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Carnegie Medal Shortlist 2013: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

This is probably my favourite of all the Carnegie Shortlist, in that it is the one that most reflects my own personal reading tastes. It's a gorgeously dark and shivery story about love and sacrifice. It moves backwards through time to tell seven interconnected stories, starting in 2073 and ending in a time unknown. I love that idea of a misty past that isn't pinned down to a specific date; it lends mystery and a timeless quality that fits perfectly with the book.

Each story is set during a different month and is linked to a particular type of moon, such as the Flower Moon in June or the Fruit Moon in September. The lore surrounding full moons and their associated months is so interesting, and varied, and I enjoyed spending some time reading up on it all for myself. Books that take you off on your own reading trails are the best.

The events begin when Eric Seven takes a trip to the island of Skarpness, in the far north. He's a journalist, investigating rumours about the longevity of the islanders, but what he finds is something quite unexpected. For one, he falls in love at first sight with a local girl called Merle, a phenomenon he doesn't believe in. For another, for all the island's beauty it is most definitely strange. It's completely cut off from the outside world, but there's something more, something hidden on the island. There is a slight menace to the atmosphere, overlaying the overt hospitality. And, Eric finds it hard to keep everything straight in his mind; there are a couple of pages where the paragraphs start with 'The days pass' that capture the sleepwalking nature of his time there. But Eric is sleepwalking his way towards great danger...

As the years cycle backwards different versions of Eric and Merle appear in very different stories, but always connected by love. These snapshots of other times give continuity to their story, without it following one unbroken path. Piecing it all together is one of the reasons I love the book. It is also just so beautifully written that I was spellbound.


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