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The Book of Dead Days [Hardcover]

Marcus Sedgwick
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 July 2003 Book of Dead Days

The days between 27 December and New Year's Eve are dead days - days when spirits roam and magic shifts restlessly just beneath the surface of our everyday lives.

There is a man, Valerian, whose time is running out, who must pay the price for the pact he made with evil so many years ago. His servant is Boy, a child with no name and no past; a child he treats with contempt, but who serves his master well and finds solace in the company of his only friend, Willow. Unknown to any of them it is Boy who holds the key to their destiny.

Set in dark threatening cities and the frozen countryside in a distant time and place of the author's making, 'The Book of Dead Days' conjures a spell-binding story of sorcery and desperate magic as Valerian, Boy and Willow battle to stop time and cling to life. Beautifully evoked, dramatic and emotionally powerful, this is a real page turner.



Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Orion Childrens; hardcover edition (17 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842552171
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842552179
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13.4 x 3.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,541,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Marcus Sedgwick used to work in children's publishing and before that he was a bookseller. He now happily writes full-time. His books have been shortlisted for many awards, including The Guardian Children's Fiction Award, the Blue Peter Book Award, the Carnegie Medal and the Edgar Allan Poe Award.

Product Description

Review

"In a wonderfully dark, atmospheric tale of power, corruption and betrayal, Marcus Sedgwick manages to keep the reader guessing until the very end. A real page-turner with a truly chilling twist." (Booktrusted News (Booktrust), Issue 6)

"Set long ago in dark times and brought to life through evocative, strongly visual writing, this novel is packed with drama, mystery and intrigue." (Wendy Cooling The Bookseller, 18 April 2003)

"Against the stinking, freezing background of an underworld set in a timeless past, this is a dark melodrama kept sharp by surprise." (Julia Eccleshare The Guardian, 5 July 2003)

"An exquisitely dark Faustian drama set among the shadows of an old European city. The finely drawn characters and enthralling story-telling make this Sedgwick's greatest work to date." (Joanne Owen, Borders bookshop The Bookseller Buyer's Guide Highlights, 11Jun03)

"...has a very real sense of place. ...The hero of this beautifully paced and sometimes blood-soaked adventure is Boy...and there's a very tangible sense of evil in Sedgwick's tale too, along with the careful blending of "real" magic with the seemingly magical effects of encroaching technology...After just a few pages, you know you're in safe hands with Sedgwick.Here is a macabre melodrama inventively told". (Philip Ardagh Guardian, 19 July 2003)

"Sedgwick has created a world as dark and compelling as the story he tells." (Mail on Sunday, 20 July 2003)

"The Book of Dead Days marks a shift to fuller, more descriptive writing than that in Sedgwick's earlier books, but there is no loss of subtle menace and power." (Independent, 28 July 2003)

"You'll just have to read it for the twist." (Times Educational Supplement, 1 August 2003)

Sedgwick has created a wonderfully tight novel which understands its own boundaries and is able to utilise them to its advantage. ...Sedgwick¿s plotting is tight and ingenious... Sedgwick too has a wonderful way of revitalizing the myth and making it more accessible, bringing the essentials to the fore but having it remain almost Dickensian in the telling. Rather than merely retelling, the essentials are represented and told in an engaging fashion. The Book of Dead Days is a gripping read... (SFRevu)

"The Book of Dead Days is to be commended for the beauty of Sedgwick's turn of phrase." (Dreamwatch)

Book Description

Alchemy and evil in the first book of a startling new sequence from prize-winning Marcus Sedgwick.

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Darkness. Two hours to midnight. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book of Dead Days! 24 July 2004
Format:Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. Like all the other reviewers I also bought it because of its beautiful front cover, however the contents were just as good! I found it really atmospheric and the writing style was great- it seemed to draw you in effortlessly. I do agree that the ending was a bit of an anticlimax, but I'm hoping that will be resolved in the sequel. All in all, this is a fantastic book: go and read it!!!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and thrilling 18 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this; each page, each sentence, each phrase was precisely aligned, relevent, and perfect for the story. This was the first of Marcus' stories I've ever read, and I've just ordered six more of his novels, including the sequal to this fantastic book.

The way in which Sedgwick developed its dark, wonderfully twisted plot was what rendered it so fabulous. I found myself being hauled into the book, being scared when Boy was scared, laughing when he laughed, cringing when he cringed, crying when he cried. It was so lucid and expressive that I can scarcely imagine something I'd rather have been doing instead of devouring this action-charged book. I can't wait to start reading its conclusive ending via its promising sequal! Buy it, read it, savour it, and you won't regret it.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric but slightly empty 1 Oct 2003
Format:Hardcover
Like the previous reviewer, I have to confess that I did indeed judge this book - or at least buy it - on its rather beautiful cover. And at first I enjoyed it a great deal. It's evocation of the dark atmosphere of the "dead days" between Christmas and New Year is excellent, and the setting in a crumbling city also very good.
However I did find that there was an excessive amount of repetition of certain phrases, which started to irritate me around the middle of the book. The story also turned out to be slightly anti-climatic, and I found the characterisation patchy - some excellent, some very unfleshed. All in all I'd say it was a good book in search of a better editor.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dead days - story slightly dead too? 1 Jan 2009
By Brida TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I bought this book a while ago but decided to leave it till now to read so that I could be reading during the Dead Days themselves. Having now finished THE BOOK OF THE DEAD DAYS, I have to admit that I am disappointed. The general story is brilliant - that the Dead Days are the days between Christmas Day and New Year's Day, and it is at this time that "the doors between our own world and the unseen one that lies just beneath the surface are opened". However, despite the anticipation of a great read, I came away feeling as though the book could have been so much more than it actually was.

