They say the dead should rest in peace. Not all the dead
One night, Silas Umber's father Amos never comes home from work. Devastated,
Silas struggles to understand what could make an ordinary mortician disappear
from the face of the earth. But he's about to learn that Amos was no mere
mortician: he was the Undertaker of Lichport, charged with bringing The Peace
to the dead trapped in the Shadowlands and Mist Homes, those 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 and necropolis where they
all were born, and move in with Amos’s brother, Charles, the town's former
Even while 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. Determined to find his
search leads him to his father’s old office, where he comes across a powerful
artifact: the Death Watch, a four hundred year old Hadean clock that allows the
owner to see the dead.
With the Death Watch in hand, Silas begins to unearth
Lichport’s secret history—and discovers that he has inadvertently 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.
* * *
READ CHAPTER 1 HERE
MEET THE MORE-THAN-MERELY-SPECTRAL SPINSTERS OF THE LICHPORT SEWING CIRCLE IN CHAPTER 33 HERE
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Praise for Death Watch
"Berk’s writing style and language are reminiscent of the classic gothic works of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Shirley Jackson. The plot and pacing have a haunting, dreamlike quality--the type of dream that morphs into nightmares that jolt sleepers awake with a pounding heart and shaking hands."
— School Library Journal
"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
"The overriding emotions here are sorrow and loss, but this is far from a depressing book. Instead it reinforces the importance of memory, of keeping those you love close, and of trying to help others, both living and dead. And although it resolves all the plot issues it raises, it also leaves plenty of options for the rest of the trilogy. Death Watch is a great book, and I can't wait for the second volume."
— Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver
"Death Watch is rich with imagery and well researched lore about death and the dead. Berk masterfully weaves together different cultural traditions and rituals about death into an interesting and engaging story. Some might classify this as a horror story but it is much more than that. It is also a coming of age story about a boy who must decide what path he should follow and how growing up means that you have to accept new found responsibilities and learn to forgive to move forward. One of the best books I have read in a long time."
— Bay Area Young Adult Librarians (BAYA)
"Senior English Gothic Lit HIT!
My 12th grade students came back to school last week and gave rave reviews for this summer reading choice! Many said it was "hard to put down," and they all felt the book was worth reading. We are beginning a year-long study of Gothic Lit and the history of fairytales, so I have no doubt in the value of Ari Berk's novel in providing a framework of beautiful Gothic themes and settings (we WILL be dipping back into his book throughout the year!). Though classified as young adult, Death Watch was my #1 favorite read for the entire summer. I have already pre-ordered the second book, Mistle Child, which comes out in Feb. 2013 (can hardly wait!). When I was younger, I worked in the funeral industry, and I am purchasing a copy of this book for my uncle, who still works in this line of work. I feel Berk captured the beauty and purpose of the true meaning of being an "Undertaker." Further, Berk's long publishing record shows forth in the quality of historical and literary references throughout Death Watch; he is obviously a brilliant and well-read scholar (no mere frivolous YA garbage here...this book has literary "legs"). Too many details to gush about, but I most enjoyed Berk's choice to interweave entries from the Umber family Undertaker's Ledger. Just one more touch that added depth to Berk's mysterious characters and drew my students and I into the lives of Silas and all the Lichport residents. I was sad to read the last page, and I look forward to returning to Silas' world."
— Nicole Lobello, English Department, Ascension Episcopal School
"Berk blurs the lines between life and death and sets his story in the haze between...Through all the graveyards and mists and tragedy is Silas’s love for his dad, and the courage that gives him to search far beyond the limits he’s always known....This is one book that male and female readers, both young and adult, will love. You can tell it was written and then crafted and tweaked and polished. There’s not a sloppy sentence in the whole 500+ page tome."
— Ton of Worms [read the whole review here]
"The story of Death Watch unfurls slowly and somehow masterfully combines an air of gloom with the sense and comfort of home. …Berk crafts a whole fantasy landscape out of death and the means through which it can trap both the living and the dead. It is a particularly mature theme and one that young adult targeted fantasy titles rarely seem willing to touch. …There are few novels I’ve read that have done as good a job at taking a character through a journey of growth and discovery… Where some YA tends towards melodrama, Death Watch conveys emotion with seeming ease and readers will latch on to Silas right from the outset. Ari Berk is definitely a writer to watch and the Undertaken Trilogy (of which Death Watch is the first) is a series that definitely needs some more attention. Death Watch is thoughtful, beautiful, and absolutely mesmerizing prose that adults and teens should experience for themselves."
— Mike Ferrante/Kingofthenerds.wordpress.com
Librarian, Franklin Township Public Library, Somerset, NJ
[Read the entire review here]
"I absolutely adored every paragraph I read, especially when Bea was introduced. Every moment kept me guessing and even though I usually know right off how a book is going to end, this one really surprised me. I absolutely cannot wait to devour the next in the trilogy."
— Kiss The Book
"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."
