Wednesday 15 October 2014

Book Review - Spooks Apprentice

The Spooks Apprentice
Author: Joseph Delaney
Series: The Spooks Apprentice/Wardstone Chronicles #1
Genres: Paranormal, Fantasy | Childrens, Young Adult
Release Date: 17th April 2009
Publishers: Random House
No. Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed
Buy From: Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Waterstones
Twelve-year-old Thomas Ward, as the seventh son of a seventh son, has no inheritance and is bored with farm work, and even though his new job will mean the superstitious villagers will forever shun him, he is eager to go off to adventure with the tall, hooded man he calls the Spook. His mother, a magical person herself, approves, and the Spook's teaching is strict but kind.

But when Tom has only learned enough to be able to control their house-boggart, he is tricked by Alice, the young daughter of a witch family, into inadvertently releasing and then killing Mother Malkin, a witch the Spook has imprisoned in a pit. This is no polite wicca-type witch, but a snuffling, slime-trailing, cannibalistic creature reminiscent of Tolkien's nasgils. The story of Tom's escape from the reincarnated witch's hideous revenge is full of horrible details, as Alice helps, and then once again betrays him..

How many times have I walked past Spooks books in my life? Too many to count. Did I ever consider for one moment that I would read them? Honestly, not really, but this is exactly how I felt about Skulduggery Pleasant and look where that series is now, buried deeply in my heart, so after what felt like a lifetime of looking for Skulduggery alike books, I decided to take the plunge and try Spooks. It had all the magic and depth that Skulduggery had, but it had something I appreciated so much when I'd seen how other books had failed in it - it managed to take the feature of horror and fright and make it seem both absolutely horrifying and wonderfully imaginative all at the same time. Spooks positively surprised me and I'm going to let you know why.

Let me start by saying that last October when I read Anna Dressed in Blood, I was a horror virgin. If you'd locked me in a dark room and told me it was haunted, I would have died, I seriously could not take horror that well at all, but I fell in love with the atmosphere and alluring feel that Anna had, and later read Unbreakable which also touched upon the horror feature in a very atmospheric way, and while I had expected Spooks Apprentice to touch upon it a little, after all, this is a man of power whose job is to rid the earth of witches, ghouls, ghosts, ghasts and fear, so I had predicted there would be some jumpy scenes, but my main thought was that this was for children, it wasn't going to be that scary, right? Wrong. This book doesn't take any prisoners, it throws you straight into the world, straight into the unnerving feel and hits upon to the essence of hauntings, ghosts, horrors and quite frankly, the gruesome art of magic. Did I like it? You're damn right, I loved it. How many childrens books do you know that take the idea of jealous man beating his wife to the brink of death, paralysing her, yet being completely unaware that as he digs a grave in the cellar of his house to bury what he thinks is her wife's dead body, she is still alive and can hear every sound the spade makes against the hard muddied ground, the ground she will be buried alive in and unable to shout a word out of, and puts the story through the eyes of a child, and makes it only one chapter out of an entire book? How many witches do you know that eat cupcakes made with the blood of a child? Or ghasts that make you breakfast in the morning in the shape of a cat? This book is both a book of wonderful, humourous turns and a book of gruesome murder, horrible hauntings and it's through the eyes of a young teenage boy.

This young teenage boy, Tom, is the Spooks Apprentice and he was an absolutely wonderful character. He enjoys learning and works hard to know as much as he can take in. He is wary of the world yet is brave and thinks spontaneously in order to do the moral and right thing. He has faith in the people he loves but also is unsure of their secrets, but most of all, he is connected to me. I developed this relationship with Tom that meant whenever he felt brave and stood proud, I was there with him, and when he was afraid, thought his life hung in the balance or was less than confident, I felt the same size of him and felt everything he did. very few characters have me feeling that I am right there with them, feeling what they're feeling, doing what they're doing, tumbling across banks fighting the wicked and wonderful, lying in ditches dreading the dead coming for lost bones, being both wary and intrigued at the young girl that seems to be everywhere and nowhere all at the same time. Tom is the perfect main character, he touched the heart of a 19 year old, but he could quite as easily touch the hearts of 9 year olds and 29 year olds. His development was strong and well written and you could really appreciate his faith in the Spook and how much he wanted to prove himself.

The Spooks Apprentice is right up the alley for fans of Skulduggery Pleasant (or people I blackmailed into reading that series) and would be perfect for people of all ages. There's a real sense of family involved, and while there is magic, it's darker, scarier and on a different level to other childrens books altogether. There's mystery, there's fear, there's joy and there's a real insecurity to the series that makes me want to continue. No, it might not have blown my mind, but it was a very enjoyable, really surprising read and I would definitely recommend it to people looking for something other than contemporary in the younger age ranges.


  1. OKAY. YOU GOT ME. I want to try it. I believed you about Skulduggery (I'm still giggling over the humour there, yessss please to more of that, I just need to, you know, stop getting distracted away from series. It's the death of me, it truly is). I've walked past this in the library SO many times too! I never even really thought about picking it up. But darker magic and family-ness? Oh stop. Lemme get my library card.

      Skulduggery is definitely a soft spot for me, but this is darker and grittier and much more you're thing, hopefully! :D


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