Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney

Cover Image  At Amazon

Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice series has shot to the top of my must-buy list. I originally bought the two books in hardback because of the covers. The images are stark and somber, kind of spooky actually. More than that, they intrigued me, made me wonder what kind of world was trapped within the pages.

So I bought the first one, put it on the shelf and told myself I’d get around to it when I got ready to read to my son Chandler. We read all the time for his Accelerated Reader program. Unfortunately, Delaney’s books haven’t made that list, though I intend to push for it at his school because I’m plenty willing to read the stories again. This time to him.

But after buying the second book a few months later, I realized I’d made a considerable investment on books that I didn’t know anything about. There wasn’t even much in the way of reviews on them. So, late one night, I cracked the first one open. It’s even reviewed here, so you can find out what I thought. And now, less than a week later, I’ve read the second one. Couldn’t stop myself. I know there’s a third book in the works (and I’m dying to know which Delaney explores first, more of the Spook’s background, more of Mam’s background, or more of this ever-growing world they all inhabit) but I don’t know how long I’m going to have to wait on it.

But to the second book…

What you need to know is this (if you don’t want to go looking for my review of the first book): Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son in an England countryside that exists some three or four hundred years ago. As such, there’s not much in the way of inheritance for him. The farm goes to the old son, his brother Jack in this case. And his father found apprenticeships for the rest of his sons.

Tom ended up with Old Gregory, the Spook. As a spook, Tom has been assigned to a venerable trade: chasing off ghosts, boggarts, and witches. He’s been trained to dig pits, cover the insides with mixtures of iron, salt, and glue to trap the supernatural creatures, and cover it all with specially crafted stone slabs marked with warnings to keep people away, or from releasing the beasties they’ve gone to the trouble of imprisoning.

The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane takes place about six months after the first book. It opens up with thirteen-year-old Tom called to a church to rescue the priest there from a powerful Ripper, a kind of boggart, that’s feasting on the man’s blood. The Spook is at home sick. Even worse, it’s the Spook’s brother who is the priest who’s being fed on.

The first chapter is a whirlwind of action, drawing us straightaway into the world of the Spook. Told in first-person, we hear Tom’s voice, his fears and his struggles, up close and immediate. He succeeds in his endeavor, but there is a price.

Later, after the Spook has recovered, they journey to Priestown for the priest’s funeral. Before they leave, the Spook tells Tom about an evil that dwells in the catacombs beneath Priestown. It’s called the Bane, and the Spook fought it twenty years ago, barely escaping with his life. Legend says that the Little People, the Serengeti, imprisoned the Bane beneath the town, but that its power continues to grow. It’s even said that the Bane can now control the thoughts of the priests that live in the church above it.

The Spook vows to attempt once again to banish the Bane while he’s there.

But the matter becomes even more complicated when the Quisitor arrives in Priestown at the same time they’re there. The Quisitor has been assigned to rid the countryside of witches and those who traffic with Darkness. The Spook is at the top of the Quisitor’s list.

Tom quickly learns that the Quisitor is an arrogant bully who uses his power for his own good. Sometimes the Quisitor will accuse people of witchery and have them thrown off their lands just so he can acquire it and sell it for profit.

When he first sees the Quisitor, Tom feels sorry for the captives bound in an iron cage who have been brought to Priestown to be tried as witches. Even more shocking, Alice – the young witch who befriended Tom in the first book – is one of the captives. Tom feels like they have to rescue her, but the Spook forbids it.

Unfortunately, the Quisitor soon learns that the Spook is in the area and goes looking for him, quickly finding him after getting the local priest to take Tom into custody. After Tom’s escape, he has a close brush with the Bane and ends up having to save his master and Alice.

Once the traps are sprung, Tom goes into motion. But it’s not the action that truly draws the attention, though that is extremely well done. It’s the characterization that drives the story. We get to find out more about the Spook’s early life, and more about the mystery that surrounds Tom’s mam, who deliberately had seven sons by a seventh son so that he could take up the Spook trade and gave him knowledge she never gave any of her other children.

The atmosphere of the book is chilling and compelling. When you’re in the catacombs with Tom, you’re going to have to fight the urge to look over your shoulder the whole time. And you won’t be able to read quickly enough. Every time you think you’ve reached a safe place to take leave of Tom, the Spook, or Alice for a little while, you’re going to find that a twist in the plot has put them all at risk and at odds again.

I love these characters, how they fit together even though by their natures they shouldn’t. And I love the murky, musty, dangerous world they inhabit.

Delaney has created a page-turning experience both times out. And these are his first two books. I can’t imagine what he’s going to learn as he goes along, but I’ll be picking up the books as they come out.

Even though both books are stand-alones, with no cliffhangers in them, you’re going to be drawn to the story of the characters, wanting to know more and more as you go. I can’t wait.


2 Responses to “The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney”

  1. I LOVE this book.

  2. This is a really good description by the way.

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