Published by Simon & Schuster
Date Published: November 15, 2011
They say the dead should rest in peace. Not all the dead agree. One night, Silas Umber's father Amos doesn’t come home from work. Devastated, Silas learns that his father was no mere mortician but an Undertaker, charged with bringing The Peace to the dead trapped in the Shadowlands, the states of limbo binding spirits to earth. With Amos gone, Silas and his mother have no choice but to return to Lichport, the crumbling seaside town where Silas was born, and move in with Amos’s brother, Charles.If you are looking for a fun, fast, light-hearted read THIS. ISN’T. THAT. But it IS awesome. As I was reading this, thematically, I was reminded of old British dramas. Like Hitchcock. Believe me, as a film person, I am duly aware of his contribution to film but so many of his films are long. Not like Lord of the Rings long, long like “OMG, has a year of my life passed yet?” And yet, this book was still awesome.
Even as Silas eagerly explores his father’s town and its many abandoned streets and overgrown cemeteries, he grows increasingly wary of his uncle. There is something not quite right going on in Charles Umber’s ornate, museum-like house—something, Silas is sure, that is connected to his father’s disappearance. When Silas’s search leads him to his father’s old office, he comes across a powerful artifact: the Death Watch, a four hundred year old Hadean clock that allows the owner to see the dead.
Death Watch in hand, Silas begins to unearth Lichport’s secret history—and discovers that he has taken on his father’s mantle as Lichport’s Undertaker. Now, Silas must embark on a dangerous path into the Shadowlands to embrace his destiny and discover the truth about his father—no matter the cost.
Berk’s writing is thick and glorious like some kind of delicious creamy potato soup. Not for the reluctant reader by any means, but if you have an appreciation for formal language and long sentences, you’ll love this. Generally, I am a very fast reader. I can read about 100 pages in an hour. This book was not only a whopping 523 pages, but almost took me twice as long to read because the prose was so, so thick.
Now, the thing that drew me in from the first moment. I love morbid things. I do. Anything dark, creepy, macabre, whatever, you name it, I’ll love it. And this might just be one of the creepiest and darkest books I have ever read. Some darker books will give you glimpses of darkness and then for whatever reason, lets up. This book doesn’t. Seriously, if you love Dia Reeves or Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, read this. And if this does anything to convince you, Holly Black is noted in the acknowledgements. That didn’t surprise me in the slightest.
I’m going to mention another thing I loved and it’s a bit particular, so bear with me. In this story Silas’ father goes missing and he eventually takes up his father’s bizarre profession having no idea what to do. This situation has been done to death in YA (no pun intended). And as in most YA’s with this, there is always some associate with greater knowledge to help the main character along. Sort of like Giles to Buffy. Here we have Mrs. Bowe, who is the associate, but isn’t very helpful. I LOVED that in that kind of breaking boundaries way. She was very reluctant to help Silas learn certain things and would flat-out not tell him things at another. She was protective like a mother, which hindered Silas’ growth and something he had to work through. That is so unusual to have!
This book is already on my Christmas list, mainly because I want its five-inch thick self sitting on my shelf, adding more black tones to it. I am excited about that. Also, I’ve heard this is a series. This pleases me. I will go through the days-long reading to read more. Yes.
-Reviewed by Jennifer