Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

Cover Image  At Amazon

With all the fantasy novels filling the YA and teen racks of late, you can almost find anything you want.  The hardest problem I have is sorting through book to find one that really stands apart from the rest of the pack.  There are tremendously good reads out there, but after a while, even the good ones start to blur together.

I picked up Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice:  Revenge of the Witch because of the cover alone.  It just looked different, old and somber, and – well – sort of creepy.  The setting of the book seems to be 300 or 400 years ago, in England.

The land is filled with small villages with interesting names and deep, rich histories.  Tom Ward, the protagonist of the novel, lives next to Hangman’s Hill where a lot of soldiers were hanged after a particularly fierce battle.  Sometimes at night, those soldiers can be heard moaning and their weight still bends the branches and shakes the trees.

Tom is twelve years old.  The story is told in first-person, which makes him immediately identifiable and pulls the reader in close.  He’s the seventh son during a time when primogeniture (the English law which stated that a farm was given to one son, usually the eldest, so the land wouldn’t be divided up till it was worthless) was in effect.  After the father gave the land to the firstborn, he tried to find apprenticeships for the rest of his sons.

By the time Tom’s father got around to him, he’d begged about all the favors he could from skilled craftsmen.  As a result, Tom gets apprenticed to Old Gregory, who is known as the Spook.

The Spook is responsible for chasing off ghosts and boggarts, and for binding witches.  No one in any of the neighboring villages truly counts him as a friend, and most avoid him when they see him coming.  Unless they’re beset by ghosts, boggarts, or a witch.Not only is Tom a seventh son, but he’s the seventh son of a seventh son, which marks him as something extraordinary.  He has powers beyond most men, and perhaps even beyond that of the Spook.

After he’s apprenticed to the Spook, Tom goes on a journey with him, going through a test, then ending up at the Spook’s house where many surprises await him.  One of those surprises if the living witch buried in a pit covered by iron bars in the Spook’s garden.  Tom also learns that many of the Spook’s apprentices ran away over the years, but that the last one was killed by the witch now imprisoned in the pit in the garden.

All of that becomes grist for the mill as Tom strives to understand the new life he’s taken on.  I absolutely loved the countryside and the world Delaney is building to take his readers through.  It’s calm and simple, and easy to understand what’s at stake.It’s also easy to see that Tom and the Spook are going to have a hard go of it against the supernatural enemies they make as well as the fact that the human world they’re protecting will turn their backs on them.

Delaney also does a really good job bringing Tom to life.  He feels like a real twelve-year-old boy caught in circumstances beyond his control.  The narration style is compelling and pulled me right through the story, making me read far beyond what I’d intended to.

I think the one element that truly sets this book apart from so much of the fantasy that’s out there is the genuine creepiness of everything that’s going on.  Harry Potter has all kinds of fanciful creatures, but that requires a bit more willing suspension of disbelief.

Delaney works with the fears we’ve all had since childhood:  ghosts, goblins, witches, and other things that go bump in the night.  Tom’s fights with the witch, Mother Malkin, and her sister Bony Lizzie and Tusk and even poor dead Billy, the previous apprentice, are scary things that came to malevolent life inside my head.

I read the book at night, to relax.  That was a mistake of sorts.  I ended up going to bed later than I’d anticipated and didn’t enjoy a restful slumber until I was deeply asleep.

I would caution younger readers and parents of younger readers to make certain nightmare-prone kids don’t get their hands on these books too soon.  The descriptions, the menace, and the atmosphere are all compelling, and just a little too real.  The other side of the coin is that this is the kind of book adults will love to read on their own or share with a younger reader to discuss and talk about.

The story’s pacing is excellent.I just locked into the book and couldn’t put it down.  Every page I turned, I learned a little bit more, and more was at stake.  These are the kinds of books readers want. 

The good news is that I already have the second book, The Last Apprentice:  Curse of the Bane.  Even though I hadn’t read the first book, I picked up both at the same time because of those wonderful covers!  I’m really looking forward to it, and I’ve learned that a third book is already on the way.


3 Responses to “The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney”

  1. Very interesting site… I wish I could build one like yours!nancy

  2. i love the book so much! i would want to read it again! i would also like to read the second book! i have read another sereise called cirque du freak and i love them just the same! i am willing to read all the serise of the last apperentice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I agree with everything you said, it is a fantastic book.I have read all 3 myself and I plan on doing so again soon.

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