The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and has been apprenticed to the local Spook. The job is hard, the spook is distant and many apprentices have failed before him. Somehow Thomas must learn how to exorcise ghosts, contain witches and bind boggarts. But when he is tricked into freeing Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the Country, the horror begins…
The Spook’s Apprentice is part ghost story; part coming of age story. We are introduced to Thomas J. Ward, the apprentice of the book’s title, at a time when he has reached the age where he must leave his family and make his own way in the world. Being the seventh son of a seventh son he is eligible to be apprenticed to the local Spook (a man who deals with ghosts, boggarts and witches). The story covers approximately a year in the life of Thomas J. Ward as we follow him through his often hair-raising training. The story opened superbly, as the reader I was instantly drawn into the tale and the setting. The story itself is linear – we follow Thomas from the time he leaves home, through his apprenticeship and his encounters with witches, boggarts and ghouls. Each of the fifteen chapters follows on from its predecessor, forming a coherent and immensely enjoyable tale.
The hair sticking out from under the front of his hood matched his beard, which was grey, but his eyebrows were black and very bushy. There was quite a bit of black hair sprouting out of his nostrils too, and his eyes were green, the same colour as my own.
From: The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
The main characters are Thomas (the apprentice), his family, the Spook, and Alice. The characterisation is excellent, Delaney has a gift for describing things that many omit. I thought the vivid description of the Spook’s long nostril hair was brilliant, I can’t think of any other books that have marked this phenomenon that is more common than you would think among men who have little care for outward appearances. It was very easy to relate to all the major characters and the major relationships are between the Spook and his apprentice and Thomas and his family. As the Spook and Thomas become closer, Thomas’ family distances themselves from him; his job fills them with fear and superstitions make them believe him dangerous and a bringer of bad luck. Although he is still welcome to visit his home, he finds that everything has changed and will never be the same again.
Without warning, Tusk swung me round violently towards the pit and my stomach lurched as I fell into space. I landed heavily but the earth at the bottom was soft, and although the fall winded me, I was unhurt. So I twisted round to look up at the stars, thinking that maybe I was going to be buried alive after all.
From: The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
The Spook’s Apprentice is genuinely scary; the night that Thomas spends in a haunted house made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Delaney does not shy away from adult themes; the bodies of hanged soldiers and the nefarious tastes of witches will shock and delight young-adults in equal measures. The author treats the young adult as they deserve, he does not speak down to them or decide that there are issues that they may not be old enough to deal with, he has written a book that gives them exactly what they are looking for – excitement, danger, adventure, love and courage.
The Spook’s Apprentice is told in the first person, a perspective that is much harder than the third as all events need to be shown through the eyes and thoughts of a single character. Robin Hobb is the master of this style of narrative but Delaney comes close. We are able to get to know Thomas and his thoughts and feelings whilst we also have the bleak yet stirring countryside described in his words. The setting is Lancashire and as I have already mentioned, it can often be bleak but has the ability to completely take one’s breath away – this is something that Delaney gets across to perfection – as the book begins so does the rain – something that Lancashire is renowned for. It was a wonderful story; everything was ideal for the young-adult age group for which it is aimed. My favourite moments of the story were found in the kitchen of the Spook’s home where food magically appears when needed and you are only allowed to go down there when the bell rings, never before or after that time. The house itself stood out as a really magical place, the housekeeper unique and strangely loveable, a real place of warmth and safety in a dangerous world. I was instantly engrossed in the book and its characters – you could say that if Ursula Le Guin and The Sixth Sense merged then the outcome may be as good as The Spook’s Apprentice. I would heavily recommend The Spook’s Apprentice to young adults looking for a fantastic series. Chilling, memorable, full of wonderful characters and written in a fluid style that makes the narrative accessible to all ages.
"Teenage readers looking instead for total fantasy should hasten to Joseph Delaney's The Spook's Apprentice" Independent
This The Spook's Apprentice book review was written by Floresiensis
All reviews for: The Wardstone Chronicles
The Spook’s Tale
The Wardstone Chronicles
The Spook keeps the County safe from creatures of the dark; things that suck your blood and snatch your bones and squeeze the breath from your body. When young John Gregory...
