Review Blog

Sep 12 2010

White crow by Marcus Sedgwick

cover image

Orion Children's Books, London, 2010. ISBN 978184255187 5.
(Ages 12+) Gothic horror. Recommended. A doctor lately escaped from Revolutionary France, takes up residence in Winterfold Hall, here to conduct experiments, hoping to find what lies after death. In league with a local minister, people volunteer for what they think will relieve their concerns about death, but the gruesome truth lies in the headless corpses beneath the hall. The victims are beheaded, so the doctor can hear what they see with their last breath. Secretly burying the bodies in the tunnel, they accumulate seven coffins before their part of the story, told by the minister, comes to an end.
Alongside this story a tale of today unfolds. Ferelith meets Rebecca, newly arrived in the town with her father, a policeman hiding from the publicity surrounding the death of a child after his decision to call off the search was implemented. Rebecca is lonely and frightened, scared of what is happening to the remnants of her family, and so easy prey to the strange and beguiling Ferelith, wanting her to explore the old hall, now one of the last structures in the village slowly being eaten by the sea. Stories of the experiments overlap information about Ferelith's background, and tales from the villagers along with their suspicion of Rebecca's father, bubble together, forming an uneasy background to the story. As the graveyard opens up and falls into the sea, the narrative outlining what Rebecca and Ferelith are doing takes on a sinister form as they pursue their interest in the hall.
But another voice is there: a first person account, lurking in the background, seeming to watch over all the action, at times almost manipulating what is going on. The creepy feeling of dread imparted by this account will keep the readers involved and excited by the possibilities of what is really happening. The book held me to the end.
Fran Knight

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