THE SPOOK'S APPRENTICE is the debut novel by Joseph Delaney. The story is about Tom Ward, the seventh son of a seventh son. Tom's father finds him work as an apprentice to the Spook - which is similar to an exorcist - someone who deals with witches, boggarts and ghosts, etc. While Tom is training with the Spook, he is tricked into freeing the evil witch, Mother Malkin, from her pit in the Spook's garden. Tom then has to use what little knowledge he has in order to try and stop Mother Malkin from causing horror. This is something he largely has to do alone, as Mother Malkin's surviving relatives devise a rouse to get the Spook away from his house, leaving Tom alone. However, Tom does have one possible helper; although it is the most unlikely of freinds. . .
That is a very brief synopsis of the book, as I don't want to give too much away and ruin the book for future readers.
The brilliance of Delaney's book lies in the exploration of good and evil, and especially how 'innocents' may be wicked. Delaney explores this complex theme mainly through the character of Alice; a young girl who tries to befriend Tom; a girl who wears pointy shoes ( the Spook warned Tom against such girls, saying they are not to be trusted ).
The book also looks at the subject of fear - how it manages to take hold of us and why. As Tom begins to learn, for example, the Spook's job is a lonely one, as many people fear what they have to do for their living. Solitude is part of the life - people fear them and consequently they are left alone, something which can be fearsome in it's own right, especially for a young boy trying to learn the skills of the trade whilst having to face evil.
This really is a fantastic book - both adults and children can easily enjoy what this book has to offer. It is original, unpretentious, and cleverly written. Highly recommended.