The Ghosts of Heaven

The Ghosts of Heaven

by Marcus Sedgwick


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Timeless, beautiful, and haunting, spirals connect four episodes, from prehistory through the far future, in this Michael L. Printz Honor Book.

In prehistory, a girl picks up a charred stick and makes the first written signs.

Tens of centuries later, the treacherous waters of Golden Beck take Anna, who people call a witch.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, in the halls of a Long Island hospital at the beginning of the twentieth century, a mad poet watches the ocean 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.

The Ghosts of Heaven is a mesmerizing novel from Printz Award winner Marcus Sedgwick, author of Midwinterblood, Revolver, and She Is Not Invisible.

A Michael L. Printz Honor Book

“Intriguing . . . [the] sense of mystery propels the novel forward.” —The New York Times Book Review

“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.” —School Library Journal, starred review

“This complex masterpiece is for sophisticated readers of any age. Haunting.” —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Satisfyingly brain-teasing.” —The Horn Book

“Readers who like untangling puzzles will enjoy parsing the threads knitting together this corkscrew of tales.” —Publisher’s Weekly

This title has Common Core connections.

Novels by Marcus Sedgwick:

Saint Death: A propulsive, compelling, and unsparing novel set in the grimly violent world of the human and drug trade on the US-Mexican border.

Blood Red Snow White: A gripping, romantic adventure novel based on the true story of Arthur Ransome's experiences with love and betrayal in war-torn Russia.

The Ghosts of Heaven: A Printz Honor Book! Timeless, beautiful, and haunting, spirals connect four episodes, from prehistory through the far future.

She Is Not Invisible: When her father goes missing, a blind girl talented in identifying patterns and her brother are thrust into a mystery.

Midwinterblood: A Printz Medal Winner! Seven stories of passion and love separated by centuries but mysteriously intertwined.

White Crow: A scary, thought provoking novel about secrets that are better left buried.

Revolver: A Printz Honor Book! A taut frontier survivor story, set at the time of the Alaska gold rush.

Graphic novel by Marcus Sedgwick, art by Thomas Taylor:

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter: A rip-roaring romp full of hairy horrors, villainous villains, and introducing the world’s toughest monster hunter—Scarlett Hart!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250073679
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 10/25/2016
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 368,346
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Marcus Sedgwick has always been fascinated with spirals, which occur throughout nature from the microscopic to the interstellar. Fundamentally elegant and mesmerizing, many cultures and individuals have ascribed a special meaning to the form. He is the award-winning author of more than a dozen books for young adults, including She Is Not Invisible, Midwinterblood, which won the 2014 Michael L. Printz Award, White Crow, and Revolver, a Printz Award Honor Book. He lives near Cambridge, England.

Read an Excerpt

The Ghosts of Heaven

By Marcus Sedgwick

Roaring Brook Press

Copyright © 2014 Marcus Sedgwick
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62672-126-5





    She is the one who goes on,
    when others remain behind.
    The one who walks into darkness,
    when others cling to the light.
    She is the one who will step alone into the cave,
    with fire in her hand,
    and with fire in her head.

    She walks with the people,
    climbs up beside the waterfall.
    Up, as the water thunders down.
    Up, through the cool green leaves,
    the summer's light lilting
    through the leaves and the air.

    They have come so far,
    and ache with the pain
    of their feet and their backs,
    but they cannot stop,
    because the beasts do not stop.

    From where they climb,
    they cannot see the beasts with their eyes,
    but they know they are there.
    In their mind, they see the deer:
    their hooves, their hair, their hearts.
    The antlers on the harts,
    among the hinds who have the young.
    They take the long path into the valley,
    moving slowly, day by day,
    while the people climb the waterfall
    to meet them
    with arrows and spears.


    Just once, she slips,
    her cold foot wet on green moss rock,
    and close to the spray,
    the water wets her neck.
    Her face close to the drop,
    her gaze falls on the frond of a fern.
    A young plant, pushing its way out from rocks,
    the tip curled tight.
    Curled in,
    in close-coiled secrecy
    round and round, tighter and tighter,
    smaller and smaller,
    forever, it seems.
    She stares, forever, it seems,
    then a hand holds hers,
    and pulls her to her feet.

    The waterfall thunders;
    and they are deaf.
    Muted by its power,
    they climb in silence
    to the year's final camp,
    in the trees, under the cliff,
    under the high caves,
    the high hanging dark
    where magic will be made.

