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  • The Book of Dead Days
  • Written by Marcus Sedgwick
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  • The Book of Dead Days
  • Written by Marcus Sedgwick
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  • The Book of Dead Days
  • Written by Marcus Sedgwick
    Read by Roger Rees
  • Format: Unabridged Audiobook Download | ISBN: 9781400090525
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The Book of Dead Days

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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 288 | ISBN: 978-0-307-43383-1
Published by : Wendy Lamb Books RH Childrens Books

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Read by Roger Rees
On Sale: October 12, 2004
ISBN: 978-1-4000-9052-5
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fantasy (70) fiction (39) magic (24) young adult (21) ya (15) mystery (10) horror (6) orphans (6) children (4) adventure (4) gothic (4) historical (4) children's (4)
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are dead days, when spirits roam and magic shifts restlessly just beneath the surface of our lives. A lot can happen in the dead days. A magician called Valerian must save his own life within those few days, or pay the price for the pact he made with evil so many years ago. But alchemy and sorcery are no match against the demonic power pursuing him. Helping him is his servant Boy, a child with no name and no past. The quick-witted orphan girl Willow is with them as they dig in death-fields at midnight, and are swept into the sprawling blackness of a subterranean city on a journey from which there is no escape.

Excerpt

It was obvious even from a distance that they were not the only ones working in the cemetery that night.

They came to a large tomb, and decided to hide behind it. Peeping around the side of the grave, they had a clear view of an unholy scene.

Three men were hard at work in a grave. A small glass lantern propped against a gravestone illuminated the scene. The shadows it cast were long and grim. Around them lay various tools, and beside them a mound of earth spoil was piled onto a large sheet of canvas. There was a spare shovel and an iron bar with a hooked end. And there was a large canvas bag with a lump inside it—a large, disturbing lump.

“Grave-robbers!” whispered Willow in alarm.

Boy nodded.

There was no sign of Valerian.

“Come on,” said Boy.

Willow ignored him, trying to work out what was wrong with the scene.

The figures in front of them were shoveling earth back into the grave. It was obvious what was in the large sack next to them on the grass.

“Wait,” said Willow. “They’re going. Let’s wait.”

“Let’s just find Valerian and get out of here.”

“In a minute. Look, they’re going.”

It was true. The men worked fast and as soon as they had finished it took them no more than a second or two to gather their things, including the hideous bag, and leave. They swung away into the night, straight down the center path of the cemetery, as bold as could be.

“He never could keep his nose out,” said one. Boy and Willow started at the sound of his voice. It was high and wavered like that of a dying man.

Boy thought he heard another of them laugh.

Willow meanwhile was scampering over to the grave.

Horrified, Boy hesitated by the tomb, unsure if it was more dangerous to follow or to stay where he was. A glance behind at the yawning rows of death in the darkness convinced him to move.

He caught up with Willow where she crouched on the grass by the grave.

“Willow,” pleaded Boy, “come on. Please. Let’s just—”

“Look,” she said. “You would hardly notice they’d been here. A bit of loose soil, but then if it was a new one it would look like that anyway.”

She nodded at the fresh grave.

“Boy,” she said, “what was wrong with what you just saw?”

Boy frowned at her, but it was wasted in the darkness.

“Apart from the fact they just stole somebody?” he asked, sarcastically.

“Exactly!” she said. “They stole somebody. Well?”

Boy shook his head and looked around, expecting the grave-robbers to return at any moment. He noticed a sickly light in the sky. It was still a fair time until dawn, but they could at least see more easily now.

“Look,” Willow said, “I’m not an expert on the ways of resurrection men, but why would they fill the grave back up once they’d taken the . . . you know?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “All right, so it’s strange, but could we find Valerian and discuss it at home?”

“Surely they’d just run—unless they needed to cover their tracks.”

“Or cover something up,” said Boy, despite himself.

“Or some . . . No, that’s too horrible.”

They were silent as they stared at the freshly turned soil at their feet. The daylight was coming stronger now, casting weak light across the vast sprawling area of decay around them.

“Did you hear . . . !” asked Willow.

Boy nodded, clenching his mouth tight shut and trying not to scream.

From the grave just by their feet, they could hear a faint ticking sound. It grew louder, became a knocking, regular, strong. Then stopped.

Boy and Willow clutched each other. The noise started again.

Then they understood, and both fell scratching and scrabbling madly at the loose pile of cold earth in front of them. Their hands were still numb and sore from their crawl across the cemetery.

They dug with clawlike hands until they were paws of mud, scraping up fist after fist of grave-earth, until finally, gasping and straining, they reached the lid of the box.


From the Hardcover edition.
Marcus Sedgwick

About Marcus Sedgwick

Marcus Sedgwick - The Book of Dead Days

Photo © Courtesy of the author

I was a perfectly normal child. Honestly. But somehow I slunk into my teenage years dressed in black and sprouting strange hairstyles, listening to pretentious but potent dark music. In short, I became a Goth. I know it’s not clever now.

How this change came about I am not sure, though it may have something to do with the fact that my first memory is being wheeled in my pram by a nanny through the 12th-century churchyard in the village where I was born. Thinking back to my early years, my life was almost unbelievably idyllic. I was born in the house where I spent the first 18 years of my life, a house designed and built by my parents on the edge this small village in the Kent countryside. Those years seem entirely composed of long summers of adventuring in the woods and the orchards, in the valley and down by the river, as my brother and I tried to live like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. But there was a blot on the horizon that rolled around every autumn–school. I never liked school, never felt comfortable, was painfully shy there, and found all 14 years of it hard work.

I wrote a bit back then; I won a short horror story competition in a fanzine. It was about a nurse being buried alive. Charming. But I didn’t really give writing a serious try until I had something to write about, something that I found exciting enough to spend months doing. That’s the biggest obstacle to all writers, new and established–you have to have something you want to say.

I love writing, but getting ready to write a book is even better. This is the point when you have a world of possibilities before you–all the ideas that you could shake up together and make into a story–and it’s an exciting feeling. So now I spend my free time reading about all sorts of things that I might be vaguely interested in, and wait . . . for ideas to appear that refuse to be ignored. And then another book could be on the way.

Now I have “recovered” from my years in black, and have changed my wardrobe drastically, preferring brown these days. But it still makes me smile when I see some kid all in black, because I know they’re on the right road.

Five Facts About Me (Four of Which Are True)

I used to play bass guitar in an Abba tribute band.

I speak Polish fluently.

I once nearly drowned in an ornamental Victorian fishpond.

I play the drums in an Austin Powers tribute band.

I used to be a stone carver.
Awards

Awards

WINNER 2006 Texas TAYSHAS High School Reading List
NOMINEE 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Young Adult Novel
SUBMITTED 2007 Rhode Island Teen Book Master List

  • The Book of Dead Days by Marcus Sedgwick
  • April 11, 2006
  • Juvenile Fiction
  • Wendy Lamb Books
  • $7.99
  • 9780385747042

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