In a bitter winter, Tomas and his son, Peter, settle in a small village as woodcutters. Tomas digs a channel of fast-flowing waters around their hut so that they have their own little island kingdom. Peter doesn’t understand why his father has done this, or why his father carries a long, battered box, whose mysterious contents he is forbidden to know.
But Tomas is a man with a past–a past that is tracking him with deadly intent. As surely as the snow falls softly in the forest of a hundred thousand silver birch trees, father and son must face a soulless enemy and a terrifying destiny.
Pardon me while I quickly lust about how completely and totally beautiful the cover to this book is. Not only is it visually stimulating (and looks gorgeous on the shelves of Waterstones might I add) it is also tactile. It feels so good to touch, which makes me sound pervy so I’m going to get on with my bookish emotions on this particular reading exploit.
So, it would appear that, with reading this, I have sort of given up on the Hot Key Books Paper VS Pixels challenge. I’m not all that fussed, I still read some digital but it wasn’t for me. I have too many unread physical books on my shelves to really be boldly read on my iPad for a month but my quitting has brought me to my first ever Marcus Sedgwick (I read his brother Julian’s debut last year, so not my first Sedgwick!) and it was an absolute treat!
The world Sedgwick has created in this book is simply phenomenal. Everything about it from the village to the gypsies to Peter himself feels so carefully chosen and thought out. Even with the supernatural aspect of the book (which I will get onto!), it is the world that really makes this piece of work a masterpiece. It is a brilliant depiction of a bleak, old fashioned life and I love it.
The supernatural element in the book is, in a nutshell, vampires. But it isn’t the kind of sparkly bullshit vampires that you and I have become accustomed to. Oh no. This is vampires as, I feel, they should be. They are brutal, and completely effing terrifying. I don’t think, however, at one point in the book they are referred to as vampires. This is another reason that they are quite terrifying to read about. It becomes more than just a fear of the vamp, it is suddenly a fear of this unknown presence that is lurking the forest at nighttime during winter.
The characters are also incredibly well drawn and, without exception, they all feel important. Each and every one of them plays their part in the novel (which stands quite short at 228 pages) and you can tell that the writer has taken special care with each one. I know that I am repeating myself here but this novel feels so well thought out. It feels planned and wonderful.
The tension is built slowly, the arc is carefully plotting out to grab you by the throat at very particular moments. It is a well thought out masterpiece of teenage fiction and I cant wait to read more of his work.