The Allure of Gold and Guns in the Arctic Goldrush

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

Sedgwick writes primarily for the young adult audience, but his books have much wider appeal and are always thought-provoking reads for adults too. Previous readers of this blog may be aware of my admiration for one of his other titles Blood Red, Snow White, and I also really enjoyed another of his which I read last Easter, Kiss of Death. So I was really looking forward to reading his latest book.

Revolver is the story of a boy and a gun – a Colt forty-four forty revolver to be precise. It’s set in the Arctic north, where three continents meet around the North Pole. It starts in the northernmost town in Sweden, Giron (Kiruna), and Sig Andersson is sitting alone at home, except for the corpse of his father, who died falling through the ice that day as if he was running away from something, or someone.

Sig’s sister and step-mother had gone for help, leaving the young teenager to think about his father and their hard life up in the Arctic, but also his late mother. When Sig was little, they had lived in Nome, Alaska during the gold-rush of 1899; Sig’s father Einar was an assay clerk in the claims office. Einar’s most prized posession is a Colt revolver – it lives in its original box in the storeroom, and needless to say, Sig has always been fascinated by it.

‘A gun is not a weapon, Einar once said to Sig, ‘It’s an answer. It’s an answer to the questions life throws at you when there’s no one else to help.’
Sig hadn’t understood what he meant by that. Not then.

While Sig is mounting his vigil over his father’s body, there is a knock at the door. But it’s not the help he was waiting for, it’s a giant of a man who has come looking for Einar, to claim back what he thinks is his. Wolff knew Einar back in Alaska, and has a tale to tell of gold and the corruption and lust it brings. Now Sig knows why Einar kept a gun; if only he could manage to get it out of the storeroom. Einar had let him and his sister shoot the Colt just once to know what it was like.

He tried not to smile, for Anna’s sake, but inside he felt the best he’d ever felt in his whole life. It had felt amazing, incredible, indescribable. It hadn’t been frightening at all.
The only frightening thing was how easy it had been, but it would be years before he understood that.

The tension rises with each short chapter, and there is a definite frontier feel to this novel with its themes of gold and guns. The far north too has never seemed as cold as when Einar is explaining about the effects of sub-zero temperatures on gunmetal – as always, Sedgwick’s research is top notch. Ultimately though, Sig’s dilemma over whether or not to use the gun is the most fascinating part of the story and makes this short novel a great little thriller making it my first 10/10 read of the year.

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8 thoughts on “The Allure of Gold and Guns in the Arctic Goldrush

  1. This story sounds really familiar but I can’t quite put my finger on what it was… maybe I’ll have to go through my archives and hunt it out. Regardless, this sounds like a top read. I’ve been intrigued by this author for awhile, because I like books set in Venice and I know that’s where “The Kiss of Death” is set.

  2. Kim, I’m afraid I can’t help you with similar stories, although the plot is quite classic.
    I have ‘My swordhand is singing’ to read next – it’s another proper vampire one novel set in Eastern Europe.

    • He’s brilliant. The real shame is he came to a local school last week, and I was due to go and help with the book signing, but got stuck with a health & safety meeting instead!
      The boys from my school who went over to hear him talk about his vampire novels were well-entertained. GRRR!

  3. I read Sedgwick’s fictional book about Arthur Ransom and his role in russia as a spy (based on facts)in Blood Red, Snow White or Snow Whire, Blood Red (overtired) and really really enjoyed it! Must give him another go at some point.

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