I was working through a stack of books, cataloging them for the junior high library where I was subbing. I was changing and adding MARC tags as per our district's specifications when this book appeared on the top of the stack.
The cover had a softly burnished silvery purpley glow. The art work by Patrick Arasmith reminded me of 19th century woodcut illustrations. It was almost square in shape. I noted the wide margins and easy spacing between the lines of text. I flipped back to the verso of the title page and saw the elegant, unusual font was Cochin and the book design was by Chad W. Beckerman. This tome was absolutely gorgeous. The first page of each chapter was printed with a black background and white text along with another woodcut style vignette, white on black.
Oh nooo, this is Book 2 of a series. Surely, the librarian has the first one? Yes!
Just to prove I am not a slacker, I finished the entire stack of books. I cataloged the audiobooks and the videos. I printed the barcodes and the spine labels and imported the records into the database. Then I raced to the stacks to find Book 1. Happily, the all-powerful library aide gave me permission to check it out (the sad price my librarians pay for having me in to catalog) and I was one happy camper.
I had not encountered The Last Apprentice series before. There is very little about the author Joseph Delaney at the HarperCollins site. This is all it says.
Joseph Delaney lives with his family in Lancashire, England, in the middle of boggart territory.
Wikipedia has a little more.
The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney, 2005
Young Thomas Ward is a seventh son of a seventh son and it seems his mother has known all her life that he would be apprenticed to the area’s spook. The Spook has the job of dealing with unpleasant and dangerous spirits and apparitions, sort of a nineteenth century ghostbuster. This is an important job but spooks are feared and shunned by ordinary folk.
Leaving his family, Thomas starts his new life, mindful that the Spook's last apprentice was killed by one of the deadly spirits they were called on to dispatch. The Spook is a demanding teacher. Thomas keeps a notebook which he fills with every bit of learning his master imparts. He learns how to dig a pit exactly the proper dimensions for burying a boggart, and all manner of facts about witches and spirits.
When the Spook warns Thomas to beware of girls with pointy shoes he does not think much about it until he meets the mysterious Alice, a girl his own age, who wears pointy shoes. She comes from a family of dangerous witches but he wants to help her. As small children begin to go missing from the village, Thomas realizes the evil threat Alice and her family represent. Is Alice so far gone to the darkness that she cannot be saved?
Full of folklore, the story is down right scary. The book carries this advice on the back cover, “Warning: Not to be read after dark—especially page 148.”
The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane by Joseph Delaney, 2006
The Spook has returned to Priestown for the funeral of his brother, who was killed by a boggart. There is danger in Priestown. One of the most malevolent spirits the Spook ever dealt with is locked in the catacombs beneath the cathedral. Unable to kill it, the Spook confined the Bane behind a silver gate but its influence and poison are spreading and all it needs is a willing soul to free it from its prison.
Because the town and the country side are under threat from the Quisitor, a priest conducting Inquisition style retribution on anyone or anything suspected of supernatural dealings, Tom and his master hope to attend the funeral and then leave town quickly.
The Quisitor returns unexpectedly with prisoners and Tom sees that Alice, the girl with the pointed shoes, has been swept into his trap. She will be burned for witchcraft along with other innocents. The Spook is also captured, betrayed by a member of his own family.
This is a first rate read. These books are wonderfully creepy, full of atmosphere and the book design will make them accessible for readers of all strengths (as are the Charlie Bone series). There is just enough burning at the stake, blood sacrifice and live burials to keep things interesting but not overtly graphic.
I don't know how many kids are aware of this series. They need to know about it NOW!