    Where magic must be made.


    Her thoughts are deep in the caves,
    though her body is with the people,
    at the leaf-fall camp.

    Through the trees; the great lake.
    The lake that spills itself down the waterfall.
    The great lake: that will be crossed
    to meet the beasts at dawn.

    They are silent, for the most part.
    They speak with their hands
    as much as with their tongues.
    A gesture; do this.
    Do that, go there;
the pointing hand.
    Come. Sit. Faces talk as much as mouths.
    Besides. They know what to do.
    All of them. The old and the young,
    each works hard.
    Man and woman, boy and girl.
    Only the very young do nothing;
    and there are no very old.

    She, who has been bleeding for two summers,
    will soon give more young to the people.
    It has not happened yet,
    though she has been with some of the men,
    and some of the boys have tried,
    it has not happened yet.
    She knows it will,
    just as the deer they hunt have come to mate,
    out there on the plains beyond the lake,
    so the people too make new.

    The one who will go to the caves walks,
    and speaks
    to the one who will lead the hunt.
    The one who will lead the hunt approaches her.
    He looks at her and tells her food,
    and food it is she goes to find,
    while others make fire, and others
    fetch wood and others sharpen spears,
    and others put huts together from the skeletons of old ones
    and others find the boats they left before.

    A few of the people set out from camp, foraging.
    She leaves them to go their way,
    while she goes hers. Leaf-fall is here,
    yet the evening is warm.
    She leaves her furs behind
    and walks naked with the moist green air on her skin.
    Through the trees of the wood, which stretches along the whole lake shore,
    beneath the cliffs, beneath the caves,
    beneath the high, hanging caves.

    She has a basket, folded from reeds,
    and she fills it with what she can find.
    There are nuts, which will be good on the fire.
    Berries. She finds a root she knows,
    and then she lifts
    the spiraling fronds of ferns, and finds snails.
    Large snails. Good eating.
    She places them in her basket,
    one by one.
    One hovers in the air on her fingertips,
    as she traces its shell with her eyes,
    round and round, tighter and tighter,
    smaller and smaller.

    Or so it seems.

    The snail tries to slip up her fingers, to escape her grasp,
    and she puts it in the basket.
    Time to eat.
    At the camp, the fire is fierce,
    And they have returned.

    Some have left their furs,
    others stay in theirs.
    She feels the cold as the sun dips from the trees,
    and slips her fur over her back.

    They eat.
    There is dried meat.
    Fish from the great lake.
    There are berries and the nuts she found,
    which toast on the rocks by the fire.

    When the eating is done,
    the telling begins, and the one who does the telling
    tells of the hunt that will come.
    And then he tells
    the old tells of the beasts,
    and the tell of the fight between the Sun and the Moon.
    He tells the tell of the journey to the caves,
    and the one who will make the journey stares into the flames,
    and he sees darkness.

    But she doesn't listen to the stories.
    She holds the shell of one of her snails,
    its body in her belly, its back in her hands.
    And by firelight she stares at it.

    There is something about the shell,
    the shape of the shell.
    Like the shape of the uncurling,
    unfurling ferns.
    It is speaking to her,
    she's sure, but she doesn't know what it says,
    because it speaks in a language she doesn't know.

    She picks up a stick,
    a small dry stick, and puts its end in the dust at her feet.
    She moves the end of the stick, and a mark is made in the dust.
    A short, curved line.
    Her eyes are fixed on the shell;
    on its colors, on its curving line,
    the slight white line in the center of the curving body, wrapping in,
    wrapping in.

    Tighter and tighter, round and round, smaller and smaller.
    Or, looked at another way;
    out and out, larger and larger.
    A shape like that could go on forever,
    or so it seems,
    and still it speaks to her,
    and still she doesn't know what it says.
    But she knows she has seen it,
    when her eyes were shut.

    She shifts her foot and the line in the dust is gone.


    As the firelight dies, they make ready.

    There will be no sleep.
    Spears are resharpened, hardened in the fire ash.
    Spear throwers checked; here, a new one is made.
    Pitch and cord bind stone to shafts,
    a splinter of flint with fresh-cut edge:
    an arrow.

    Gut is pulled across a new bow's back,
    it takes strong shoulders to bend it,
    but then, the people are strong.

