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This novel is a little tough to summarize, but we're going to anyway because we're awesome like that (you know, if we do say so ourselves). It takes place over the course of seven different stories in seven different lifetimes. Oh, and it's told in reverse order. Ready? Let's go.
In 2073, a journalist named Eric Seven travels to a small, remote Scandinavian locale called Blessed Island. There he meets and instantly falls in love with Merle, a young woman he feels he's known forever. He also instantly dislikes an old man named Tor, who's been nothing but nice to him since he arrived. Weird.
Eric investigates some of the wilder claims about the island—including rumors that the residents there have made an immortality potion from a creepy flower called the dragon orchid. Eventually, Eric discovers the dragon orchids growing on the western side of the island, but while he's there, he is seized by Tor and the other islanders. They plan on sacrificing him to appease the gods. Holy crud. As his story ends, Eric is struck with a weird feeling of déjà vu. Hasn't he done all this before?
In 2011, an archeologist named Edward is digging for ancient Viking tombs on Blessed Island. For days he finds nothing, until a sixteen-year-old local boy named Eric tells Edward exactly where to dig. Underneath that spot, Edward discovers something extraordinary—a Viking tomb with two skeletons inside. Afterward, Edward also gets to know Eric a little bit better, along with the boy's mother, Merle. (You can see where this is going, right?)
In 1944, a World War II fighter pilot named David crash lands on Blessed Island. He is discovered by a farmer named Erik, who cares for him, but dislikes having a soldier around—war just leaves a bad taste in Erik's mouth. But Erik changes his attitude toward David when he sees a picture of the airman's twelve-year-old daughter, Merle. You can probably guess why. Later, when enemy soldiers come to Blessed Island to hunt down David, Erik helps him escape to the mainland, but is killed in the process. Too bad. So sad.
In 1902, a seven-year-old girl named Merle goes to the western side of Blessed Island to pick dragon orchids with her mother. There she spots a house that belongs to a once-famous artist named Eric Carlsson. When Merle helps Eric after a nasty fall, the two become fast friends and Eric is inspired to finish the gigantic painting he has been working on for the last year, which he calls Midwinterblood. Hey, nice title…
Eric shows the painting to representatives from the National Museum of Sweden, but they think it stinks. Eric dies, dejected, but not before adding an image of sweet and innocent Merle to his masterpiece.
In 1848, two children listen to a bedtime story told by their nanny, Laura. It's a ghost story about two star-crossed lovers named Erik and Merle. See, Merle came from a rich family and Erik was only a lowly fisherman, so Merle's father would not let them be together. When their secret romance is found out, Erik commits suicide at sea. Bummer.
Merle freaks out and goes to his grave every night to weep, until eventually she goes mad and imagines that if she turns into a hare, she and Erik can be together again. She gets her hands on a potion, drinks it, turns into a hare, and then is tragically shot by a hunter's arrow while she sleeps on Erik's grave. After Laura finishes telling the story, the children discover her true identity—she is the ghost of Erik (actually Erika) and the story was about the forbidden relationship between her and her lover, Merle. Obviously, marriage equality hadn't come to the 1800s.
In the tenth century, an old woman named Melle recalls a series of creepy and terrifying events that happened when she and her twin brother, Eirik, were only ten years old. When their father returned from his Viking voyage that year, he brought a stranger with him who turned out to be their Uncle Tor.
Tor claimed that Melle and Eirik were his children because their father was infertile (too much dragon orchid beer will do that). Tor was killed in a fight, but refused to die, and instead he rose from his grave each night, like a non-sparkly vampire, to search for the children. Finally, Eirik ventured out on his own and offered himself to Tor, who crawled back into the grave with the boy, satisfied to at least have one of the twins to himself for all eternity.
Centuries before this all went down, a king named Eirikr offers himself as a human sacrifice. His people are dying because of famine and disease, and they have tried other sacrifices—both animals and human—but now nothing but a king's blood will do. As the king approaches the stone table, his wife, Queen Melle, weeps uncontrollably. Moved by her passion and love, Eirikr promises her that he will live again. Seven times in fact. Will she follow him and find him in each life? She will. And so their journey begins.
But, not so fast. Back in good old 2073, Eric Seven is still on that table about to be stabbed/sacrificed. Just then, Merle appears on the scene and, thinking quickly, frees Eric by slashing the sacrificial knife at his captors. The two lovers flee, but are quickly captured again and dragged back to the stone table where they are murdered side by side. As they die, they remember all their lives together and the perfect moments they have shared as they become one with each other in eternal love. Or something poetic and lovely like that.