While reading the Printz 2014 winner, Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick, I learned the novel is based on/inspired by a real painting that hangs in the Swedish Nationalmuseum— Midvinterblot. The painting is a controversial scene out of Nordic history based on the Sagas; it presents the moment before the sacrifice of king Domalde, who is being “blessed” (sacrificed) in order to avert a long famine. Sedgwick starts with this theme of sacrifice and draws it out into a work both beautiful and dark without pretense.
There is a practice of drinking a certain tea that plays a major role in the story, and results in drinker becoming soothed, forgetful, and tired (not to mention the other issues)— a kind of nepenthe. Reading this book often made me feel the same way, it lulled me into a comfortable, familiar reading-space and then the story subtly took a turn to something strange, startling me so I had to go back and reread the passage, like when you’re watching a film, you blink and then miss something.
This is a story told in reverse, but we don’t discover the resolution until the very end, thus laying most of our concerns to rest. Some have compared it to Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and there are similar themes, yes— love, fate, reincarnation, adversity, and interpretation of the past; however, Cloud Atlas is a nestled tale with each story told in a different literary style, whereas Midwinterblood is a series of stories told in reverse, all with the same beautiful prose, language sparse and stark as if the words were describing scenes from a Ingrid Bergman film.
The book is chilling, dire, and many answers are left unanswered, but I enjoy that because it keeps me obsessing over the plot, turning it over and over in my head.
Chelsea Wolfe’s album “Pain is Beauty” is an appropriately dark and cold album to listen to while reading Midwinterblood, though some may find it too bleak, especially during the long, icy winter the Northeast is currently having. It just happened, by chance, to be on rotation when I picked up this book.
I love this 5-fold Origami Yoda. I did it with the kids today and they aced it easily!
DSC_0008 on Flickr.
Check out my ALA Midwinter ‘14 book horde/haul! This year was my first midwinter conference and I was lucky to meet some of my favorite childrens’ & YA authors: Tom Angleberger (aka Origami Yoda), Chris Raschka, and the vibrant Cece Bell, who I technically just discovered but love her work already. The meeting was fruitful, surprising, and awesome— perhaps more on that later. I was excited to see several of the SAPS’ (School Age Program & Services committee) tween recommended reads selections won Newbery recognition, namely honors for Doll Bones by Holly Black and, of course, Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo, the Newbery award winner!