It is the middle of the 1600's and Europe has been decimated by the twin horrors of the Thirty Years War and the arrival of the plague. Krabat, a fourteen-year-old orphan scratches out a squalid life with a pair of younger, weaker companions. Life is grim, verging on hopeless with a better than average chance that Krabat will not live out the harsh winter. But change comes from an unexpected source: his dreams. Over and over again Krabat dreams of ravens, eleven of them, calling him to join them and become the twelfth. When the ravens deliver a specific location and the promise of food that is all the word Krabat needs. He abandons his friends to the cold, hungry night and sets off to save himself.What he finds is the Mill. Lorded over by a cruel Master the apprentices here learn more than milling and Krabat is initiated into a secret brotherhood of sorcerers. After a life of hardship the black arts are enticingly powerful stuff. They learn spells for strength, to separate soul from body, to strike down enemies from a distance and -- yes -- to transform into ravens. The power is entrancing and Krabat throws himself into the work. But it is always clear all is not well in the Mill. There is an air of uneasiness to the place. Discipline is hard and violent. And, as the eldest apprentice cautions him, nothing comes without a price. Once that price becomes clear, Krabat is entrenched too deeply to be able to simply flee..