Description from Goodreads:
Two young brothers are cast out into the hard world when their inebriated father loses the family farm. Their only option is to become apprentices for an elderly necromancer many miles away. It’s a disgusting occupation which society fears and despises. The poor rural kids know little of magic and even less about the world at large, but through a series of wizardly jobs and perilous adventures they begin to learn the true nature of power and the potential of their new dark art.
Honestly, I have a hard time sub-categorising Be’askaas – Tales of Death and Redemption. Yes, at its core it’s a fantasy novel. It has sorcerers, Earth witches, Niads, demons, necromancers, gods, dragons and zombies. No question about it. It’s a fantasy novel. But somehow it doesn’t have the whimsy I associate with the upbeat contributions to the genre, it isn’t epic (though there are a couple long treks), and somehow despite its subject matter I wouldn’t call it dark fantasy either. It’s…philosophical…maybe.
As the two young students, Rafe and Gywn, spend their first year in the company of the necromancer, Yulsef, they learn how little they understood of the world around them and some important life lessons. The reader, by extension, does too. I consider these lessons more important that the story that encompasses them; simple gems like knowledge complicates life. It’s much easier to live in comfortable ignorance than to separate yourself from the herd with true understanding. It’s really particularly genius that the characters are so young. Their minds are relatively uncluttered to start with. So while they spend a lot of time gaping in amazement, there is very little unlearning necessary.
The book is slow. I don’t mean in a ‘god, please let something happen soon’ kind of way. Plenty happens. Rather it is paced and methodical, so that was all good. I only had two true complaints. One, there are quite a few characters introduced in such a short book and often the POV would shift to these new characters before they were introduced. This threw me every single time. Second, I probably would have given the book five stars if it had a little bit more of an ending. I suspect there is a lot more to come. After all one year in the life of a 10 and 13 year old apprentice leaves plenty of room for more and the inkling of civil unrest sets the stage for future adventure. It’s just that this book feels unfinished. It’s only 118 pages long and ends abruptly, with no real wrap up. No real task accomplished or quest finished, either for that matter. There isn’t any real indication of why it should end when it ends. It just does. I was let staring at the phrase “to be continued…” with a distinct sense of dissatisfaction.