— The Figment Blog [Read the entire review here at Figment Blog]
"Ari Berk has created a wonderfully eerie, half-decayed world filled with nuanced characters, both living and dead. Deathwatch haunts, not only with its restless spirits, but also with its psychological honesty. Berk offers a masterly portrayal of a boy’s struggle to deal with the loss of his father. With lyrical prose, the tale speaks to the destructive power of unresolved grief, the ageless need to mourn our dead, and the unquenchable longing to understand what comes next."
— Larissa N. Niec, Ph.D., Clinical Child Psychologist
and author of the novel Shorn: Book One of the Sky Seekers
"Death Watch, the first installment in the Undertaken Trilogy, is full of beautiful prose that carries the story along, adding to this atmospheric tale. Mixing myth with his own creations, Ari Berk has invented an imaginative folklore for a town that becomes as much a character in the book as the citizens of Lichport. So even though the dead only stick around in Lichport, Death Watch makes a subtle statement that our memories can keep our loved ones just as close."
— Mysterious Galaxy
"Berk’s writing is thick and glorious like some kind of delicious creamy potato soup. ...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."
— Novel Thoughts
[Read the entire review at Novel Thoughts here]
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 sometime 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 Dicken's novel."
— Beneath The Jacket
"One of the most impressive aspects of this novel is the setting description...taverns where the dead drink while hiding from their wives, a place where herons mourn lost children, murky marshes, and a dark part of town filled with lost souls.
While there are other books featuring those tasked with helping spirits move to the other side, Ari Berk manages to craft a unique tone which focuses more on the protagonist’s tumultuous life than the job he’s overtaking. The result is the belief that real people occupy these pages."
Click here to view the Children's Book Council (CBC) Book Stop animated review of Death Watch.
"...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.
"...one of the most imaginative tales bound between two covers. Ari Berk has crafted a unique world that many will wish actually existed. Be patient with the first fifty pages, and we guarantee you’ll be very upset that the sequel is not out yet. Excellent and compelling."
— Yaroos! Young Adult Book Reviews
"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."
"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
"The dead do not always get to tell their stories, and I’m especially impressed by the delicateness in which author Ari Berk explores these lost and often sad stories through the eyes of young Silas Umber. I’m eager to see what new adventures await in the second installment."
"...filled with intriguing ideas and genuine creepiness."
— The Horn Book Guide to Children's and Young Adult 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
[Read the entire review here at little squeed]
"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
[Read the entire review here at Great Imaginations]
DEATH WATCH is available at better bookstores everywhere,
or click below to purchase online
From an anonymous treatise, printed in 1597, entitled
A Briefe and True Report Upon The Workyngs of The Hadean Clock, or Death Watch
"The Dead reveal little of themsalves, but may be compelled.
Running water can confownd the watch’s propertees, as
streams and rivers reminde the holder of the fleeting nature
of Time. Lykeways, Mysthomes, Lands of Shadowe, and
the Dead themsalves be ever abowt us, and onlie the veil
of Time prevents owre findinge them."
SOME NEWS OF OLD LICHPORT
From a printed advertisement distributed along the coastal and inland
towns between 1792 and 1802 Written by Samuel Umber, Undertaker, Lichport
"Ye mournful folk, be ye of Goode Cheere! In the comforting soyle of Lichport, your dead shalle finde peace. We shalle give every consideration to the speedy restfulness of your dead and/or departed. Let us minister to your grief in the venerated and accustomed manner of Lichport, a town well known for its verie full knowledge relating to every ancient and worshipfull ritual that shalle bring peace to all deceased or wandering folk. Walk abroad upon the peaceful lanes of Lichport and finde at every turn goode ground for your kin’s eternal rest. Here shall they be made welcome. Here shall they come to the sweete comfort that only our goodlie earth may give. Come ye! Come ye! To Fayre Lichport where the Dead and the Living find an Ende to Life’s Toil and Worldly Troubles Are No More!"
* * *
Torn from Gormlette’s Guide to Fallen Places, 2nd edition, 1943
"The adventurous traveler will find that once proud Lichport is no longer a town you may travel through. You may only go to it or leave from it (which has long been the more usual). In 1924 the Salt Marsh Bridge, part of an ancient highway connecting many of the coastal ports with the north and west, collapsed, killing six people. Six people who, if such accounts are to be believed, still haunt the site of the collapse. Then, in 1931, a large wedge of the cliff above the highway came crashing down, perhaps due to erosion, and destroyed a great portion of the road, tumbling all down into the sea. No plans to restore either the bridge or that fallen portion of the highway were ever even discussed. By that time, most sensible folk considered the town beyond saving. Its shipping has all but collapsed, most of the shops that might appeal to outsiders have long been closed, and if the bereaved or the memorially inclined wish to visit their dead in one of Lichport’s numerous cemeteries, well, they shall need to make a pilgrim’s progress of it, coming around the long way on the inland road. In and out, both on the same path: a long, featureless road running next to the wide, quiet marshes. On that byway, you’ll have plenty of time to think about your deeply planted kin and how long it has been since the last time you visited them—the time when you left those cheap silk flowers on their grave. Don’t worry. They’ll still be there, right where you left them."
* * *
Historical photos of Lichport and environs,
courtesy of the archives of The Lichport Crow