The Spook's Tale and Other Horrors (Last Apprentice) Paperback – 27 Apr 2010
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"This book would be perfect for pulling reluctant readers into the series."--School Library Journal
This book would be perfect for pulling reluctant readers into the series. --School Library Journal"
About the Author
Joseph DELANEY is the author of the internationally best-selling The Last Apprentice series, which is now a major motion picture, Seventh Son. He is a former English teacher who lives in the heart of boggart territory in Lancashire, England. His village has a boggart called the Hall Knocker, which was laid to rest under the step of a house near the church.
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First there's the backstory of Thomas Ward's master: he was the seventh son of a seventh son, able to hear ghosts and see bizarre creatures. On his way to a seminary, the young boy encountered the countryside's spook, and finds himself being hunted by a malignant boggart, and a very clever witch. What's more, the witch wants the boy's bones for her own power -- leading him into a life-changing clash between
Then there are the stories about two of the supporting characters -- Alice Deane is captured by the malevolent Mouldheel witches, stinking side-clans who hate her for being a Deane. Along the way she ponders her past as the orphaned child of abusive parents, the kindly aunt who tried to shield her from her witch heritage, the ghastly Lizzie who dragged her into it against her will, and the boy who changed her life.
Then there's the backstory of the lethal witch assassin Grimalkin, who lost someone she loved to the Fiend as a teenager. Intent on revenge, she vows to become the greatest witch assassin -- but to do that, she must defeat the previous top-dog witch assassin, Kernolde -- who has killed a few dozen witches who have dared to challenge her.
"The Last Apprentice: The Spook's Tale And Other Horrors" is very redolent of the atmosphere that Joseph Delaney excels at -- it's full of bones, blood, graveyard, half-seen horrors and ghastly old women who prowl around looking for thumb bones. His writing style sometimes is a bit bare-bones, especially in descriptions of the more supernatural creatures, (what? WHAT does a boggart look like?) but it's soaked in enough gory, grimy graveyard atmosphere to make your skin crawl.
Unfortunately the titular story is kind of lacking -- it feels as if Delaney dashed the backhistory of the current Spook off, and retreading the same kind of basic story and characterizations (sinister yet kindly Spook, check. Inexperienced boy in over his head, check!). And the ending just sort of sputters out -- Delaney never tells us why the Spook chose this different path in life, why it took so long, or anything else much. We just hear what he did, as if the author was too worn out to continue.
The second and third stories are much meatier and inspired, as well as more gruesome -- we get some insights into the world of the witches, their different clans, and more about the gruesome monsters spawned by the Fiend. And while the perpetually teetering Alice already has a reader's sympathy, Grimalkin becomes a much more human, understandable character as Delaney explores how she became a witch assassin. It's actually a rather tragic story.
After that, Delaney briefly outlines some of the important monsters and witches (including Grimalkin) and their backgrounds, but it's mostly snippets that tell you to read this or that book for more info.
The titular title of "The Last Apprentice: The Spook's Tale And Other Horrors" is a rather flaccid little read that sputters out, but the accompanying witch tales keep it from collapsing under its own weight.
THE SPOOK'S TALE AND OTHER HORRORS tells us the story of how the Spook, John Gregory, Alice Deane and Grimalkin became the people they are, giving us a chance to learn a little more about them. As the previous reviewer has stated, THE SPOOK'S TALE is full of the atmosphere that Delaney creates so well. But, my personal disappoinment is that there were not more main characters involved. I would have liked for Tom's mum to be have been looked at too - hers could be a fascinating story. Even the tales that are included seem to have aspects to them that remain in the dark; not all of the Spook's past is revealed.
But, that is just one gripe and it doesn't take away from how good the book is anyway.
As a way of discovering a little more about the characters we have come to know through Tom Ward's story, THE SPOOK'S TALE is a brilliant way of dragging you back into his dark world before you are able to immerse yourself into it once more.
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