Book Review: 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. (from

When Marcus Sedgwick’s White Crow was originally suggested to me as a book for our Summer Lovin’ feature I was apprehensive. Would a gothic horror make a good beach read? I wasn’t sure but the promise of a book filled with scorching heat and intense friendships twisted my arm. After reading it I can promise that this book would be a great read any time of year, but particularly fitting for those seeking something a little darker in the sun.

Told from three different points of view, White Crow blends past and present in a chilling exploration of the possibility of an afterlife and heaven and hell. Firstly there’s a third person narrative following Rebecca, who’s been forced to move to the quiet seaside village of Winterfold. She’s angry and lonely, having left all her friends and boyfriend behind, who seems to have immediately moved on and forgotten about her. Through this narrative we get to know the town of Winterfold, the eeriness and uncomfortable heat burning down on the town this summer. I thought the descriptions of the village, which is slowly being corroded by the sea, were fantastic and incredibly atmospheric. A slow tension builds from the very first page, with the sinister setting almost having a character of it’s own. Then there’s a first person narrative from Ferelith, a strange girl who befriends Rebecca. I loved how in these sections we get to know the ferelith that Rebecca is unaware off, which makes her all the more vulnerable. We don’t know what exactly Ferelith is up to, but we do know she’s not right and her odd behavior grows more concerning as the book moves on.

Finally we have the diary of an Eighteenth Century Rector, who in his fear of the afterlife and desperation to know if he faces heaven or hell is dragged into a gruesome experiment. I found these diary entries deliciously terrifying as they become more and more frenzied and sinister and was desperate to know how it was connected to the two girls. I have to admit to having my stomach turned at one gruesome point, and I’m pretty hard to shock! I actually fell asleep and dreamed about this book, so be warned-it could give you nightmares.

White Crow is compulsive reading. Once you start you won’t be able to stop. Both the intensity of the friendship between Rebecca and Ferelith, the increasingly shocking diary entries, creepy and atmospheric setting and unfolding mystery make this a one sitting book which will have you turning pages frantically. The ending left me a little confused to begin with, I had to reread it a couple of times to see if I missed anything, and then had to put the book down and think about it for a while. Coming up with my own answer I can see the ending is somewhat open to interpretation. One things for sure, when you close this book it will stay in your mind a long time after. I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves a dark, gothic horror and think it would be perfect for a heavy, thundery summer’s day.

Published by Orion 2010

Come back later today for a guest post from Marcus Sedgwick and a very special giveaway!

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