The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 11
Slither is a haizda mage who preys upon humans, drinking their blood to feed his dark urges. So when a local farmer dies, it's only natural that Slither should want to ...
The Spook's Curse
The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 2
The Spook and his apprentice, Thomas Ward, have travelled to Priestown to defeat the Bane, a powerful, evil creature that lurks in the catacombs of the cathedral and is cor...
The Spook's Secret
The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 3
As the weather gets colder, the Spook announces that it’s time to move to his winter house on Anglezarke – a bleak, forbidding place, close to the dark with a d...
The Spook's Battle
The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 4
In Pendle the witches are rising and the three most powerful witch clans are rumoured to be uniting in order to conjure an unimaginable evil. Together they will be capable ...
The Spook's Sacrifice
The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 6
As the Spook’s apprentice, Tom’s first duty is to protect the County from the dark. But now Mam needs his help in her homeland of Greece. One of the most danger...
The Spook’s Nightmare
The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 7
The Spook, Tom and Alice return from Greece to find the County under siege - and the Spook's home is burnt to the ground. With his precious library of knowledge destroy...
Have you read The Spook's Apprentice?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Spook's Apprentice reader reviews
Stelios from Greece
First things first, this is an excellent book. Amazing plot, ingenious characters each with their own approach to problems and ideals, and immense action, full of suspense are only few ingredients of this literary recipe. However, the author could have added some more personal information on the heroes of the series. That's of minor importance, though, so I recommend both "The Spook's Apprentice", as well as the rest of the "Wardstone Chronicles" series.
Bib from Canada
One of my favourite books. And that's saying something, because there are very few books I like enough to read over and over again. This is one of them.
Nathan from Pamilan
Just too awesome... Deserves way more publicity than it's receiving. A wonderful series! Hats off to the author.
Chantelle from South Africa
After I read one of your books I had to re-eead the other ones too!
Louis from Ireland
I think it is the best book I've read. It is full off adventure and horror. And that's the kind of book I like. Whoever wrote the book has to definitely write more and that's a fan request.
Luca from Italy
Best series ever. I would like to read many books like these.
Sebastian from New Zealand
This book is fantastic and am using for my school book report!
Hannah from Lancashire, England
Can not think of anything better I have ever read. It's gripping, I can never put his books down. I have all of his books, the best chronicles ever!
Emma from England
I think your book, The Spook's Apprentice is the best book ever. I have only read that one in Cardinal Allen high school and it is the best book I have ever read in my life and you have put very funny bits in it and some sad bits but it is very easy to read. We all had a read and I would rate it 100% more than ten xxxx
Jessiiee from Gloucester, England
So far it is really good and I just started reading today xxxxxxxxx
William from Across the sea
Enjoyable book which made me like reading. Each time I finish one of your books, I can't wait till I have another one!
Anna from USA
I thought the book was very predictble, I would say he should put in a few more suprises, otherwise I enjoyed it, especially the characters.
Sarah from Somewhere
Hello, I'm going to meet you today, heheheeee and I can't wait, your books are well, good!
Liam from Lanchashire
OMG! Joseph Delaney is the best writer ever! No book I've read comes close, please come to Haslingden High School, plz Joseph.
Delaney from North Craolina
BEST BOOK EVER. BEST IN ORDER. ONE. SIX. FOUR. FIVE. THREE. SEVEN. TWO. GRIMALKIN IS THE BEST. YOU MUST READ.
Flossie from Hokkaido
I loved it but... teenage? Perhaps for younger readers yet really fantastic anyway. If you liked this try The Wind Singer.
mustafa from England
OMG THIS BOOK IS AMAZING!! YOU MUST READ!! GET IT NOW. IT KEPT ME EXCITED DURING THE MOST BORING HOLIDAY I EVER HAD!
