Monday, June 10, 2013

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

“So it is.” This brief phrase, a refrain reminiscent of “So it goes” from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, echoes throughout Marcus Sedgwick’s Midwinterblood. It echoes across decades and centuries, across the seasons of the sun and moon, across the waters from the mystical island of Blessed. Midwinterblood contains multitudes, seven stories for seven lives. Or, rather, seven stories for two lives. Confused? You may be early on in Sedgwick's latest inventive tale, but as he moves us from the future through the past, we see the sacrifices that link these stories, and these lives.
“He wonders about them all, all the many lives that have been, and that will be, and wonders why they are not all the same, why they are what they are. It cannot be, he thinks, that when our life is run, we are done. There must be more to man than that, surely?
That we are not just one, but a multitude.” (250)

Another linking refrain involves the phrase “speak of the devil,” or one of its older iterations. And the Devil stalks these pages, as we learn of the sacrifices good people are sometimes forced to make to prevent the spread of evil. Of the sacrifices we make for love, romantic and otherwise. For as one of the characters in the novel tells us, “To bless means to sacrifice, and in blood” (164).

I do not mean to be oblique, but the structure of Midwinterblood makes it difficult to present specific details without giving away the game, as it were. Part of the pleasure of reading Midwinterblood, and it is compulsively readable (and deceptively deep), is the unfolding of the map Sedgwick has so skillfully constructed. Modern-day cartography too often involves merely the dropping of a digital pin, but Sedgwick has written an old, old story, one that needs retelling, lest we forget the role of sacrifice, the role of darkness in our bright modern world.

And so it is.

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