My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick

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My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: This is a nicely judged horror story for children - scary enough to be worth reading, but with enough heroism to keep them feeling safe. Sedgwick writes with broad, sweeping strokes that paint very vivid pictures. Highly recommended for junior fans of horror aged between 10 and 15.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: July 2006
Publisher: Orion Childrens
ISBN: 1842551833

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Set in the isolated, hostile environment of the forests of seventeenth century Romania, My Swordhand Is Singing tells of the enigmatic Tomas and his adolescent son, Peter, woodcutters and outsiders who cannot seem to find a place to settle. They have spent longer in the village of Chust than they have in any place before and Peter is finally beginning to put down some roots. He has even begun a fledgling romance with draper's daughter, Agnes. However, secrets bristle the air at home, erecting a large and painful barrier between Peter and his father. But family tensions are the least of Peter's worries. Strange and menacing things are happening in Chust. A man who recently died in mysterious circumstances is said to be visiting his wife at night. Something is very, very wrong.

There are many old vampire legends, all telling different stories, some contradicting others. In some, the undead are the fang-toothed vampires of Hammer Horror schlock, in some they are George A Romero-style zombie flesh eaters, in still others they are werewolves. My Swordhand Is Singing is inspired by these varied and ancient Eastern European legends of the nosferatu, and it makes a fine modern addition to them.

Marcus Sedgwick writes with concise precision. He doesn't waste a word. And with broad and elegant strokes, he paints a chilling and irresistibly Gothic picture of the fight of good against evil. My Swordhand Is Singing is tense, unnerving and well-structured. Every required element is woven into the tale in a wonderfully seamless manner. There is love, loss, regret, courage, redemption and a good lashing of the supernatural. There isn't a trace of the self-indulgence or campness found in most horror novels. This isn't a genre book. It is a novel of quality.

It is a novel for children though, and so you can expect gore, but not too much gore. You can expect menace and threat, but you can also expect faith and hope. It's a fine line and it's one Sedgwick has trodden with consummate skill. My eleven year old son devoured My Swordhand Is Singing in just a couple of sessions. He couldn't put it down. He felt nervous at bedtime, but it was the kind of delicious nervousness that is actually rather thrilling. There weren't any nightmares. Yet the quality of the writing is such that far more mature teenagers wouldn't feel let down by the book. I thought it was absolutely spine-chilling in places and, as a general rule, I find horror stories as dull as ditchwater.

This story of wintry forests, family secrets and the ancient threat of the undead, is highly recommended for all confident (and self-confident) readers over ten.

Thanks to the publishers, Orion, for sending this book.

If this book appeals to you, then you might also enjoy The Ribbajack and Other Curious Yarns by Brian Jacques.

Booklists.jpg My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick is in the Top Ten Books For Children Who Love To Be Scared Silly.

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Buy My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick at


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andysimpson said:

ive started reading the book and from your review it sounds good

andrew simpson 13

Nazifa said:

Yeah I had to read this book for a competition called Shadowing Carnegie. I think this book is way cool! I'm regretting reading this book before bed because now i always get a strange feeling that I'm being watched.

Jill replied:

Now that IS quite creepy! Watch out for the eyes!

zarahpatel123 said:

I am reading this book right now for the carnegie award and i have a feeling it is the best book out of all of the different ones ot read. Way to go marcus sedgwick for writing a spectacular book !!!

bobsicks said:

read this book for "carnegie shadowing", find it alright, but prefered "beast" or "road of the dead" to this one. JK, age 13