    And the strongest will cross the water,
    the night-dark water, with half-moon
    light to light their way, across the great lake
    to the plains. Where, at dawn, the deer will be
    waiting, unaware that they are waiting to die.

    And then there he is: the one who will go to the caves.
    He is old. Almost the oldest of them all.
    So it will be his last time in the caves,
    and he must take another,
    who will become
    what he has been.

    It is his choice. The one who goes to the cave.
    It is his choice to choose the new, and she,
    She wants it to be her.

    She thinks she knows what he does.
    She knows why he does it,
    that is something they all know;
    the magic made as the hunt begins.
    From the high cave mouth,
    the plains are across the great lake,
    From the high cave mouth,
    the beasts can be seen.
    And as the hunt begins,
    the one who goes to the cave
    must enter the dark, and make the magic on the walls.
    The magic that makes the arrow fly farther,
    the spear thrust deeper.
    and the beasts die, quicker.

    And she wants it to be her,
    she knows it should be her, so she waits
    while she should be working, and
    watching him, watching him,
    hoping he will turn to her.
    Come to her and say,
    You! Girl!
    Come with me to the high, dark cave,
    and I will show you how to make the magic.

    She waits, the stick in her hand,
    the small dry stick, and now she makes another mark in the dust.
    A hump, a long curve, a flick at the front for antlers.
    A beast, a deer: a stag.
    In three lines.
    She has seen what he does,
    how he draws the shapes in the sand,
    when no one is looking, how he does it
    again and again, till the line is good and the beast is real.

    There is a sound behind her and the one who will lead the hunt is there.
    He sees what she's done, and kicks at the sand.
    He lifts his fist and she hides her head,
    but he does not strike.
    He does not need to, for she knows it is wrong.
    The marks are not for the sand,
    the marks are for the dark,
    and only he who goes to the cave should make magic.

    The one who will lead the hunt is angry,
    but he has more to do than punish girls
    who are not yet giving children.
    He leaves, and in his place comes the one who does the telling.
    The one who does the telling points at the dust,
    where her lines lay.
    He nods.
    She smiles.

    He sits beside her.
    He tells her a tell,
    a strong old tell,
    about the making of magic and how it is done,
    and must be done well, up there, high up there in the hanging dark.
    How the magic is made to make them fall when the arrow strikes.
    For now it's the time for hunting.
    At dawn, on the plain.

    She listens.
    She listens and she understands.
    She understands the tell, but she knows
    why the one who does the telling has that name,
    and that his name means weaver of words;
    weaver of words,
    sentinel of speech
,     retreating in awe at the world,
    speaking with the divine.
    Speaking with the blinding saving light-divine-magic in the dark.

    That is what his name means.
    He puts the stick back in her hands,
    pushes the end onto the dust by the firelight.
    Make, he says.
    So, with one eye on he who leads the hunt,
    she makes.


Excerpted from The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick. Copyright © 2014 Marcus Sedgwick. Excerpted by permission of Roaring Brook Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Quarter One: Whispers in the Dark,
Quarter Two: The Witch in the Water,
1: Approach of Evil,
2: The Lang Candle,
3: The Trysting Tree,
4: A Mind Smeared Across the Head of the Mill Hammer,
5: Stone Foot,
6: Presence,
7: The Devil in Welden,
8: Grace,
9: The Giving Ground,
10: Sin,
11: Right- and Left-Handed Men,
12: The Curve of Life,
13: Sir George Is Defeated,
14: Witness,
15: The Water Gives Its Answer,
16: The Nail,
17: Gaining Water,
18: What Fear Can Do,
19: Fuller's Mill,
20: Witchcraft in England,
21: Damnation,
22: Rope,
Quarter Three: The Easiest Room in Hell,
Saturday, March 26,
Sunday, March 27,
Sunday, March 27—later,
Monday, March 28—early morning,
Monday, March 28,
Tuesday, March 29,
Wednesday, March 30,
Thursday, March 31,
Thursday, March 31—later,
Thursday, March 31—later, continued,
Saturday, April 2,
Saturday, April 2—later,
Saturday, April 9,
Sunday, April 10,
Wednesday, April 13,
Friday, April 15,
Saturday, April 16,
Monday, April 18,
Monday, April 18—continued,
Quarter Four: The Song of Destiny,
Also by Marcus Sedgwick,