Abbie from Fleetwood
I love the whole series, it's so magical and the way it's written is absolutely fantastic! The build up of each book is so intense, I couldn't put the book down for one second! It's amazing! And I can say very happily that I have met Joseph's grandson, he goes to my school :D xA
Jefferson from Japan
This is a fascinating, exciting, scary, and moving book, in which Thomas Ward, the young 7th son of a 7th son, recounts his education and growth as an apprentice "Spook" (an exorcist, witch-hunter, and boggart-solver). It is difficult to put the novel down, because Thomas must deal with a series of creepy and terrifying supernatural beings with his formidable Spook mentor, Gregory, or, more often, on his own. However, when I finished the story and cooled down, I thought that it has many typical elements of young adult fantasy: a special young protagonist marked for a vital, great destiny; removal from his family; initiation into a supernatural world and important role involving (magical) skills by a mysterious, wise, and good master; the maturing of the protagonist through his mistakes and solutions; his alienation from "normal" society; and a growing conflict between the forces of light and dark. What prevents the book from being another run of the mill entry in the genre is author Joe Delaney's skill in telling his story through the voice of the sensitive and honest Thomas, all the while evoking various moods (horror, beauty, love, peace, humour, and so on), creating rounded characters we care about (especially Thomas and Alice, the witch-niece with pointy shoes), developing moral themes (like the difficulty of dealing humanely with evil or the ambiguity of human nature), and vividly describing the squalid villages, magical safe-houses, and sublime landscapes of the Lancashire County. Moreover, the packaging is cool; the book has small, lovely black and white illustrations for each new chapter heading, and the simulated worn-leather cover makes it look like one of Thomas' Spook experience journals, which it is. After the horrifying climax, involving an evil dead witch's possession of someone close to Thomas on his family farm, the resolution, when Alice (who could grow into a malign or benign witch or, more interestingly, something in between) tells Thomas that her fingernails have branded him and that, despite his farewell, they will meet again is compelling storytelling. I'm looking forward very much to finding out how Delaney develops his world, characters, and story in the succeeding books in the series.
Robert from Scotland
BEST BOOK EVER! Well, I think The Spook's Mistake is the best one but this one is the 5th best one (so far). I can't wait until The Spook's Sacrifice comes out in June, or the movie. June is the best month this year for me. You are the BEST author ever Joseph. I want to meet you; next year if you happen to be in the Western Isles, Scotland could you please come to the Nickelson Instute in Stornaway please (it's a high school)? If you want to know what languge they use there it's Scottish Gaelic.
Danielle from San Antonio, Texas
At first I wasn't so sure about this book. But then once I started reading it I was absolutly blown away. I loved the writing skill and how things seemed to fit together. Not to mention the exciting adventures that followed. Definitly read this book. I'm practically drooling for book 2.
9.3/10 from 22 reviews
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness
Thousands of years ago the land is one dark forest. Its people are hunter-gatherers. They know every tree and herb and they know how to survive in a time of enchantment and...
The Feathered Man
Jeremy de Quidt
In a German town, long ago, lives a tooth-puller’s boy called Klaus. It isn’t Klaus’s fault that he sees his master steal a diamond from the mouth of a de...
August 1611. Jack Fletcher is shipwrecked off the coast of Japan - his beloved father and the crew lie slaughtered by ninja pirates. Rescued by the legendary sword master M...
The Golden Acorn
Jack Brenin's life changes the moment he finds a golden acorn lying in the grass. He gets caught up in an extraordinary magical adventure and enters a world he believed...
Michael Belmont and the Tomb of Anubis
Ethan Russell Erway
Michael Belmont has always dreamed of leading a more adventurous life, but when it actually happens, he ends up getting more than he ever bargained for. Michael is sent to ...
Ursula Le Guin
Orrec, the son of the Brantor of Caspromant, and Gry, daughter of the Brantors of Barre and Rodd, have grown up together, running half-wild across the Uplands. The people t...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside time and space. It is a strange and remarkable place, where technology rules – yet important events of both past and future are marked by the appearance of mysterious Time...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...