A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Midwinterblood won American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Written by English author Marcus Sedgwick, the fantasy novel is an epic tale of love through seven vastly different time periods -- from 2073 to the ancient past -- from the perspective of everything from a journalist and a painter to a vampire and a Viking. Told in vignettes, the book has been compared to Cloud Atlas in structure. There's some violence (the title is literal) in each of the stories, and characters die in sometimes grisly ways (a ritual sacrifice being the bloodiest, and a shooting being the saddest). Unlike other mature YA novels, there's not a good deal of sex and strong language. The author discusses or describes passion, desire, and love in all its forms throughout the book, but that's the point of the stories -- the power of love.
What's the story?
MIDWINTERBLOOD by Marcus Sedgwick is a supernatural love story that combines elements of paranormal romance and reincarnation. It starts off in the near future -- 2073 -- with a journalist named Eric visiting Blessed Island, a remote and creepy place full of childless inhabitants who are rumored to hold the secret to health and longevity. While on assignment, Eric meets a beautiful woman named Merle and falls instantly in love, feeling as if he's met her before and has somehow always been in love with her. Without giving away too much, let's just say the island's home to many secrets, and readers are plunged into seven vignettes from the past, from the 21st century to ancient times, all dealing with other sets of Erics and Merles, the island, and the nature of love.
Is it any good?
Critics have called Midwinterblood a Cloud Atlas for teens, and it's definitely an apt comparison. It's just 262 pages, but somehow Sedgwick packs in so much detail into each of the interconnected short stories. Told from the perspective of an archaeologist, pilot, painter, ghost, vampire, a Viking, and a king, the stories take place under a different Full Moon (the Flower Moon, the Grain Moon, the Blood Moon) and explore how Eric and Merle's souls have been intertwined for more than a millennium. If a lesser writer had tried to tackle such an ambitious storyline, it no doubt would've taken way upwards of 500 pages, but Sedgwick is more than up to the task of being concise but still breathtakingly eloquent.
Young readers who start the book need to be mature enough to handle the horror elements, like ritual sacrifice, and to understand how to connect the dots between the Full Moons, Blessed Island's mysterious orchid, and of course, the different incarnations of Eric and Merle. Each story is in itself a miniature horror or mystery tale, but at its root, these stories are about love, in its many forms, and how a passion so deep could transcend the boundaries of time and death.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes the book deserving of the ALA's top award for young adult literature. What are the various aspects of the book -- the writing, the plot, the characterization, the themes -- that make it stand out from other books?
What are some other stories that use a similar device of exploring characters during different eras of time? How does this one compare?
Although Midwinterblood is about love across time, the characters of Eric and Merle aren't always lovers. What does that say about the nature of love? Which of the vignettes is your favorite?
- Author: Marcus Sedgwick
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Macmillan
- Publication date: February 5, 2013
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: ALA Best and Notable Books
- Last updated: July 13, 2017
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