That's about all I can remember.

The twist to the story is the mysterious sound the main character heard:

  • There is a room where nobody can enter, and in it is a wheel that is used to grind stuff into dust. Possibly for potions? The main character suspects they're grinding bones.

  • He ignores his misgivings and strives to be the number one pupil.

  • I think his mentor dies and when he finally becomes the top pupil he realises why.

  • The students turn on him and try to kill him so that they can grind his bones into dust! Or for whatever sinister reason.

Whether he escapes or not is blanked in my memory.

  • 2
    Generally story-id questions work better if you provide a bit more detail. Do you remember when you read it? What language? – user57650 Jan 17 '17 at 17:04
  • 1
    See also our guidance on writing good story-ID questions. If you have a quick look through the checklists there, you might come up with details you didn't know you remembered! – Rand al'Thor Jan 17 '17 at 17:06
  • It reminds me of The Spellgrinders Apprentice, but the details don't quite fit – ip6 Jan 17 '17 at 20:11

It is probably the novel Krabat by Otfried Preußler, also known as The Satanic Mill. The Mill is both an ordinary mill that grinds ordinary wheat to make ordinary flour, and a secret school of dark magic.

  • Before every lesson of magic, the millman turns his apprentices into crows.
  • There is indeed a special room in which there are the Dead Stones, a grinder which works only once a month, on New Moon, and only for a very special customer, the "Man with the Plumed Hat", who is probably

    the Devil

but it is never explicitly stated IIRC.

  • The main character (the eponymous Krabat) suspects that the Dead Stones are used to grind bones.

    They are!

If you want to know if Krabat survives or not, read the dedicated wikipedia article, that, as is the Wikipedia custom, summarizes the plot to the end.

He survives.

  • 1
    Indeed, it was called The Mill. The title rang true. What an innocuous title. Thank you for the soecific detail breakdown! – Neru Mar 5 '17 at 5:14
  • I'm glad I could help. BTW, the Italian title was "The Mill with the 12 crows", which helped to set some dark expectations, but at least it did not give away too much like a title such as "The Satanic Mill". – Teem Porary Mar 5 '17 at 8:15

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