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My Swordhand is Singing    by Marcus Sedgwick order for
My Swordhand is Singing
by Marcus Sedgwick
Order:  USA  Can
Wendy Lamb Books, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Tomas and his son Peter are the woodcutters for the village of Chust, deep in 'the vast unfathomable forest.' They have led nomadic lives since Peter's mother died long since, and are not accepted by the villagers. They live in a hut outside the village at the fork of a river. It's on an island that Tomas made by digging a trench (which he then flooded with river water) around the hut. Though Peter does all the work while his father spends his time drinking slivovitz, he still cares for the older man. But he wonders about the box whose contents Tomas has always kept secret.

Strange and horrible things begin to happen in and around Chust, this brutal winter. They are somehow linked to an old, haunting song, the Miorita, about a shepherd murdered by his fellows - through a lamb, he sends word to his mother that he is not dead but has gone to 'marry a princess from a distant land.' It becomes clear to Peter 'that death was walking in the woods' and he grows concerned for the safety of pretty Agnes, whose wealthy draper father died recently and whose mother has stayed in her bed ever since, but claims to have been visited by her husband. And there are rumors that the dread Shadow Queen is coming.

Then gypsies arrive in their caravans - Tomas is known to them, and they want something from him. One of them, a lovely, spirited girl named Sofia, seems very interested in Peter. There are more killings, the horror escalates and a Wedding of the Dead is planned - what can Peter do to protect those he cares for and will his father stir from his drunken stupor to help? Read My Swordhand is Singing to find out - and to learn the meaning of the Miorita - but don't read this spooky story in the dark!

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