Sunday 31 October 2010

WHITE CROW by Marcus Sedgwick

It’s summer. Rebecca is an unwilling visitor to Winterfold – taken from the buzz of London and her friends and what she thinks is the start of a promising romance. Ferelith already lives in Winterfold – it’s a place that doesn’t like to let you go, and she knows it inside out – the beach, the crumbling cliff paths, the village streets, the woods, the deserted churches and ruined graveyards, year by year being swallowed by the sea. Against her better judgement, Rebecca and Ferelith become friends, and during that long, hot, claustrophobic summer they discover more about each other and about Winterfold than either of them really want to, uncovering frightening secrets that would be best left long forgotten.

Interwoven with Rebecca and Ferelith’s stories is that of the seventeenth century Rector and Dr Barrieux, master of Winterfold Hall, whose bizarre and bloody experiments into the after-life might make angels weep, and the devil crow.

Let me start by saying: wow! I was totally hooked by this book from the moment I picked it up. Seriously, I grabbed it this morning and kept reading, and reading... until I finished it. Took me less than a day because I got totally carried away by Rebecca and Ferelith's stories.

Rebecca has just moved with her father into a cottage in the coastal town of Winterfold. She hates that she's forced to live here, in a place that takes her twenty-five minutes to explore. She hates that she's left her friends and boyfriend behind in London and none of them want anything to do with her. But most of all, she hates that they had to move because of something that happened to her father, the policeman. Something serious enough to force them to run, and alienate them from each other.

Ferelith is a very strange and odd girl. She's got a troubled past and believes herself to be so clever that she dropped out of school at the age of fourteen. She's odd and mysterious, very secretive, but totally taken by the new girl in town. So much that she befriends her, shows her the sights and tells her ghost stories about Winterfold, while quietly manipulating Rebecca into a very dangerous situation.

This book was one whirlwind combination of stories. Rebecca and Ferelith's tales are also joined by that of a man of the cloth. The pages of the Rector's journal--dated 1798--tell the very personal and horrifying story of how the priest slowly loses his faith and is seduced into the world of science and mysticism that the French Dr. Barrieux introduces him to. These horrid experiements are their way of finding out what happens after death--do angels or devils await? And all relate to what eventually happens to the girls during the summer they spend together, because Ferelith wants to find the answer to that question too.

White Crow is a brilliant, haunting gothic story about an unstable friendship between a troubled girl, and one who's lost. It's also about life, death, and sin--a dark, atmospheric tale about what makes people tick, how experiences shape them, and how every decision we make can affect our lives and change them forever.

It's also a great thriller, with thick tension on every page. The deeper I got into the book, the more tense I became, waiting to see what awaited on the next page. Yet, I couldn't stop. I was engrossed from beginning to end, which is always an awesome thing! Yep, loved it.

This is the first Marcus Sedgwick book I've read, but I doubt it'll be my last.

White Crow, September 2010, ISBN 9781842551875, Orion's Children's Books Hardback

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