I have been in a three year journey while reading this trilogy. It all began back in 2012 when I strolled into my local Barnes and Noble on a hunt for my next read. I picked through all of the best sellers, narrowing my search to a few underdogs. There has always been something different about a book that’s not in the news, and Ari Berk’s trilogy, the Undertaken Trilogy, is one of those underdogs. Everything about these books has kept me on the edge of my seat, sobbing my eyes out, and filled with a confusion that not even George R.R Martin’s Game of Thrones could possibly give me.
Slow books normally lose my attention early on. To Ari Berks defense for The Undertaken Trilogy, it is a trilogy so I expected these novels to be slow from the beginning. It’s very difficult to understand the rest of the series if you don’t catch every detail in the first book since every little word and punctuation mark contributes to the story line. Death Watch is a beautifully written gothic, creepy mystery involving a boy dependent on finding his father, a mother that wants to keep her son away from his father’s life as much as possible, and a seductive Uncle who has too many secrets to keep.
Silas Umber is the son of a drunken mother, Dolores, and a missing father, Amos, who had been missing for a few months. Not only did Amos leave Silas a nervous wreck on where his father might be, but he left clues behind on what Amos’ life really entailed. Dolores and Silas lost the house Amos’ brother, Charles, had given them as a marriage gift and are forced to move back into “Uncles” house where they will live until their lives pick back up, or until Amos comes back and takes them away again, saving the two from their unnerving host. As Silas explores his new home of Lichport he discovers the home where Amos lived whenever he was in the town, and Silas takes a liking to it from the beginning. During a visitation to the house, Silas finds a watch that looks like a skull, and takes it as a curiosity piece. He later finds out it’s the “Death Watch” his father left behind for Silas to find and to take up Amos’ job as Undertaker for Lichport. Silas then must make the sacrificing choice on whether to take up the Umber family business or give into Uncle’s seduction and stay with him until Amos comes home to find them, if at all. All the while, Dolores sits in the living room with a bottle of alcohol in her hand, completely oblivious to what’s has been going on behind the scenes of his son’s life and Uncle’s conspiracies.
Not only do the dead speak to the living, but the dead live among the living in Lichport. Inside the houses on Fort Street corpses still breathe as they stare out the windows watching their kin walk by and pay their respect once or twice a year. Silas’ great grandfather is one of them, and is a large part of Silas’ life once the boy is able to forget the fact that his great grandfather is undead. Silas uses his great-grandfather’s knowledge of the Howesmann side of Silas’ family, and his wisdom on the ghosts of Lichport.
After waiting a total of three weeks to get Mistle Child, the second installment of the Undertaken Trilogy by Ari Berk, I was finally able to begin reading more about Silas’ world that has been taken over by the dead. Just like the first novel, Mistle Child was slow in the beginning, especially before Silas’ long trip to Arvale Manor. Once he gets to the old, family manor, Silas’ story begins to unwind and the book picks up as Silas’ decisions mean either destroying everything he has built up or saving the people he loves.
At the beginning of Mistle Child, Silas’ door is marked with “Arvale” and he begins his journey to reach the family manor up past Fort Street. After Silas’ crazy Uncle dies, the rest of the family begins to settle into their new environment. The majority of the novel focuses on Silas and his activities within Arvale with his cousin Lars, including going to the Garden party where hours turn into days too quickly to actually realize. But the first stop on their insane travels through Arvale is the catacombs, a cave that Silas goes down into to receive a cup of special water from the Spring of Memory. While in the catacombs, he opens a door that shouldn’t be opened, out of curiosity of course, and unleashes a century old ghost that begins to terrorize Arvale from the inside out. All while he focuses on the demon, he is placed with the title of Janus of the House of Arvale. This title lets Silas banish ghosts that are brought to the Door Doom, including his great grandfather. With that he must make the dire decision on whether to banish his great grandfather or to defy what his ancestors want and go the same path of his father, Amos.
In the third and final installment of The Undertaken Trilogy, Silas must face the consequences of his actions from when he visited Arvale, the Umber family mansion. During his visit to the house up past Fort Street, Silas accidently left a door, a passageway meant to stay sealed forever, wide open, allowing an ancient ghost to run wild and wreak havoc on Arvale. When Silas returns from his journey he is followed by none other than this demon-like-ghost. The town of Lichport falls ill, fire spreads, and death becomes evident everywhere the Umber boy turns. No place is safe for Silas anymore: the people that are left have turned against him, blaming him and the Umber family for their troubles. All the while Silas tries to rid of the demon, conjuring up words he had sworn to never speak from his own mouth. Just like his father, Silas must make the sacrificing decision whether to risk his own life and save the town of Lichport, or ignore his calling and duty as Undertaker.
Ari Berk’s inclusion of the “Ledger”, excerpts from what I can only assume is a large book passed down through the Umber side of the family gave the reader a chance to look at the past Undertakers of Lichport. At the end of the each chapter there is one to five excerpts, all having to do with the chapter the excerpts are attached too. Most are translations, others are opinions on the Bible and other great works from history. Having the ledger in each of the three books gives the the reader a chance to dig into the Umber family’s past and how each Undertaker thought of the world of the dead.
Despite the slow beginning, the Undertaken Trilogy has become one of my favorite series. Each book has it’s own story to tell about Silas Umber and his search for his father. Each setting is just as glamorous as the last, and the characters feel as if they are alive with each sentence, their personalities sprouting and growing into what they became in the final book.
The Undertaken Trilogy is a series that follows a boy lost in a huge world full of sorrow and lost, in an effort to find his father, his true calling, and his place in the world. He faces love, loss, a “restless” family member, and a ghost that not even he, the Janus of Arvale, can destroy.
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