The story follows Boy, a young boy in service to a stage magician. Not knowing where he came from, as he has no knowledge of his own past, Boy's world is dominated by the service he provides for Valerian, even if he treats him badly.
But, around Christmas, Valerian begins to act even more strangely, as though his life is in danger and that Boy should try and help him. In the few days before the new year, Boy slowly learns just what Valerian is so scared of, and he begins to learn a little more of his own past.

That is the basic plot. Sounds great. And it is, on paper. But there is something greatly lacking from THE BOOK OF THE DEAD DAYS. The reader does not learn about Valerian's secret until well over half way through the book. While this may in one way build up suspense, I cannot help but feel that it would result in many readers becoming bored or frustrated. Because of how the book is structured - the chapters are very short, usually only a few pages long - I also feel that there is never really enough 'time' for the pace, or the excitement to grow. Rather than making the book surge ahead, the short chapters result in charatcers feeling underdevloped and slightly neglected.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead and dreary 3 Feb 2006
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Can a Faustian pact be avoided? And if so, what's the cost? That's what our heroes -- and enemies -- are trying to do in "The Book of Dead Days," a chilling historical fantasy where a nameless boy searches for the means to save his master, and for the clues to his own past.
In a ragtag circus, Valerian the magician serves up many of the thrills -- with Boy as his slavish assistant. But that changes during the Dead Days between Christmas and New Year's, when Valerian is attacked and buried alive. Boy and his friend Willow cart him home, and hear Valerian's terrible story: Fifteen years ago, he made a Faustian pact to win the heart of the woman.
Now the time has come to give up his life and soul to a demon, and he's desperate to escape his fate. Boy and Willow agree to help him find the Book of Dead Days, which is hidden in a crypt somewhere in the city. But Boy doesn't realize how desperate Valerian is, or that he plans to sacrifice Boy in his stead...
Perhaps the worst thing about the "Book of Dead Days" is the fact that it ends with so many threads hanging -- the whole mystery of who Boy is remains unsolved. Up until that point, there are few weak spots at all. With a plucky heroine, slightly dopey hero and medieval magic, "The Book of Dead Days" is like reading the gothic twin of Lloyd Alexander's books.
Marcus Sedgwick has always had a sort of Edward-Gorey-like writing style, with the ability to make the everyday look a bit dark and bizarre. In the time of the Holy Roman Empire, he makes readers see the superstition, the cold, and the grime. Not to mention bone chapels, magical books and plenty of creepy underground tunnels.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Melodramatic, dark and atmospheric
Two children, Boy, nameless servant and Willow, assistant to singer Madame Beauchance. A magician and alchemist named Valerian using Boy and infernal powers to create illusions... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Jo Bennie
3.0 out of 5 stars present
It wasn't for me, so I can't say anything about the book. I only can say the it arrived in a very good quality and fast delivery.
Published 20 months ago by maria
3.0 out of 5 stars Badly written but compelling
This book is badly written in places, with stilted dialogue between the characters that reads like a trashy pulp fiction novel. Read more
Published on 16 July 2008 by Helen
3.0 out of 5 stars Quite thrilling !
The reading of this volume 1 is indeed fascinating. The atmosphere is dark, poisseuse and tends to think of a mixture of Dickens, Hector Malot and Victor Hugo. Read more
Published on 20 Jun 2007 by Stéphanie
4.0 out of 5 stars Annie the book of dead days-marcus sedgwick
This book tells a tale of Boy.And his journey with Valerian.Valerian is on a mission to save his life after he made a pact he's not willing to pay for. Read more
Published on 9 Jun 2006 by Am Tattersall
5.0 out of 5 stars Gloomy, Emotional and Probably Good For a Movie
Oh yes. Very good emotion. The characters were very well put together. Valerian seemed strangly to like Boy, even after being so cruel to him. Read more
Published on 18 Nov 2005 by "wazawai"
5.0 out of 5 stars The Book Of The Dead Days
Absolutely stunning!! One of the best books I have read this year. I honestly can't wait to read the next one. Read more
Published on 6 Aug 2005 by Marcus willis
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary
Found this book " by accident " at Waterstones when I visited London in May 2004: I have read lots of fantasy - stories and the more I have read, the more difficult it becomes to... Read more
Published on 28 Oct 2004 by "onewitchofthenorth"
3.0 out of 5 stars beautifully written- but what a BAD ending!
I picked up this book by chance at a public library, and was initially fascinated by its gentle narration and rich potential of the title- "The Book of dead days" indeed. Read more
Published on 22 Feb 2004 by 10
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