‘Midwinterblood’ is a romance/horror novel following the seven reincarnations of Eric and Merle. Their seven lives span over centuries with the first starting before the 10th century and the last ending in 2073. Though Eric and Merle’s love never waivers in each of their lives, the form it takes does. In some lives, they are lovers, in others, they are brother and sister, mother and son and even friends.
Their lives are tied to a remote island in Britain called the ‘Blessed Isle’ where they meet in each life but one. The island is mostly self-sufficient and the closely knit community live on the eastern half of the butterfly-shaped island. The smaller western half is dedicated to growing a mysterious orchid and a lone building behind which lies a sacrificial alter from before the times of the Viking inhabitants. The orchids petals whose shape resembles a dragon can be brewed in various ways to extend life or alter memories but has a side-effect of affecting the drinkers reproductive ability.
Eric and Merle’s lives are not told in order and jump from one time to another. When you read the stories consecutively they do not seem to link but as you progress through the various lives you can see the connections. Each chapter in the book is of a different life and is named after various full moon names which give you a clue of an important event in that life.
The first life we read about is the protagonists’ last and set in 2073 where Eric a reporter comes to the island to write an article about the islands orchid and meets Merle who is a local islander. The second is of an architect who with the help of Eric and Merle finds a old Viking cairn. The third life follows the story of an allied airman during the second world war who crash lands on the island and the fourth is of a famous reclusive painter who is befriended by a young islander and helps him finish his final painting. The fifth, sixth and seventh lives are more sinister and are of the doomed romance of a fisherman and a wealthy girl, a vampire that seeks to possess his children and a king who sacrifices himself to save his people.
I can’t really work out if there was a higher purpose to the reincarnations or how they achieved it. Neither Merle nor Eric really achieved anything more than meeting each other in most of the lives which hardly ever ended happily. I also wasn’t sure if there was a reincarnating villain in some of the lives. There was certainly an antagonist that appeared to thwart their plans but it wasn’t made clear if he too was reincarnating himself.
I found I had to pay close attention to the small details Sedgwick brought to my attention in the book as it would later tie into the story like a piece of jigsaw. There are a few elements that run through all the stories such as the hare and certain phrases uttered by the characters which helped link the stories even if at first they seem entirely disconnected. Writing the lives out of order helped to create a mysterious atmosphere as the stories at the beginning lay the path and give you essential information needed to process the sinister crescendo that lead to the end when the story comes full circle.
The painting that inspired certain parts of the book is a real painting and well worth looking at. Although I imagined it quite a bit darker when I was reading the description in the book after taking in all the lives collectively I can see the parallels.
(pub: Indigo/Orion Publishing Group, 2011. 263 page small hardback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-78062-009-1)