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I ran my 200th mile for the year and celebrated by making vegetable biryani and an odd dessert. With rose water and a few strands of saffron, the biryani was a why-am-I-not-a-famous-chef? success. Good job, me. Dessert, not so much! For some reason I’m always compelled to try recipes that strike me as weird. They feel like a dare.  Pots de creme sounded so wrong on paper that it had to taste good. It was basically a vegan chocolate pudding with orange zest and slimy bits of basil. Mmmmmm… Next time it’s pudding time I’m skipping the basil. Not a fan of herbs and chocolate.

I am a fan of Ari Berk and his Undertaken trilogy. Following Death Watch, Mistle Child is the second in the series and it’s a excellent. I waited a few months to pick it up because A) I like to take my time with series and B) I do what I want. Continuing a great series is kind of like treating yourself to a dessert (sans basil). You know the world and characters – the roller coaster’s built –  now we hop on and enjoy the ride.

Mistle Child by Ari Berk

Mistle Child by Ari Berk

Back in the seaside town of Lichport, Silas is busy trying to fill his late father’s exceedingly expansive shoes as the town’s undertaker. In book one we learned how significant the undertaker role is to the town’s living and deceased residents. While Silas has only scratched the surface of his new life, bringing peace to the unsettled dead is high on his list of priorities, which sounds like enough for anyone to take on, let alone a teenage boy who’s lost his dad.

There’s also the girl. Though his memories of her are fogged by an outside hand, he sometimes senses there is a girl who has or had his affections. Theirs is an ominous, unrequited sort-of creepy love story that adds emotional variation to Silas’s character.

A summons from the house of Arvale, the house of his ancestor’s, quickly claims his attention. The visit turns out to be much more than the quick errand he expected it to be. In fact, it involves yet another storied set of shoes he’s expected to fill – the Janus of Arvale Manor. Once there, he finds that Arvale is less a house and more a world all its own, possibly a Shadowlands, but maybe something else. The good news is that he’s not completely friendless in this heavy place populated by cryptic ancestors whom, if we learned anything from the first book, are not to be trusted.

Words to call the dead. Words to banish the dead. These are the oldest formulas known to man and woman. So often what we love becomes what we fear – sometimes through our own fault, because we refuse to honor those who die.

These books breathe life into folklore and mythology in a way I haven’t read before. The town of Lichport, with its lingering spirits, roads to other worlds and knowing witches continuously embroidering a tapestry of things to come, feels very real. Silas lives in a place with rules and customs rooted in ancient ways, and at the same time nothing is fixed in stone.

Mistle Child is an immersive tale of a young man trying to live up to his name. The story gets pretty dark, but it’s also beautifully written. The author writes about myths and other realms as if he’s stepped out of one himself. Best of all, when you’re reading these books you can’t help but feel like there’s more to this world we live in, too.

Lych Way, the third book, releases February 25th of this year…