Two teens come together in this taut psychological novel to explore the question of whether or not there is an afterlife. Marcus Sedgwick (Revolver) hauntingly juxtaposes their contemporary stories with that of a pastor in the 18th century. They share in common the town of Winterfold, on the Suffolk coast of England. Once a thriving town with 12 churches, Winterfold is gradually disappearing into the sea. A high point in the novel occurs when native townsgirl Ferelith wins over the summering Rebecca by taking her to Winterfold's sole remaining church at dusk. With the church's eastern-facing wall claimed by the ocean, it is now, in Ferelith's words, "a temple to the sea."
The story unfolds through the diaries of the 18th-century parson, Ferelith's first-person account and an omniscient narrator who describes the developments in beautiful Rebecca's and goth-girl Ferelith's tenuous friendship. Through his development of these three narrative threads, the author delivers some chilling twists and terrifying surprises, all the while underscoring the timeless human preoccupation of what comes after death. Like Ferelith, the parson becomes involved with a newcomer, Dr. Barrieux. A man to rival Sweeney Todd in more ways than one, the doctor survived France's Reign of Terror, and he invites the pastor along on a "voyage to the unknown" from which they will "return with the truth." The pastor gradually reveals the dark undercurrents of that "voyage," and the two teens unwittingly get swept up in it as well. Sedgwick takes readers on a gripping ride to uncover what lies beyond this life. --Jennifer M. Brown, children's editor, Shelf Awareness