White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick
Review by Floresiensis
Winterfold, a place of crumbling cliff paths, deserted churches and ruined graveyards, forms the backdrop for Marcus Sedgwick's latest work, White Crow, a contemporary gothic thriller for young-adults. Rebecca is an unwilling visitor to Winterfold during a long, hot, claustrophobic summer and, against her better judgement, befriends local resident Ferelith. The two girls discover more about each other (and about Winterfold) than either really want to, uncovering frightening secrets that would be best left long forgotten.
Marcus Sedgwick has now been writing dark (and very popular) young-adult fantasy books for over a decade. The publication of Floodland (winner of the Branford Boase Book Award) in 2000, My Swordhand is Singing (winner of the Booktrust Teenage Prize) in 2006 and Revolver in 2009 have established the Kent-born author as one of the finest contemporary children’s authors working today. White Crow, which has been shortlisted for the Guardian children’s fiction prize (age 13+), will further cement this well-deserved standing.
In an intriguing approach the author has chosen to tell the story from three perspectives: those of Rebecca, Ferelith and an unnamed 18th century man of the cloth. The clever and subtle use of differing fonts and page designs clearly emphasises the viewpoint changes and through these three pairs of eyes we explore Winterfold’s past and present while learning of the bizarre and bloody experiments carried out by Dr Barrieux at Winterfold Hall.
The setting itself is wonderfully brought to life with Winterfold (according to legend) being inspired by the real-life village of Dunwich, a once thriving town now reduced to a triangle of three streets, twelve or so houses, an inn and what's left of the one remaining church. As is always that case in Marcus Sedgwick's work there is a strong eye for the visual (he has illustrated some of his own books, and also produces woodcuts and stone carvings) and in White Crow we also find that Sedgwick’s penmanship is on top form with his writing full charm and possessing great fluency. As the story progresses, so the tension mounts, with Rebecca and her father’s past and the mysterious (and ever-so slightly disturbing) Ferelith providing the unanswered questions that will keep the reader guessing and reading late into the night.
White Crow is an intelligent and thoughtful book whose themes of afterlife, faith and death - both human mortality and the demise of a town itself – are explored delicately. Two strong female leads drive a story that is both chilling and memorable in equal measure. Highly recommended.
Daisy from Australia
This book changed my life; it probes the dark questions no one dares answer and shocks the reader through every page. it follows the narration of three obscure quirky characters, Rebecca a gothic heartbroken messed up teen overshadowed by a haunting event due to her cowardly father, a young man centuries before Rebecca involved in a horrific experiments with a lunatic Frenchman, who, as the story follows, slowly loses sanity due to the undescribably chilling chain of events. Then there's Ferelith, for me she is the main character, I hated her and loved her deeply, she is so unpredictable and she was abnormal to say the least, from the start it's clear she isn't normal and by the end I want to be her and have her. Rebecca's and fereliths relationship has been often described as a 'friendship' but if you scrutinise literature as I do, you would find that the girls have more of a passionate understanding than a simple schoolgirl friendship, Ferelith and Rebecca seem almost in love, of course the thrilling ending makes their relationship seem stronger as steel and touching as moonlight. This dark book changed my view on life completely and haunts my thoughts and dreams, thank you Marcus Sedgwick.
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