Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: January 6th, 2015
Genres: Historical, Science Fiction, YA
Source: Received in exchange for review
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Four linked stories boldly chronicle madness, obsession, and creation through the ages. Beginning with the cave-drawings of a young girl on the brink of creating the earliest form of writing, Sedgwick traverses history, plunging into the seventeenth century witch hunts and a 1920s insane asylum where a mad poet's obsession with spirals seems to be about to unhinge the world of the doctor trying to save him. Sedgwick moves beyond the boundaries of historical fiction and into the future in the book's final section, set upon a spaceship voyaging to settle another world for the first time. Merging Sedgwick's gift for suspense with science- and historical-fiction, Ghosts of Heaven is a tale is worthy of intense obsession.
The Ghosts of Heaven was my very first Marcus Sedgwick book. I’d heard great things about his books, and I was happy to be able to read this one. How it went? Pretty well – I loved it. The story is divided into four quarters, and they are all so different I can’t review this as a whole, though the stories do fit together. So I’ll just review the stories individually!
Quarter One: Whispers in the Dark
The first story follows a girl in the time of cave drawings and hunting with spears. As soon as I started this story, I was surprised: it’s told in verse. As per usual with novels and stories written in verse, I started out disconnected and annoyed and ended up really loving it. Actually, this stylistic choice fit the story extremely well. The time this girl lives in is one of little words, and the writing really reflected that. The sentences were short and plain, but never simple or uninteresting. It’s really amazing how much Sedgwick manages to convey using so little words: that takes heaps of talent and skill.
As for the content of the story, I loved it. Like the other stories, the central theme was the spiral. Around this theme, a story is built that chronicles ancient magic, mysterious caves and loss. Despite the shortness of the story and the nameless, faceless main character I ended up really connecting to it. And somehow, within those few pages, Sedgwick still managed to surprise me and make me think. Though some questions are left unanswered, they are not what this story was about and so I can forgive that. Instead, Sedgwick creates powerful images through few words and really swept me away with this first story.
Quarter Two: A Witch in the Water
His second story, through certainly not bad, I was less charmed by. I didn’t connect as much with this one, so it got no real emotions out of me. However, the story was definitely interesting. It follows a small town in the time of the witch hunts, and how slowly, slowly, everyone starts to believe that one innocent girl is at the root of all evil.
Above all, this second story was a study of humans. How rumours can spread like wildfire, how susceptible we are for a well-spun lie, how panic leads to rash decisions. It shows us how we can cower before someone we fear, how willing we are to sell lies to save our own skin. It shows the ugly side of humans, how a couple of seemingly unrelated events can suddenly lead to major change. How we can be both so powerless and extremely powerful: the importance of words and actions, and how it feels to be unable to defend yourself.
So while I never truly connected with this story, I still think it’s incredibly well-done. Like the other stories, it makes you think. And that, really, is never a bad thing.
Quarter Three: The Easiest Room in Hell
I loved loved loved this third story. It’s about a mad poet, so basically I loved it before I even started it. I always find that stories of this kind have a certain romantic feel to them, a wistfulness, with a hint of sadness and loneliness. The Easiest Room in Hell was no exception. It has that poetic atmosphere, despite being written in almost a clinical way. How Sedgwick manages this, I have no idea, but I have a great admiration for his skill. Because the main character isn’t actually our charming, highly intelligent and slightly insane poet, but his doctor. The doctor is the one who tells us the story, and so it is written in a distant and, well, doctorly way. Still it has that same atmospheric feeling about it, of fate and wanting to escape and the sea breeze and spirals.
It amazes me how Sedgwick manages to weave a plot in so little pages. It might not be an overcomplicated plot with several lines weaving together – in fact, it’s fairly straightforward – but still the story has a point and even managed to surprise me. I just – I don’t know, guys. I’m a bit at a loss for words here. I know this story actually wasn’t most people’s favourite, but I just loved it. It’s the first time I started to truly feel for the characters, and the atmosphere just drew me in and didn’t let go. I loved it.
Quarter Four: The Song of Destiny
Oh wow. This was my favourite story of them all. It was different from the rest, in that this was science fiction, and also in that it was surprising and mind-bending and wow. I’m really amazed at some of the ideas Sedgwick has, and how masterfully he lays them out. This, to me, was by far the best-plotted story – and even the chapter numbers had to with the story. I mean – come on.
The Song of Destiny follows a spaceship, headed to New Earth. On it lives Sentinel Bowman, who has to make sure everything runs smoothly and do regular check-ups and such. And everything does go smoothly… Until people start dying. Though this story, too, is short, it really intruiged me. I wanted answers! Who was the killer, how would it all end, and what does the spiral mean? Well, I got some answers and they were pretty shocking.
I don’t want to talk a lot about this last story because it’s one you should just experience. However, I will say it’s my absolute favourite and I loved how mind-bending it was and how everything came together in the end. Absolutely loved it.
Now go forth and read it.
~Thank you, Roaring Book Press, for the review copy!~
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