Synopses & Reviews
For years, Old Gregory has been the Spook for the county, ridding the local villages of evil. Now his time is coming to an end. But who will take over for him? Twenty-nine apprentices have tried some floundered, some fled, some failed to stay alive.
Only Thomas Ward is left. He's the last hope, the last apprentice.
Can Thomas succeed? Will he learn the difference between a benign witch and a malevolent one? Does the Spook's warning against girls with pointy shoes include Alice? And what will happen if Thomas accidentally frees Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the county..?
"Delaney may plumb familiar subjects but expert storytelling and genuinely scary illustrations on Arrasmith's part keep this debut novel fresh. This first in a planned series, the Last Apprentice, introduces nearly 13-year-old narrator Tom, whose parents arrange for him to apprentice with the Spook, as their farm will be given to their eldest son. A haunting description gives readers a sense of why Tom might be fearful of the Spook, who roams the countryside, protecting farms and villages by supernatural means ('His long black cloak and hood made him look like a priest, but when he looked at you directly, his grim expression made him appear more like a hangman weighing you up for the rope'). However, as a seventh son, like his father, Tom 'can see things that others can't,' such as the corpses of long-ago hanged soldiers that moan and sway at the far end of his family's property. This is the stuff of skin-prickling campfire stories: Tom must overcome a series of trials to prove himself worthy of the apprenticeship. Readers can almost hear the thumps in the cellar of a haunted house where the hero must spend the night ('Who could have been digging down there in the darkness? Who could be climbing the stairs now? But maybe it wasn't a question of who was climbing the stairs. Maybe it was a question of what'). After readers race through this tantalizingly creepy tale of solitude and sorcery, they will clamor to learn about Tom's future adventures. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Delaney grabs readers by the throat and gives them a good shake in a smartly crafted story....[T]he twisted horror is amply buffered by an exquisitely normal young hero, matter-of-fact prose, and a workaday normalcy." Booklist (Starred Review)
"This accomplished and complex story will fascinate middle-school readers. The characters...are fully realized and definitely believable in their fantastic world of boggarts, witches, ghasts, and ghosts." Children's Literature
"While not extraordinary, the writing is competent, and the plotline has enough twists to keep the reader in suspense....Middle schoolers will probably like the edginess of the bound boggarts and hanging ghastlies." KLIATT
"Readers seeking lots of up-close encounters with the unquiet dead and other creepy entities need look no further." Kirkus Reviews
"This first entry...is an excellent choice for readers who are looking for a more sophisticated alternative to R. L. Stine's Goosebumps books, and the pacing and edgy illustrations at the start of each chapter will appeal to reluctant readers." School Library Journal
About the Author
Joseph Delaney lives in Lancashire, England, right in the middle of boggart territory. His village has a boggart, called a hall knocker, which was laid to rest under the steps of a house near the church. Most of the places in The Last Apprentice series are based on real locations in Lancashire, and the inspiration behind the stories often comes from local ghost stories and legends.