Monday, October 22, 2012

Book Review: My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick

My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick
Release Date: October 9, 2007
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books/Random House
Pages: 200
Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Goodreads Page


From Goodreads:

When Tomas and his son Peter settle in Chust as woodcutters, Tomas digs a channel of fast-flowing waters around their hut, so they have their own little island kingdom. Peter doesn't understand why his father has done this, nor why his father carries a long, battered box, whose mysterious contents he is forbidden to know.

But Tomas is a man with a past: a past that is tracking him with deadly intent, and when the dead of Chust begin to rise from their graves, both father and son must face a soulless enemy and a terrifying destiny.


For best results, approach like this...

Different books require different approaches for optimal enjoyment. For My Swordhand is Singing, I recommend taking the "folktale" approach. That is, pretend you are sitting around a campfire on a cold night in Romania and a grizzled old man is telling you a tale of what happened there many years ago.

When listening to this type of story, I don't expect characters of great depth or an intricate plot, but I DO expect a story to keep me entertained. If I'm lucky, such campfire stories send a shiver down my spine and make me jump at the slightest sounds, darting furtive looks over my shoulder while also blushing at my own fear.

My Swordhand is Singing delivered the perfect blend of spooky entertainment. I read it at night and alone, curled up under my bed covers, which is the perfect setting if a campfire is not at hand.

Is it scary?

I've heard others say they were disappointed and not terribly scared, but I'm a wimp so I thought My Swordhand is Singing was a delightfully creepy tale!

The menace builds slowly but steadily, creeping in like frigid winter air curling under a drafty door. Set in medieval Romania, I was constantly aware of how vulnerable these people were with their primitive methods of protection and outrageously dangerous superstitions. Marcus Sedgwick did a fantastic job transporting me into the minds of these people.

The creatures were psychologically terrifying, made all the more so by the fact that everything I knew of them was filtered through primitive medieval eyes. These are not your sparkling vampires looking for romance.

These vampires are the legends that were birthed from a time when menace lurked in the darkness and humans possessed a brutal awareness of their vulnerability. There is no doubt here, these creatures are soulless monsters focused entirely on devouring their prey.

What about the rest of the story?

I said this is like a folktale, and like most folktales, the characters and plot are not incredibly deep. Nor do they need to be.

There are two story threads in addition to the overarching vampire invasion. One dealt with the relationship between Tomas--an aging drunk--and his son Peter. The other focused on Peter and his romantic feelings for two girls.

The threads about Tomas and Peter were a little sluggish, but they did not distract me from the good parts. There is an event surrounding a goose carving that wormed its hooks into my heart and left me in tears. Tomas's struggle for redemption was also touching, if frustratingly, though realistically, imperfect.

The romantic parts were less satisfying, but they did not overwhelm the plot and love triangle phobics need not worry. Both girls also serve a greater purpose, so their presence in the story turned out to be more necessary than I originally thought. I didn't swoon at all, but that's equally because of the expected lack of character depth as it is because I was far too consumed by terror to focus on swoon.

Bottom line

Notice how I posted this review about a week before Halloween? That's not a coincidence. That's my subtle way of saying this would be a GREAT Halloween read because it's short so you can read it in one sitting and it's scary. And a little more than a week before Halloween gives you enough time to get your hands on a copy!

(I realize in saying this that I'm undermining my clever subtlety a little, but we all know I'm really not skilled when it comes to subtlety. I'm an obvious book pusher.)

Marcus Sedgwick is clearly a storyteller. Apparently this is the first book in a series, but I never would have known this without Goodreads as it can be read as a standalone without any problem.

I will definitely check out more of Marcus Sedgwick's books, particularly for those wind-whipping winter nights when I can really get my scare on.

On a totally unrelated note, I love Marcus Sedgwick's signature.

Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Do you have any questions about My Swordhand is Singing that I haven't addressed? 
Feel free to ask in the comments!

How do you prefer your vampires? Dangerous, or swoony? 
Do you have any recommendations for scary "folktale-like" books?

Looking for another book like this? 
You might like: 

Click on the covers to go to my reviews and/or Goodreads.


  1. I read this a long time ago but I remember really liking it. Glad you did, too!

  2. I haven't heard of this one. I'm curious. I know what you mean about approaching books differently. If you aren't expecting too much depth, you can just enjoy it for what it is.

  3. Small... I think I might be a really big wimp so I'm totally skipping this because I get spooked with just about everything - Except for "IT" I've watched that about 100 times so no longer spooky.

    It does sound like a really good halloween read though :D

  4. I haven't read Sedgwick and I often times confused him with Chris Wooding who has a similar style. Glad you gave us the heads up about approaching this one as a folktale. If I hadn't known I wouldn't be quite so thrilled with this one.

  5. OOOH spooky and scary, sounds perfect for Halloween as you suggest. I've never heard of this one. It does sound quite good. I'm kind of a big wimp though, so I may have to wait until I know everyone will be home.

  6. This sounds like a great Halloween read! And for those that didn't find it scary enough...things don't need to be horror to be completely creepy!!

  7. I guess I am a bit too late in reading this for your intended purpose of reading it on Halloween, but I am pleased that you at least thought it was scary! (I am sure I would, too, because I'm pretty wimpy). I am a disappointed to hear that the characters weren't terribly developed, but you do make a good point in saying that in this case, they really don't need to be.


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