My Swordhand Is Singing

Written by Marcus Sedgwick
Review by Lisa Ann Verge

Sedgwick, a multi-published children’s book author, gives us a new twist on the popular genre of teen vampire fiction in this horror novel set in Eastern Europe in the 17th century.

During a fierce winter, young Peter and his father Tomas, itinerant woodcutters, settle in the forest outside the tiny village of Chust. Strange doings have disturbed the sleepy town: mutilated cattle, bloodied sheep, and unexplained deaths. The villagers react in superstitious ways Peter doesn’t fully understand: They paint their doors with tar, smear their windowsills with garlic, sing a nonsensical folksong at funerals, and perform weddings between young maidens and the recently dead. As the murders multiply, Peter begins to realize that his own father—tormented by a past he will not share with his son—is one of the few who fully understand what is happening. Furthermore, Tomas may hold the key to stopping the horrors, if only he can find the courage to fight.

Based on original vampire lore, My Swordhand Is Singing reads less like a vampire book (the word “vampire” is never used) than an ancient tale from the Brothers Grimm. Set in a deep-forest, Germanic world, this slim volume is lean on historical detail, but the clarity of its prose, and the arrow-straight drive of the storyline, gives the book a classic charm.