11 December 2011

Review: Death Watch

Death Watch by Ari Berk
Publication date: November 15, 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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.

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.

I'm kind of shocked that I haven't seen this book featured or reviewed on other blogs. Somehow it flew under the radar and people seemed to have missed its release. Well, I think it's time to change that.

Death Watch is for fans of the horror genre. It's been a while since a book freaked me the heck out. Sure, Anna Dressed In Blood has its moments, but Death Watch takes it to a whole other level. This mainly comes from Berk's descriptions and prose. The whole book played exactly like a movie in my head and I saw every scary and sometimes horrific detail in my mind. And Berk's characters? AMAZING and so well fleshed out. I felt like they were all straight out of a Dickens novel. The whole book has a very classic feel to it even though it's set in modern times. It might be because the town of Lichport hasn't really changed since its founding in the 1600s. All of its inhabitants seem to be happily stuck in the past, though the outside world has changed around them.

This isn't a book for people looking for a quick read. It's a little over 500 pages which is mainly unheard of in the young adult category. Even I, the *Queen of Patience, struggled with it sometimes. Berk goes into GREAT detail about the architecture of Lichport and sometimes I found myself skimming those passages. Though if you like architecture, more power to you, and pick this book up. If you're more a fan of fast-moving books like Legend, as a most recent example, you may not like this one. Death Watch takes its time to get started, but when it gets there, it's full of fabulousness.

I can assume from the first book that The Undertaken Trilogy is going to epic. Unless the next two books are going to be, like, 300 pages, then not so much. I can't wait to see how Silas develops in the rest of the series!

*I am not the Queen of Patience, I lied to you. I am not even the Duchess of Patience. I am a person with no patience and always in need of instant gratification. But yet, I still enjoyed the book.


  1. Actually I got an ARC of this and hadn't had the time to read it yet but I have noticed that it wasn't very popular. However I love horror and I def. plan to read it soon it sounds great!! Wonderful review!

    Xpresso Reads

  2. @Giselle: Thank-you! I'm glad my review intrigued you. I'm curious to know what you'll think of it!

  3. I love the book, and the review. But "not very popular"? Haven't seen it elsewhere? I hope it's okay if I point out a few Death Watch reviews in a variety of places. It's a big world. Truth in Advertising: Ari Berk is an old friend, so I have probably seen more of these than the average fan, but anyway, here are a few excerpts.
    “Ari Berk writes deftly about loss and love, mining a rich vein of ghostly folklore with vivid prose, style and wit. A marvelous tapestry of a book.” — Holly Black, New York Times bestselling author
    “This truly gothic novel is imbued with hauntingly beautiful prose and vividly drawn characters set in a town just as intriguing as its inhabitants. Death Watch will linger with you long after you lay it to rest.” — Tony DiTerlizzi, New York Times bestselling author of The Search for Wondla
    "Ari Berk's compelling prose draws aside death's veil revealing a macabre, visceral, and utterly believable folkloric world. Eerie and poignant, Death Watch is at once chilling and full of heart." — Brom, artist/author of the books Darkwerks and Offerings, and the Chesley award-winning novel The Plucker.
    "Every now and then a book comes along that breaks the mold of everything that has gone before. Death Watch is such a book. At once a profound and moving meditation on death, and an extraordinary edge-of-the-seat adventure, it is one of the most original and powerful novels I have read in my lifetime." — John Matthews, New York Times bestselling author of Pirates and Arthur of Albion
    "One of the most buzzed books of the season!"
    "Death Watch is probably one of the most artful, beautifully written novels that I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently. The imagery and metaphor that is wound into every chapter shines in today’s young adult literature market." — Figment Blog

  4. And a few more...

    "...thought-provoking gothic fantasy...[a] genuinely eerie tale. Berk’s setting is atmospheric and creepy, fleshed out with a wealth of funereal traditions and folklore...an intriguing opener." — Publisher's Weekly

    "Death Watch may take a while to sink its clever claws into a reader, but once I began there was no turning back for me: I had to get as much time as I could with this strange but completely, morbidly fascinating tale and Silas himself." — .bibliophile. .anonymous.

    "Berk's novel is a labor of love, focusing on his interest in folklore, ghost lore, and the customs surrounding the dead...a rich and complex book...in the hands of the right reader, it will be savored." — VOYA

    "Darkly atmospheric...providing a very human face to the horror. Those who like complexity in their scary tales will find their patience rewarded by the satisfying conclusion." — The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

    "A+ A book for those who love stories with rich, deep histories, with detailed descriptions that make you feel like you were there. Not for readers looking for a gushy love story, or driveling characters that need a significant other to make up their minds for them. Death Watch is for lovers of literature, those readers who revel in the velvety texture of words as they roll off the tongue. It is for those who read aloud at night to empty rooms, just to hear each line sing. This will go on my shelf of favorites..." — little squeed blog

    "If any book deserves crazy hype and buzz, it's this one. Simply put, this one of the most original and atmospheric reads I have come across this year. The writing is gorgeous. The descriptive passages are out of this world. And the characters? Oh. My. God." — Great Imaginations

    And I haven't even written mine yet. :-)

  5. @Maggie Secara: First, I want to apologize if I caused any offense to you or the author. That wasn't my intention, but I still stand by my statement that this book flew under the radar. I was speaking specifically to the YA blog circuit. I actually did read those reviews/blurbs you posted from Mr. Berk's website before posting my review. The point I was making is that this book is unknown to the average teen reader. The average teen doesn't go to the New York Times or Publishers Weekly or VOYA to find their next book. Adults do. Teens hang out on Twitter, Facebook, read YA blogs, browse store bookshelves, peruse Amazon, etc. for their next read. They also receive recommendations from friends. I work for a large children's bookstore and talk to teens many times a day. I recently had dinner with an editor from Penguin and this exact topic of where teens find books came up in our discussion.

    Also, neither the publisher nor our Simon & Schuster store rep talked to us about the book. At all. I found out about Death Watch when our rep came back last week and brought an ARC with her claiming one of us requested it (turns out none of us did). Working at a children's bookstore, it is a large part of my job to know about all of our titles/future releases and I think I do a pretty good job. By the way, I don't mean that sentence to sound pretentious. I tried to rephrase it many ways, but nothing came out right. I realize it is impossible for me to know about every single book. :) I'm just pointing out I didn't see it mentioned on the websites/newspapers you posted. Somehow I overlooked it. I take full responsibility. ;)

    I agree with what you said, that as a friend of the author, you would probably take more notice of the reviews for this great book. And as for Giselle's comment of it being "unpopular," I believe she was just referring to the lack of promotion and attention it received compared to, say, books like Cinder and Shatter Me which are all OVER the blogosphere.

    Again, though, please don't be offended with what I said. I hope I explained myself enough because this is the longest comment I've ever written. It could be a blog post itself, ha! Believe me when I say I will be working hard at my job to make sure my teen readers know about Death Watch!

  6. Oh, and P.S. I'm now following those blogs I didn't know about before. They are quite lovely!

  7. Thanks for the review. Ive actually been wondering about this book. Your review definitely makes me want to pick it up now.

  8. As you said, this book really has been under the radar. Actually I think this is the first review of it I see. Hell...and it seems is really awesome! thanks for the review my dear!! wonderful! =D

    Dazzling Reads

  9. @fishgirl182: Thanks Thuy! :)

    @Natalia Belikov: Thank you! I wish it was on more blogs. I like this type of book because it's something adults can read and enjoy as well, if not more so than the teens it is written for.


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