Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch

Joseph Delaney
Illustrator:  Patrick Arrasmith 
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
HarperCollins, 2006   ISBN: 978-0060766207

Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a farmer and being the seventh son he has no chance of inheriting the family farm. His father therefore has to find an apprenticeship for him, and since his father has had to find jobs for five sons already he is having to scrape the bottom of the barrel for Tom. In fact for Tom he has found an apprenticeship with Old Gregory the Spook. Tom is not all pleased with the idea of working with a Spook. He knows the work is dangerous and lonely for no one wants to have anything to do with a man whose life is spent getting rid of troublesome witches, boggarts and other meddlesome creatures of the night. And yet, Tom does not want to disappoint his family, especially his Mam, so he goes with the Spook and begins to learn the trade.

It is a frightening business and that's a fact. Tom is made to face ghasts, "wisps of the dead" and he is taken to see the graves of restless witches. He is warned never to meddle with the evil witch that the Spook keeps imprisoned in a pit. He is taught to be wary of girls wearing pointed shoes and he is told that if you kill a witch it can come back worse than before. He is taught all this and much more but alas, when the Spook is called away from home on a case, Tom makes a fatal error - he agrees to help a girl who is wearing pointed shoes. He gives the imprisoned pit witch some cakes and as a result she escapes the pit in which the Spook has imprisoned her. Desperate to make amends for his mistake Tom pursues her and in the end he kills her. Now of course he has to live with the fact that the witch is most likely going to come back in some dreadful form and he will be her target.

In this first book in what promises to be a very popular series, Joseph Delaney has created a world which will surely have fans of ghost stories chewing on their nails with delight. Tom, the seventh son of a seventh son, clearly has special gifts which make him especially well suited to being a Spook's apprentice and is intriguing trying to guess what these gifts are and how they will help him in the future. There is also the mystery surrounding his mother. How is it that she seems to know so much and why is she so keen that her son should take on such a strange and difficult profession?

Full of truly terrifying and bone chilling events, interesting characters, and puzzling mysteries at every turn, this is a superbly crafted tale which will delight readers who enjoy being given a good fright every so often.