By: Celine | January 2, 2015 | (40) Comments

Review: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus SedgwickThe Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick
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!~

4.5 Stars
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Celine is 17 years old and from the Netherlands. Quite obviously, she loves books! She has been a reader for as long as she can remember, and she believes she will be a reader forever. Celine is also obsessed with food, and loves singing along to music as loud as possible, dancing and doodling on nearly everything.

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40 Responses to Review: The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick

  1. Oh, WOW, Celine, sounds very intense, and maybe a little strange, too? I think I’d like The Ghosts of Heaven, so I’m adding it to my never-ending TBR 🙂
    Happy New Year!
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  2. I must read this one! I’ve only read one Marcus Sedgwick book before (She’s Not Invisible) but it surprised me pleasantly, so I’m quite looking forward to this, even though I don’t really like multiple stories in the one book–but I suppose if they all centre around the one theme then it’s not quite as off-putting. Thanks for the great review! 🙂
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    • Celine says:

      Ooh, I’m actually very curious about She’s Not Invisible! I’ve heard good things about that one 🙂 I really hope you’ll like it!
      Thank you, Kara <3

  3. I’ve heard nothing but praise for this book, and while I did swear to stay away from fantasy for a while after reading Dreams of Gods & Monsters, this book may very well be my next read! Lovely review, Celine 🙂
    Madiha@Symphony of Words recently posted…Review: Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) by Laini TaylorMy Profile

    • Celine says:

      Haha! I don’t think this is actually fantasy, though. It’s pretty genre-bending but I think you can mostly put it down as historical and sci-fi? I don’t know, it’s very hard to figure out with a book like this 😛

      Thank you, Madiha!!

  4. Fantastic review, Celine! I didn’t know this was a collection of intertwined short stories. I’ve never read a Marcu Sedgwick book before, but this one is definitely going to make it to my reading rotation.

    Thanks for the heads up!
    Joy // Joyousreads recently posted…Friday Finds [4]: Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip ZdarskyMy Profile

  5. Kelly says:

    It’s amazing the different reactions that you and Mel had to the same book, pretty much the split between readers too. It seems to be one of those titles you either love it or hate it. I’m really tempted to give this one a go, seeing you enjoyed it so much Celine. Awesome review <3
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    • Celine says:

      Haha, you’re absolutely right 😛 It appears there are two camps: those who loved it and the mostly confused/meh ones, haha. I really hope you’ll like it if you do end up reading it, though 🙂
      Thank you Kelly <33

  6. Christy says:

    I wanted to read this just based on that cover alone , I never read the summary and I didn’t know that it was divided into different stories. However, I think that just makes me want to read it more. Plus, you have me extremely curious about The Song of Destiny! Awesome review, Celine!
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    • Celine says:

      The cover is GORGEOUS. Actually the UK/AUS edition is glorious as well, so pretty! It seems you’re not the only one who didn’t know it was divided into stories 🙂 I really hope you’ll like it!

      Thank you, Christy <33

  7. Kyra says:

    I’ve also never read a Marcus Sedgwick book but I’ve heard fantastic things about his writing! This sounds really good and I’d like to read more books written in verse. Also, the cover is beautiful. Fantastic review, Celine! 🙂
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    • Celine says:

      Yep, I also heard amazing things about him! The Ghosts of Heaven did not let me down, haha. And yes, the cover is SO PRETTY. Both the US and UK editions are, actually! Love them both 😛

      Thank you, Kyra <33

  8. This seems like an awesome book. Great review, Celine. I read She is Not Invisible, and I really enjoyed the multidimensional characters, but I felt that it was unpleasantly anticlimatic. This book seems even better. I love stories that make me think and multiple POVs/stories in one book that seem to be woven together, so this book sounds like a good choice for me.
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    • Celine says:

      Well, I think The Ghosts of Heaven will be the exact opposite, haha. Because it’s divided into different stories the characters aren’t as multidimensional as those in a full-length book, but it’s definitely climactic! At least if you read the stories in chronological order like I did, haha.

      I hope you’ll like it!

  9. Mary Claire says:

    Great review, Celine!

    I’ve been eyeing this book forever, wondering if it’s as dark,deep, and atmospheric as I initially thought it would be. From reading your review, I think it is! Guess I’ll have to go pick this one up soon, sounds like such a unique group of stories woven together by an author with an extreme touch of talent!
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    • Celine says:

      Thank you, Mary Claire! <33

      I definitely thought it was dark, deep and atmospheric, haha. I really hope you'll love it when you do pick it up 🙂

  10. While it’s an interesting concept, I’m curious about how I would feel about the 4 different stories. It does sound unique and some of the stories sound so well-written. I haven’t read any book by Marcus Sedgwick before either, but I would love to try something by him in the future.
    Great review, Celine!
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    • Celine says:

      I know it’s gotten some mixed reactions! Some people (me) liked it more than others (Mel) 😛 But it was definitely unique and I think everyone will find something different in this book.

      Thank you, Nick!

