Cover image for The ghosts of heaven
The ghosts of heaven
Sedgwick, Marcus, author.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Roaring Brook Press, 2015.

Physical Description:
359 pages ; 22 cm
Four linked stories of discovery and survival begin with a Paleolithic-era girl who makes the first written signs, continue with Anna, who people call a witch, then a mad twentieth-century poet who watches the ocean knowing the horrors it hides, and concluding with an astronaut on the first spaceship from Earth sent to colonize another world.
General Note:
"First published in the United Kingdom in 2014 by Orion Children's Books, London."
Reading Level:
Young Adult.

920 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG+ 6.1 12.0 171392.

Reading Counts RC High School 6.4 19 Quiz: 65116.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Young Adult
Audubon Library Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Clearfield Library Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Eden Library Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult
Lackawanna Library Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Lancaster Library Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Science Fiction/Fantasy
City of Tonawanda Library Y FICTION Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Timeless, beautiful, and haunting, spirals connect the four episodes of  The Ghosts of Heaven , the mesmerizing new novel from Printz Award winner Marcus Sedgwick. They are there in prehistory, when a girl picks up a charred stick and makes the first written signs; there tens of centuries later, hiding in the treacherous waters of Golden Beck that take Anna, who people call a witch; there in the halls of a Long Island hospital at the beginning of the 20th century, where a mad poet watches the oceans and knows the horrors it hides; and there in the far future, as an astronaut faces his destiny on the first spaceship sent from earth to colonize another world. Each of the characters in these mysterious linked stories embarks on a journey of discovery and survival; carried forward through the spiral of time, none will return to the same place.

Author Notes

Marcus Sedgwick was born in East Kent, England. He is primarily a young adult author. His books include She Is Not Invisible, White Crow, Revolver, and The Ghosts of Heaven. He won the 2014 Michael L. Printz Award for Midwinterblood. His first adult novel, A Love Like Blood, was published in 2014.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Sedgwick is one of the most sophisticated, thought-provoking voices in YA novels, and like his Printz-winning Midwinterblood (2013), this presents a story told in pieces over a span of centuries. The four narratives here, which can be read in any order, are linked by the omnipresent spiral, which appears in art as a universally aesthetically pleasing form, in naturally occurring shapes, in mathematics, in astronomy, right down to our very DNA. What does it all mean? Maybe everything, maybe nothing Sedgwick never seems to pick one, but that oscillation only adds to the haunting atmosphere. In the first section, a free-verse poem of dense syllables and vivid images, a prehistoric tribe lacking written language embarks on a ritual of the hunt, climbing into a mountain cave to conjure the magic that will protect them and call up the beasts that will feed them for a season. After disaster strikes, one young woman is the only one left to make the necessary ritualistic marks handprints on a wall in red ochre, each labeled with the unique symbol of its creator. Meanwhile, another tribe, ruthless and bloodthirsty, attacks her people. Is her untrained magic to blame? As she finds herself sitting alone in the cave in darkness, she contemplates the profound signifying power of the spiraling shapes she sees not only on the walls before her flame goes out but also in front of her eyes, a result of her brain generating visual signals in the pitch black. Spirals retain their magical powers in the second story, but that magic becomes increasingly dangerous. Anna, the daughter of the local cunning woman, took over her late mother's folk-healing practices, many of which involve spirals. But when a draconian priest arrives in their seventeenth-century English village, rumors quickly circulate that Anna is a witch. Her brother's epilepsy doesn't help matters, nor do the oddly mesmerizing charcoal spirals that show up around the village, and despite protestations from Anna's friends, the hysteria spins wildly out of control. Sedgwick offers a lightly Lovecraftian story in his third section, set in an innovative nineteenth-century mental asylum with a spiral staircase at the heart of the building. One patient there, Charles Dexter, seems outwardly sane, but when confronted with spirals, he becomes paralyzed by fear. Dr. James, the beneficent new assistant superintendent of the hospital, tries to rehabilitate Dexter, but the sadistic head of the asylum thwarts him at every turn. It is Dexter's fear, however, that is the true centerpiece of this story for him, the spiral represents the terror of infinity, the slow, inevitable slide into oblivion. That terror arrives at its powerful height in the final quarter, set in the future on a ring-shaped ship en route to a new earth. Keir Bowman is a sentinel on the century-long journey, waking for 12 hours every 10 years to monitor the ship's progress and life-support systems. But when, over the course of 40 years, he discovers that not only is someone killing off the passengers destined to populate the new earth but also that intelligent life somewhere nearby is emitting a signal (tied directly to the ratio demonstrating the spiral), he unspools a sinister truth about his role in the expedition and the future of humanity. Each story is linked only tenuously, emitting mere echoes in the others, but those tenuous links leave ominous gaps that are heavy with significance. The aesthetic beauty of the spiral is pivotal, to be sure, but as Sedgwick notes the ubiquity of the shape as a powerful sign, a healing comfort, a menacing horror, a frightening message he also imparts its beauty and power with a growing sense of awesome terror, as if the more we contemplate the beautiful, infinite spiral, the harder it is to bear. This is profoundly heady stuff, and Sedgwick twines the threads together effortlessly in sparely written, gorgeous lines that tug at something deeper than heartstrings. It's a graceful exploration of a sometimes comforting, sometimes distressing mystery of the universe, and the unsettling combination of meaning and emptiness will linger long after the last page.--Hunter, Sarah Copyright 2014 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

In a prehistoric era, a girl learns the secrets of the cave paintings that give her people their sustenance and identity. In 18th-century England, a priest campaigning against witchcraft and evil targets a young woman who inherits her mother's role of a "gracewife," drawing the village into the plot against her. At the beginning of the 20th century, a Lovecraft-inspired poet goes mad in a nightmarish East Coast asylum while a well-meaning student of "modern" psychology tries to help. And in the future, the steward of a deep-space colonization mission learns that his undertaking is rooted in a lie. This quartet of stories can be read in any order, readers are told, and they obliquely reference each other; a through-line exists in the mysterious and persistent imagery of the spiral, a central focus and fascination. Printz-winner Sedgwick (Midwinterblood) doesn't shy from the tragedy inherent in human interaction; these are not cheerful stories, and their protagonists don't fare well, although their deeds resonate in small ways through history. Readers who like untangling puzzles will enjoy parsing the threads knitting together this corkscrew of tales. Ages 12-up. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Like his Printz Award-winning Midwinterblood (Roaring Brook, 2013), the prolific Sedgwick's latest work consists of individual tales spanning centuries of time connected only by a single thread-in this case a shape; the spiral. From a mark scribbled in the dust by a girl of prehistoric times to the strands of the rope used to hang a medieval girl accused of witchcraft; from a poet plagued by madness who finds the spiral with its never-ending pattern horrifying to the one person left awake to watch over a ship full of sleepers in a state of suspended animation as they spiral through the universe looking for a new earth, each story carries a message of loss and discovery. Tying all four stories together is this one mysterious symbol, which can be found throughout nature in the shells of snails, the patterns of birds in flight, the seeds in a sunflower, and the strands of the double helix of DNA and comes to signify in these tales, a dance of death (and life). At once prosaic and wondrously metaphysical, Sedgwick's novel will draw teens in and invite them to share in the awe-inspiring (and sometimes terrifying) order and mystery that surround us all.-Jane Henriksen Baird, Anchorage Public Library, AK (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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