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Ghosts of Heaven 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MissPrint More than 1 year ago
"It was all the same thing; the same sign, and now she knew what it meant." In a time before modern history, a girl tries to use a charred stick and ochre to make magic with disastrous results. Staring at the spiral shapes found everywhere in nature, she begins to grasp the enormity--the power--that can be found in written marks. Centuries later, Anna hopes to care for her brother after her mother's death only to have the entire town turn against her. As she fights rumors and increasingly vocal accusations that she is a witch, Anna too begins to see hidden meaning in the spiral found in their traditional spiral dance that begins to appear everywhere. In the twentieth century an American poet watches the ocean from within the walls of an inhospitable asylum. He can see the shapes there too. Spirals. Helixes. Shapes that have become emblematic of the horrors he can scarcely fathom. Keir Bowman knows, in the distant future, that he will become an astronaut on a desperate mission to colonize a new planet. He knows he will keep looking forward. What Bowman can't guess is that in hurtling himself through space, he will also move toward his destiny and an understanding of these spirals that march through history in The Ghosts of Heaven (2015) by Marcus Sedgwick. The Ghosts of Heaven is a standalone novel in the same style as Sedgwick's Printz Award winner Midwinterblood. After an introduction from the author, The Ghosts of Heaven includes four short stories titled "Whispers in the Dark," "The Witch in the Water," "The Easiest Room in Hell," and "The Song of Destiny." As the introduction explains, these stories can be read in any order. (I read them in the order given in the book which is also the order listed above.) The Ghosts of Heaven is an incredibly smart and ambitious novel. The stories here span a variety of genres and forms as they work together to convey a larger meaning. "Whispers in the Dark" is told in sparse verse form as a girl begins to make sense of written words and forms. "The Witch in the Water" returns to more traditional prose as the story watches the hysteria and fear that fed the fires of witch accusations and trials in the seventeenth century. This segment also highlights how much of the novel deals with unequal power dynamics--in this case as Anna tries to work around much unwanted attention. "The Easiest Room in Hell" brings readers to an asylum on Long Island where supposedly revolutionary treatments highlight the arcane and unfeeling nature of much mental health care in the early twentieth century. This story also underscores the fine line that can exist between creativity and madness. Finally in "The Song of Destiny" Sedgwick brings the golden ratio (and the Fibonacci sequence) to the forefront in this solitary and meditative story as all of the vignettes come together in a conclusion with surprising revelations about the spirals and their ultimate meaning. Sedgwick weaves subtle references between each quarter to make sure that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts as readers--along with the characters--move toward a larger understanding over the course of the entire novel. The Ghosts of Heaven is a startling, clever and life-affirming novel that pushes the written word to its limit as Sedgwick expertly demonstrates the many ways in which a story can be told. Possible Pairings: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson, All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry, Plain Kate by Erin Bow, Wildthorn by Jane Eagland, The Curiosities by Tessa Gratton, Maggie Stiefvater and Brenna Yovanoff; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe, Folly by Marthe Jocelyn, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, A Confusion of Princes by Garth Nix, Across the Universe by Beth Revis, In the Shadow of Blackbirds of Cat Winters *A copy of this book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher*
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
Four stories: all unique and all tied together with the central theme of spirals. I have to say that I loved two of the stories, liked one of them and the remaining story, I was speechless at the end. To see the central theme in the stories, it could plainly be seen in some of the stories but in others, it was as clear as mud. What was so amazing to me was how different the stories were and how the author tried to loop them together. I think I would have enjoyed the stories just as much without the central theme threading them together, as I felt it really didn’t add much to the stories. So what’s your opinion or theory on spirals, I really didn’t have one until I read this book. The stories I loved was Whispers in the Dark and The Easiest Room in Hell. In Whispers in the Dark, this story was told in verse and I loved the way that this story played out. The girl desperately wants to be the one who makes magic for her village and is determined to get the job done. In The Easiest Room in Hell, the human spirit is alive and the book’s cover is revealed. The Witch in the Water, I really liked but I wished there would have been something unique added to it and The Song of Destiny, well I followed along with this story until the end and then in the final pages, it lost me. I understand what it was saying, but what?!? really, come on, this really cannot be happening in the final moments. This is my first book by Marcus Sedgwick and I liked his writing and his imagination, I will have to see what else he has out there.