This is the story of Eric and Merle, and Eirikr and Melle, and five other pairs in between. In seven stories, we watch a mythological tale being acted out, weaving in and out of history with the players wearing different faces in each age. We first meet Eric in the near future, 2073, as a visitor to Blest Island. He is a journalist intent on investigating the rumors that the inhabitants of this small island in the far north are living extraordinarily long lives. Some say that they live forever. When he arrives, he finds that there are no hotels, and that the residents are not fond of visitors. He does feel an instant connection to Merle, however, and if he believed in love at first sight, he would say that he’s found his soulmate. As the days go by, Eric begins to think that there is a dangerous secret on the island—that is, when he can think at all. He comforts himself with a mug of the island’s special tea each evening and wakes up to a sumptuous breakfast prepared by a hand he never sees. Surely life cannot drift this way forever. Indeed, it cannot.
Mystery, danger, love, and violence work backward through the chapters to a time before stories were written, and always Eric and Merle find one another. Sometimes they are brother and sister, sometimes lovers, sometimes mother and son, sometimes just friends. There are other recurring characters, too, always pulling to the same inevitable conclusion.
If I tell you that I do not care for short stories, you will understand what high praise it is for me to call Midwinterblood a phenomenal achievement. At the moment, I want to start over at the beginning so that I can catch all of the details, now that I know the conclusion—which is actually the beginning. This book is tightly woven and makes a perfect circle from future to past and around again. It is beautiful and tragic and frustrating and sweet. As I have done for earlier books, I will say that I’m not sure why it was published as a young adult book, since the characters are almost all adults. However, unlike The Kingdom of Little Wounds, it is perfectly appropriate for teens, and I think they will like it a lot. But why should they have all the fun? Adults, especially Cloud Atlas fans, will love it, too.
Very highly recommended for teens and adults.
Update: It won!!!!
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.