My Swordhand Is Singing
By Marcus Sedgwick
Peter and his father Tomas are woodcutters living on the edge of a small forest village called Chust. They are outsiders and for the most part keep to their own company.
All that changes when a band of gypsies come to town and Peter find himself intrigued by a young girl named Sofia. It isn't long before Peter finds himself opening up to a new world where Vampire Slayers exist and dead villagers come back to life.
My Swordhand Is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick is a good old-fashioned tale of vampires set in Eastern Europe in the early 17th Century.
I read this years ago when I borrowed it from a library. I can remember thinking what a brilliant book it was, and I can also remember going the next day to get the sequel from the library. I decided to read it again to see if I thought it was still as good.
One of the things I enjoyed about his writing is the way he instantly brings the reader into the terror of the characters.
“When he fell for the fifth time, when his face plunged into the deep snow, when his hands burnt from the cold but he didn’t care. Radu the woodcutter knew he was going to die. Somewhere behind him in the darkness of the forest he couldn’t hear the man who had attacked him. He was scared, now almost too scared to move, almost too cold to run anymore, but still he knew something was wrong. Something that should not be.”
He realises he knows the man who attacked him, but that man is meant to be dead.
When we first meet Tomas and his brother Peter they are heading from their hut on the outskirts of the village to attend the funeral of Radu.
They are not well liked in the village of Chust and are considered to be outsiders. Peter is used to his own company because they have moved around a lot and his father Tomas is a taciturn man. Peter knows his father is troubled by something but as usual he is unwilling to share.
Tomas has been a drunk for as long as Peter can remember, and his mum died in childbirth.
Tomas and Peter don’t have a particularly close relationship. “It seemed to Peter it had always been like that, living in the same room, but like leaves that fall from the same tree, always spinning ever father apart.”
The people of the village are superstitious and coat their houses in tar on St Andrews Eve to ward off the evils of winter until the spring comes.
When Peter is collecting payment from the villagers for the wood he and his father have chopped he hears rumours of a widow who has been visited by her dead husband in the night.
Tomas scoffs at this and tells Peter that Agnes’ mother has been saying the same. Peter is angry with his father for not telling him sooner as Peter feels he and Agnes have feelings for each other despite neither of them having expressed those feelings yet.
Peter storms out and goes to check on her. She refuses to let him in and tells him that people are saying The Shadow Queen is back. The Shadow Queen is something Peter has heard of before, but his father has always told him it is just a legend. Despite himself though he feels uneasy as he travels home.
Whilst travelling home he and his horse collide with one of the gypsy girls that have recently arrived in town. A beautiful girl named Sofia who claims to be injured and then tries to kiss him. Peter rides for home quickly feeling guilty that part of him wanted to kiss her.
When he returns to his hut Peter realises his father has visitors and he decides to eavesdrop. He hears talk of The Shadow Queen and hostages and his visitors ask him where something is but Tomas will not tell them. Peter recognises the visitors as gypsies who have recently come to the village but Tomas refuses to talk to him about it.
The next morning Agnes comes running to him with news that there has been another death in the village and that because he was unmarried there is to be a Wedding of the Dead and she is to be the bride.
A Wedding of the Dead or Nunta Mortului happens when a young man dies and is still a bachelor so he won’t be buried as one. The young man who died, Stefan was unmarried and so the elders have chosen her to wed him at his graveside as she is the oldest unmarried girl in the village. After she has to be confined to a hut on the edge of the village with no company for forty days. She has to do this in order to complete the period of morning and to be considered an unmarried woman again.
As the book progresses Peter learns more about the undead and about the real reason he and his father have moved around a lot.
One of the things I enjoyed about My Swordhand is Singing was the way it is full of old myths and legends about how to stop a corpse from becoming one of the undead.
It was an enjoyable and atmospheric book.
Our Final Rating...
Read & Shared 10 Times.