Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Review: Death Watch

I found myself in an awkward position this summer, I had checked out so many books that I had used up all my renewals for three of them which were due back in a week and I really wanted to read all of them. And that is why I plowed through 1100 pages in just under seven days, which is more than I ever had to do in a week in any of my English classes (I have a flatemate who is an English major who sometimes has 100 pages of reading a night but even that would be a few hundred less than what I did, although I had more hours in the day to pull this off) and I am never going to try and pull that stunt again. It did have one good side effect though, I went through the biggest book first (which was IIRC 500-600 pages) and if it wasn't for that time limit I don't think I would have picked up another book so soon afterwards.

Death Watch by Ari Berk

Summary: Growing up Silas Umber always thought his father was a mortician, someone who prepared the dead for burial, not someone who dealt with the dead who were a bit restless. He only finds out this fact after his father doesn't come back one night and learns that he now has to take up his father's job and move back to the families ancestral home in the city of Lichport where the dead are as big a part of the town as the living.  

The Good: I don't come across many stories in young adult literature that could be labeled as gothic (stories with gothic and supernatural elements? Sure, but those are usually mixed genre books and gothic is the secondary genre) so it was a change of pace from what I usually read (sadly though I don't really like gothic stories and this one reminded me why, mostly because of the tropes used which I just don't care for). The story also had a lot of details and, while it wraps up quite nicely and could work as a stand alone, I can see where they left room for future stories, although right now I don't see what new element they could introduce that could span another 1000 pages. 

The Bad: For a book that was over 500 pages long, not much really happened and it could have been paced much more briskly and been at least 50 pages shorter for it. While most of the little details and subplots it introduced were used by the end there was one glaring omission, Silas' sorta-kinda love interest Beau doesn't do anything the entire book and then leaves the story quite abruptly. Given that this is a trilogy I suspect she'll be back later but it all felt rather awkward. Awkward is also a good word to describe Silas' characterization, at times he seems like your average, college-aged guy and at other times he came off rather robotic. I think that shift was intentional to show Silas transitioning from being a kid to taking up the mantle of the Undertaker but it was done in a really jerky manner.

So nope, not the book for me, will not be tracking down it's sequels whenever they come out and I'm reminded of why I don't normally like gothic genre stories. Then again, I read another book lately which could be called a gothic and I liked it much better, maybe because the plot moved faster in that one....