, as the reader can see what goes after it’s a much more emotional journey – this journey of tracing people who are more interconnected than they know - to see what comes before.
And each story is heartbreaking in its own way as they are all linked with sacrifice at the heart. Is sacrifice an outdated notion in a modern world, one character asks? Then we witness sacrifice of a brother for a sister, of a stranger in war, of a mother for a child.
‘Midwinter Blood’ dives to the heart of this issue, making for gripping reading as we closer and closer to the heart of the mystery we have travelled over a thousand years to unravel.
It is a masterly feat of writing - and from looking at the Carnegie shadowing site, plus talking to many of the children involved in reading and reviewing all of this year's books - this one is turning out to be a favourite.
Marcus Sedgwick is one of our best-known literary writers, who manages to win awards, while also writing original dramas with pace, plot and often sinister undertones. What he also manages here is a perfectly thrilling YA novel that spills as much blood as it does tears.
We asked Marcus what his favourite thing was about his shortlisted book.
. So...: Well that's a difficult question for a basically modest person to answer, but if I could admit to liking something about it, I'd be stuck to choose between a few things. The book was a chance to PLAY: by writing 7 interlinked stories it meant I could have a lot of fun with styles/genres and placing all the interconnections. The most personal part of the book is The Painter section, but I'm also very pleased with the Viking part which borrows from the verse styles of Scandinavia.
Definitely the sort of book that has had many readers searching out all of Marcus's backlist to discover what a truly amazing author he is.