Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Last Apprentice

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!


Erin said...

These sound like something my brother would enjoy. He's hard to find books for, so thanks for the recommendation!

Michele said...

They're BRILLIANT !! I've read the first three of the series (they're known as "The Spook's Apprentice", "The Spook's Curse" and "The Spook's Secret" over here !) They're all reviewed on my Blog...

Camille said...

Yes, I remember that now. They have different covers over here. The US book design is just fantastic. So there is a third one. Yippee!

I wonder if you could get an interview with him for EOTF?

Michele said...

I tried to reply to this the other day and Blogger was having none of it ! So I shall try again !

I could try contacting Joseph Delaney re. an interview. Perhaps in time for the publication (here) of the fourth book (no idea when that will be, mind you !) I'll see what I can find out...

Anonymous said...

omg i luv the book and i hope ther is a third!!!they really left me hanging and i am very proud to say i own both 1 and 2

Camille said...

The 3rd book is already out in England. I can't wait for it to be out here too!

u l a n said...

Hello! I just stumbled upon your blog, and i love it! I'm 33 years old and I read young adult books :)

I loved The Last Apprentice -- even if I've only read the first two books. I'm still waiting for the bookstore to get #3. I'm hoping they have the US edition, because I absolutely adore the woodcut art.

I recommended the series to a friend's little sister and she just devoured them. I hope more kids read them :)

Camille said...

It is aggravating that the third one is available in the UK but not here! The whole package is great, the story, the look of the book! I am so happy to find another fan.

Anonymous said...

I personally love The Last Apprentice series. I'm just wondering what book number three and four are called, because I think I've found them on Amazon, but I'm not sure which is which. Help if you can.

And you are absolutely right.


Camille said...

Book 3 The Last Apprentice: Night of the Soul Stealer came out in the US at the end of August 2007. I can't wait to read it. Attack of the Fiend will be out next spring it looks like on Amazon!

Em said...

I just did a search for "last apprentice" in google and found your review. This is definitely a great series. I just posted a review on my site, saying it's a good Halloween read. :-)

Anonymous said...

These books are AMAZING!! ive rad all five and there so amazingly written! ive read so many books but i could easily say that these are my favorite. my favorite definetly is whrath of the bloodeye(book 5) btu the bets part of that book is the end, its also the saddest.... but, i wont spoil it for those who have not read it yet. and if theres one thing to say its that Joseph Delaney has left me desparate for the 6th!

Anonymous said...

First off i am 18 years old. For me these books are great to read. also i recommend this book for all ages. for people who dont know the 4 book is called attack of the fiend.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say is that The Last Apprentice series is AMAZING!!I love all five books and I CAN'T wait till the sixth comes out I really do love it in I sort of grown to have a crush on Tom! lol

Anonymous said...

As most of you have already said this series is absolutely fantastic!! I am not a reader, but my friend told me they are wonderful and an easy read. So I started the first one and read that in less than one day. I am now 3/4 the way through Attack of the Fiend, and they just keep getting better! I like these books better than Harry Potter by far! I look forward to the movie!
I am hooked!

Camille said...

"I am hooked" -- Music to my ears.

Anonymous said...

jus wanna say dat
The Last Apprentice Series is awesome.........
I can't wait for the other the mvies

Anonymous said...

when is the third book going to be out anyone Knows?

Camille said...

Here is a list of the books and the pub dates:

1. The Spook's Apprentice (Revenge of the Witch) - 2004
2. The Spook's Curse (Curse of the Bane) - 2005
3. The Spook's Secret (Night of The Soul Stealer) 2006
4. The Spook's Battle (Attack of the Fiend) - 2007
5. The Spook's Mistake (Wrath of the Bloodeye) - 2008
6. The Spook's Sacrifice (Clash of the Demons) - June 4TH 2009


* The Spook's Tale (World Book Day - March 2009)
* The Wardstone Witches (October 2009)
* The Spook's Bestiary (Winter 2010)

Anonymous said...

i soo like this series. i wonder why it's underrated! i heard joseph delaney is working on a series making alice as the narrator.