The bipolar young escort to newly dead souls introduced in Death Watch (2011) acquires potentially soul-corrupting powers and necromantic skills in this deliberately paced but strongly atmospheric middle volume.
Having prematurely succeeded his father as Undertaker in the ghost-ridden town of Lichport, Silas Umber makes his way to the thoroughly haunted ancestral estate of Arvale to continue his training as a psychopomp. There he meets the specters of family going back thousands of years, becomes enmeshed in their subtle intrigues and undergoes a ritual that gives him the ability to banish the restless dead from this world forever. He also inadvertently frees a mad, ancient spirit. In bringing her to rest, he learns some distinctly unwholesome spells from her cursed grandfather that, by the end, look to be leading him straight to an ugly fate. The spectral figures that mostly surround Silas are (somewhat) less frightening and the narrative’s measured language more somber than luridly melodramatic: “She stood in a long woolen gown, limned with flickering, melancholic fire, looking out over the twilight salt marshes.” The general scenario and tone, the many elements drawn from myth or folklore, and the ominous extracts from old books and journals printed in a variety of alternate typefaces are reminiscent of Joseph Delaney’s Last Apprentice series.
Fine bedtime fare for readers looking to cut down on their sleep. (Ghost story. 12-15)