Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Wardstone Chronicles #1: The Spook's Apprentice

I'm back to the high-fantasy genre and this is my view of The Wardstone Chronicles #1 The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney, been meaning to read since I heard that they were meaning to turn this into a movie.

Here is the summary of the book:

"I was going to learn how to protect farms and villages from things that go bump in the night. Dealing with ghouls, boggarts, and all manner of wicked beasties would be all in a day's work. That's what the Spook did, and I was going to be his apprentice." 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. This well-crafted novel marks an auspicious start for an exciting and fast series for young teens. (Ages 10-14) --Patty Campbell

Very different this story is and has definitely got the potential for being a Halloween read. It all begins with Tom Ward, who is the seventh son of the seventh son and is the custom his father must get him into a trade but since his father has used up all of his previous favors for all of Tom's six older brothers. So, naturally only the Spook was left. The Spook's business is not always the preferred line of work. Well literally a spook's job is to protect farms and villages from things that go bump in the night like ghouls, ghosts, boggarts, witches and all manners of wicked beasts and Tom becomes the Apprentice of the only Spook in the County (there is one more but he works on the outskirts of the land), John Gregory.

Not crossed thirteen yet, Tom has been sent far from home and thrown into a world danger. He has been given a month to prove that he might have what it takes to be a Spook's apprentice, but first Tom will have to last through his first night. A Spook's business basically involves with tackling creatures of dark and so he must prove his worth - spend the night in the cellar of a haunted house. Definitely not as easy as it sounds.

To be a Spook Tom first has to learn a lot of things. Not just reading but practicality is a definite factor in here and if he is not careful he just might catch an early grave for himself. But not to worry Tom has rather some vast advantages above the other previous apprentices - he is his Mam's son who is in her own rights a very mysterious character herself and then there is Alice - the girl with the pointy shoes. Now the Spook has warned him to stay away from girls with pointy shoes as they are mostly witches and can prove a problem for him.

Tom's encounter with Alice sets up a series of incidents that might make it difficult for him to gauge if Alice is a friend or the worst enemy he could find. But trouble really arises when his master is called in to another village Tom is left to fend for himself....and there goes the worst scenario sets in for the lad.

Now as far as the whole thing goes Mr. Delaney has set up such great characters and not to mention such a rich plot for the Wardstone chronicles. It goes without saying that writing high fantasy is not a simple job and he has done beautifully at it. Be it Tom, Mr. Gregory (the Spook), Tom's dad and mam, Alice or the whole plot scenario - everything works. They are great characters with too many layers and mysteries upon them. Story takes place in England and author uses a lot of folklore creatures and legends; witches, boggarts , ghosts, ghasts and others. Characters are well developed and very likeable. I really liked Tom, he struggles with the idea that he will be next Spook, and at first he is not even sure if he wants to be one. The Spook is also another great character, wish there was more on him in here but no problem this book is just the beginning. Tom's Mam is another mysterious character, by how much we found in this book it is enough to know that she is not a normal human being. And then there is Alice, she might just the best one of the lot because for the matter we don't know which side she is Light or Dark - she lies in the gray area of the in-between.

So yes I'm expecting great things from the Wardstone chronicles as since the spook's apprentice is just the beginning of this slightly gory tale (do bear in mind this is not your simple medieval fanstasy tale.....think Lord of the Rings in a much toned down manner). Overall an enjoyable read and definitely a scary, spooky and horror book. It is the details that matter and if something offers such an in-dept scenario where a single sentence can make the hair stand on straight.......well I don't think you need anything else to do besides getting the outcome.

"Makes for a great spooky read"

Genre :      Young Adult, Fantasy

Publisher: Red Fox

Rate:              4/5 (Really Liked It)


  1. It is indeed a great book! I read it when it first came out and I still remember how excited I was about this book and that I told all my friends to read it!
    I really enjoyed your review- and I just decided to reread it! :)

  2. It is indeed a great book! got it as audio book, I really enjoyed your review-



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