Suffer the Children (Review)

Suffer the Children (Review)

his is the first review from the Four Summoner’s Tales collective, which is an audio book we brought with us on our long vacation drive. In a nutshell, it’s four novellas that follow a loose format – the tales have to involve a stranger who can raise the dead. We’ve got three of the four down and are looking forward to taking on the last one for the drive back. Since these are novellas (i.e. spacious tales with far more legroom than mere short stories) I’ll review each in turn.

And in an advanced rating, I’m going to tell you that you might look up this effort – either in written or audio format. I’m really enjoyed them.

The first one (which I am reviewing here) is Suffer the Children, and likely the most expected of the bunch (the rest are well off the grounds of the expected, as you’ll find out in coming weeks). This story takes place in Canada, seemingly somewhere in the backwoods. While no year is given, it’s modern enough so that the railroad is coming through (not this town, but servicing the area). However, it’s old enough so that diphtheria has recently wiped out a number of children and old people in this tiny little town.

To this sad little community comes an odd pair, a younger man with an odd name (which I can’t find right now – it sounded like a mix between Romanian or Biblical) and a tottering older “assistant”. And to the council, most of whom have so heartbreakingly-recently lost children or grandchildren to the disease, he proposes an offer: This necromancer can raise a child but it will cost $300 (a not-small sum for the time). AND (and there is always an “AND”) another soul must be offered (through the spattered service of a sacrificial murder) – because, after all, one cannot make souls. For every one brought back, another must be offered. And for a council made up of a grieving mayor, a broken blacksmith, and a shattered doctor, it sounds like a good deal indeed. Steep, but, as they reason, fair.

Just to sweeten the deal, to show it’s legit, the mayor’s son is brought back, the older assistant sacrificed to do so. The next thing you know, the recently lost child sits up in his ready-to-bury coffin, blinks, and is whole. Slightly addled, but whole. But don’t worry, the necromancer notes – he’ll come to be himself in the days to follow. He’s just a little… groggy from the trip.

But it is the fourth councilmember who stands against this pact. Named “Preacher” and anything but (the community did not need the services of two schoolteachers, but with this newcomer and his wife they made her the schoolteacher and he the preacher (even though he is skeptical towards all things, Godly and otherwise)). He doesn’t believe this will end well, he opposes it, and eventually he acts against it. And of course, he is right. What is actually occurring in these miraculous “rebirths” is horrific in the extreme. The tale’s end is both surprising and unnerving, and well worth it. So, yes, we enjoyed it.

And the next tales, as I will relate in coming weeks, are even stranger.

Again, this collective is top-notch and well worth the effort to find. I give it four resurrections. Get it!