Revolver – Marcus Sedgwick

Synopsis from Goodreads.
“1910. A cabin north of the Arctic Circle. Fifteen-year-old Sig Andersson is alone. Alone, except for the corpse of his father, who died earlier that day after falling through a weak spot on the ice-covered lake. His sister, Anna, and step-mother, Nadya, have gone to the local town for help. Then comes a knock at the door. It’s a man, the flash of a revolver’s butt at his hip, and a mean glare in his eyes. Sig has never seen him before but Wolff claims to have unfinished business with his father. As Sig gradually learns the awful truth about Wolff’s connection to his father, Sig finds his thoughts drawn to a certain box hidden on a shelf in the storeroom, in which lies his father’s prized possession – a revolver. When Anna returns alone, and Wolff begins to close in, Sigs choice is pulled into sharp focus. Should he use the gun, or not?”

“A single splutter of flame catches as the match head ignites, lying on the ice. It burns halfway down the wooden stalk of the match, and all Einar can do is watch it burn for a second, and then die.
An hour later, and he’s dead too.”

Initial Final Page Thoughts.
Post- Epilogue.

High Points.
I absolutely fell in love with Sedgwick’s writing style- it was haunting, shocking, beautiful and always gave me the sense that I was walking on dangerous ground (almost like a frozen lake, coincidence? I think not.) and feeling too safe and then just as I thought everything was fine, the ice begins to creak and there’s a knock on the door and…. Waaah. Location, location, location- I have never read anything quite like this. Stranded miles away from civilisation (and even then, ‘civilisation’, is a population of about 1000), surrounded by precarious snow drifts and no chance of escape. Claustaphobic, stifling, sinister… these words don’t even come close. This book was so (quick think of another word for chilling) unsettling and I loved it. Moral and spiritual dilemmas. Well-researched history. And then we have Wolff… but more on him later… *shudders and locks the door*

Low Points.
This is purely a personal quibble but I just don’t like epilogues. They just frustrate me because in 99% of cases, they are stupid, rushed and pointless. I like things left unsaid. There are some exceptions of course, but I can’t think of any at the moment, so if you can please… comment away. Because I get why they can be amazing, but I’ve just not seen it happen often. I’m thinking of the epilogue in ‘Revolver’ in two halves, the first bit I loved and I thought that I’d finally found an epilogue that didn’t make me angry, it answered all the questions that needed to be answered but also left a lot of things just there… subtle, like this whole book. But thennn we had to fast forward 60 years later and… yack. No, I’m sorry. Like I said, it’s probably just me and I’m being overly sensitive and in no way did it ruin it for me… I just… meh.

This is a funny one because even though fifteen year old Stig is the main focus of plot (at least the 1910 sections), we only saw him when he was in a phenomenally high-pressured situation, so we never really got to find out about him post-Revolver. I don’t mean that to sound as a bad thing because I really liked Stig and thought he was a fantastic character, but I just don’t think I know him. But it didn’t really matter because this book wasn’t about him, as such, as I think it’s more about humanity in general. Humanity placed in an amplified situation where all the lines are blurred.
Stig had the perfect mix of strength and vulnerability stemming from growing up in harsh world, both physically and metaphorically.
I have to hand it to him, even though I don’t know his favourite colour or if he’s ever been in love, he has nerves of steel. If I was alone in a cabin in the middle of Antarctica wilderness with the nearest living person about a two day huskie trip away… and then I heard a knock on the door? I have four words for you… bat.out.of.hell. With extra flailing.

Mayor Prentiss, one of the creepiest villains that I have had the displeasure of meeting in my literary adventures, remember him? OK, yeah he is a pussy cat compared to Gunter Wolff. I’m not saying any more…. For fear saying his name will make him manifest, a la Beetlejuice.

Theme Tune.

I didn’t want a song with lyrics for this book because it would be practically impossible to find lyrics that captured the atmosphere of this book and didn’t sound too forced. So, I chose this song because it’s beautiful, eerie and ambiguous… like this book.

Angst Level.
10/10. The whole setting and situation of this book really scared me. I have quite a vivid imagination and I like not being stranded in a snow drift (Mancunian winters are pretty frosty) to be around people. And there is a very prominent theme of helplessness that runs through this book.
The way Stig deals with his father’s death feels raw and brutal and it is only enhanced with the addition of everything he has to deal with afterwards.
There is also the addition of the argument of the use of guns and explores the moral issues around them. Whichever side of the argument you stand on, the way the revolver of the title is transformed into a character is both fascinating and frightening.

Recommended For.
People who like their YA with a psychological thrill. People who think it’s fine to open the door to strangers when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

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