The Death of Yorik Mortwell was brought back to me from ALA by a librarian friend of mine. I've been interested since I saw the cover, and knew that I would have to save it for a time that was a bit closer to Halloween, and that I did. I finished the book this weekend, again on a road trip, and it is a great middle grades read.
The book is vaguely steampunk-esque, with repeated mentions of a flying carriage when the rest of the book has a distinctly Victorian sensibility. Yorik Mortwell is a 12 year old servant to the Family, who lives alone in a shack with his sister, Susan. Yorik and Susan were orphaned when their father died, but they were allowed to continue living and working on the estate.
One afternoon, while out in the woods with his sister, Yorik has a disagreement with Thomas, the spoiled son of Lord Ravenby. Thomas, his eyes filled with an empty hate, kills Yorik. And here the real story begins.
We are nearly immediately taken into a behind-the-scenes alternate reality, where glowing hounds, living topiaries, and powerful Princesses are the norm, and Yorik has become a ghost. In his new form, he is finding new abilities as well as new limitations. He is also finding whispers of a new evil that he never knew existed, but he recognizes it as the same dead emptiness that filled Thomas' eyes before he killed him.
As Yorik struggles to figure out how to defeat this new evil, he learns the world around him is much more complex and intricate than he ever realized, and he plays a much larger part than he ever dreamed in determining whether or not that world will continue as it is.
Who should read it?
Most middle grade students will be in the mood for a good ghost story this time of year, and this story could fit the bill. The beginning is engaging, but the middle slows down quite a bit followed by a rather abrupt and anti-climactic ending. I would give this book to students who were looking for a quick, slightly spooky read.