Book review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Midwinterblood Book Poster Image
Dark fantasy chronicles a love that transcends time, death.

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age 14+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Observant readers will learn the various folkloric names for the full moons, depending on the time of year: the Flower Moon, Hay Moon, Grain Moon, Fruit Moon, Hunter's Moon, Snow Moon  and Blood Moon. Those who read the Author's Note will discover that the painting described in the Painter's section is based on a real one by a Swedish painter named Carl Larsson. It, too, is called Midvinterblot.

Positive Messages

The undeniable message of Midwinterblood is about love, how it transcends time and space and can manifest itself in various ways in different types of relationships.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The various versions of Eric and Merle are usually brave and devoted to each other, whether they're mother and son, twins, or lovers.


There's death and violence throughout, with some of the deaths incredibly bloody (a blood sacrifice ceremony requires that a man be ritually stabbed and cut open in two of the stories) and some much milder -- a character dies of drowning and another of being hunted after transforming into an animal. One vignette follows a vampire, and another features a brutal hand-to-hand fight that ends in fratricide. 


Love in its various forms (parent-child, husband-wife, brother-sister, young lovers, close friends) is discussed in every story, but there are no actual sex scenes. A man is naked, but in a ceremonial, not sexual, way. Couples embrace, kiss, frolic in the sea, and declare their love for each other. There's reference to a wife who commits adultery with her husband's brother -- possibly the real father of her children.


"Damn," "bastard," "stupid," "hell," and sometimes the word "curses" stands in for actual strong language.



Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

In almost all of the stories, characters drink a powerful tea brewed from the leaves of a rare orchid. The tea is basically magical; it has the power to heal but also to make people forgetful, compliant, sleepy, and foggy headed. In one story, a king about to go to his death reveals he has smoked the stem of the flower, which has numbing, calming effects.

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.  

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Teen, 15 years old Written byHIBSY March 14, 2020

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?

Book details

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For kids who love romance and fantasy

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