  11. Kirsty-Marie says:

    I haven’t read one of Marcus Sedgwick’s yet, though heard a lot of good things about She is Not Invisible. 4 stories (I hear you can read them in any order though, right?), don’t think I’d do that well with it though. 🙁 But A Witch in the Water sounds good, I love ones that make you really think. 🙂
    Kirsty-Marie recently posted…Review: Frozen CharlotteMy Profile

    • Celine says:

      I’m also really curious about She Is Not Invisible! I’ve heard it’s pretty philosophical, so I’m interested 😛
      Yes, you can read the stories in any order! I read them in chronological order and really liked that, because the last story ties them together 🙂

  12. I haven’t read anything by this author either, but I DO hear fantastic things. This one sounds really fascinating, and i love that you enjoyed the majority of the stories.
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  13. Lexa Cain says:

    I’ve never heard of a SF-Historical before. Thanks for taking the time to explain and dissect all four stories. I really enjoyed your review!
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  14. Christy says:

    I actually started this last night and couldn’t get into it. BUT, I think it was more my mood. When you say everything comes together, does that mean they’re all connected somehow?
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    • Celine says:

      I hope you like it more if you pick it up again 🙂 And I find this hard to explain without spoiling anything, haha. They’re all connected by the spiral theme, of course, but they are four different stories. However, in the last story it does make a sort of connection between the previous stories. I don’t think I’m making this clearer but this is the best I can do, haha.

  15. Now I just feel really silly and stupid. >_< I DIDN'T GET THIS ONE. It just went right over my head. *hides in kiddie corner* I definitely think the author is a genius though. Like, seriously, I appreciated the story, I just didn’t mesh with it too well. It’s beautiful though. The UK/AUS cover is gooorgeous with black and gold and this spiral of prettiness. XD So glad you loved it though!!
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    • Melanie says:

      IT’S OKAY CAIT I’M (MEL HERE) IN THE SAME BOAT AS YOU. I really liked the book but I felt rather confused for most of it (not necessarily in the same way as you but hey, WE CONFUSED PEOPLE STICK TOGETHER). YES OMG THE US AND AUS COVERS FOR THIS BOOK ARE SO FREAKING GORG.

    • Celine says:

      Haha. You are not stupid, Cait! I think it’s also that you can just interpret this book in so many different ways. I can definitely understand why you wouldn’t mesh with it though 😛 I think this kind of story can be very hit-or-miss. IT IS SO PRETTY THOUGH. I love both the US and the UK/AUS covers. Gooooorgeous. Thanks 🙂

  16. Melanie says:

    Yes this was my first Marcus Sedgwick book as well! I honestly don’t know exactly what to think of it but I already snagged She Is Not Invisible from book outlet on boxing day so I do hope I get to fully appreciate his other books–that being said, YES OMG THIS BOOK WAS SO BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN. This dude has skills, seriously. Ooh I actually didn’t like the last story as much as the middle two hah.

    Fantabulous review, Celine! <33

    • Celine says:

      Aaaah, definitely let me know what you think about She Is Not Invisble! I’ve heard good things about that one 🙂

      And haha, guess we all have our own taste 😛 It was definitely beautiful though, inside and out!

      Thank youuuu <33

  17. Celine, you are a smarter girl than I. I thought it was brilliant but I didn’t like it myself because I didn’t understand it lol. Maybe I’ll read She is Not Invisible 😛
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    • Celine says:

      Haha, I wouldn’t say that 😛 I think this book can be interpreted in a lot of different ways! I’m curious what you’d think of She Is Not Invisible! I’ve heard good things about that one 🙂

  18. I am so, so happy you enjoyed this! I have been reading so many “meh” reviews but I still want to read it, so I am basically using positive reviews as justification to purchase 😉 Great review, I am so intrigued!
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  19. Lola says:

    The cover for this book is pretty cool, with that stairway going off into the sky. I don’t think I would like the verse writing style of the first story though, I always have some trouble with really different writing styles. It does sound like a very original and well written book!
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  20. I have the five chapter sampler from Netgalley, but I haven’t started it yet. I found out that the entire book was a read now on Netgalley, but it must have been for a limited time because I had to request it. I haven’t gone back to check its status yet. Most of the not so stellar reviews came from bloggers who thought it was YA. All of my “go to” bloggers for book reccomendations have really liked it, so I am sure I will, too. Thanks for the review. 🙂
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  21. Valerie says:

    INTERESTING REVIEW CELINE! I’m glad you loved the book! I’m actually very intrigued with all the short stories, especially that first one with the cave girl and her story in verse. Also, since I’m guessing each of these stories had a theme/moral, did they connect at all with each other? Like why is the title called the Ghosts of Heaven anyways?
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  22. I was a little afraid of this one, because it sounded a bit like Cloud Atlas. (Which I’ve never read, but the movie stunk) I’ve never read a book in verse, I don’t usually like that sort of thing, but he sounds like a talented writer. The spaceship one was the part that sounded the best, so I’m glad that it was and that everything came together well. I have no idea if this book would be for me or not, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.
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  23. Lyn Kaye says:

    This one was very trippy. I liked the different stories – they each really had their own voice. Then the “ending”….so amazing. Sedgwick really deserves so much more love.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: The Fiery HeartMy Profile

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