The learning curve of Tom Ward, the Spook's Apprentice, is a steep and terrifying one, and the reader is with him every step of the way in this immersive and utterly involving novel.
We follow Tom as he becomes the new pupil of the local Spook, whose business is in dealing with unnameable and unmentionable (and is thus side-lined by the rest of the quasi-medieval society). Tom was born to the job, being the seventh son of the seventh son, so whether he likes it or not, this is his destiny.
Along the way Tom encounters the worst that the powers of evil have to throw at him, but with the guidance of the Spook he develops as a character and gains confidence. This is a work which has at its heart the relationship of master and pupil and this in itself is of interest to children; how can I show my master that I am up to the challenge? How can I ever hope to surpass him?
Joseph Delaney creates a world which is strange to us, yet with echoes of our past realities, and as such we are at times disarmed and disorientated. It's the perfect theatre in which to introduce characters from the darkest recesses of our imagination.
The imagery and description is at times strongly graphic and it's not without reason that the caveat is added by the publishers: NOT TO BE READ AFTER DARK. Having said that, my (nine year old) son is hooked on this series and certainly doesn't seem to be affected adversely; on the contrary, he's keen to know more. We came to the Spook's Apprentice in a local bookshop, and it was the cover which attracted him: it speaks of a challenge with demons and undead, and that's a fair indication of what's in store.
A great book and a great series.
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