The Spook's Nightmare by Joseph Delaney

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Rating 8.7/10
A worthy addition to what is arguably the best ongoing fantasy series accessible to older children.

Joseph Delaney's The Wardstone Chronicles are a series of books that have maintained the very highest standard for nearly a decade. 2010 sees the publication of The Spook's Nightmare, the seventh instalment, and it is a worthy addition to what is arguably the best ongoing fantasy series accessible to older children.

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 destroyed, they seek refuge on the nearby island of Mona. But with Mona in the thrall of a twisted Shaman there is little respite from hostility or denizens of the dark. And as Alice dodges the ever-tightening net of the island's witch hunters, a more deadly enemy emerges...

Bony Lizzie, freshly-escaped from the Spook's bonds, has grand ambitions: to take for herself the throne of isle. She has harnessed the services of a tunnel-dwelling buggane, an evil creature which thrives on stealing the animas, or life force, from its unsuspecting victims. With the buggane as her secret weapon can she become an all-powerful Witch Queen?

I am a fan of The Wardstone Chronicles and am quite happy to admit it. I just wish it had been around when I was nine year's old! The books have many admirable qualities, most of which have been covered in the previous six reviews, and I would like to take a look at the two things that have really made the series special for me.

Firstly, there is the relationship between the Spook and Tom. The reason I like it is due to its mirroring of a real-life father-son relationship (even though they are unrelated). When a child is young, as Tom still was when he first went into apprenticeship with the Spook, the father is a larger-than-life figure, positively Herculean with the ability to do anything and someone who can always be relied upon to keep you safe. Sadly, as child and parent age, the illusion slowly wavers and gradually disperses as the father's fallibilities are exposed and the child realises that, like themselves, the parent has many of the strengths and weaknesses that they themselves possess. And then, as the child becomes an adult, the final stage is entered where the younger begins to worry and frets about the elder – this is the stage that the Spook's series has now reached and it has been deftly handled. As the once-unbeatable Spook is bested three times is succession Tom realises that this master is not the man he once was and amidst the concern Tom comes to understand that the Spook's days of fighting the dark are coming to and end. It will be soon be time for the apprentice to become master…

Secondly, there is the Spook's house in Chipenden. JRR Tolkien gave us Bag-end, JK Rowling gave us Hogwarts and Joseph Delaney has given us the Spook's house in Chipenden. The thing that makes these places special is that the reader does not just want to read about them, they want to live within them. The comfort, warmth and security offered by the house, plus of course that fact that is being protected by a friendly boggart, made it a dream location and that is why, in The Spook's Nightmare, it was a very brave decision of author's to burn it to the ground, thereby confining his characters to a nomadic life full of danger without the comfort of knowing that the house in Chipenden is always there waiting for them. Many will be very upset at the demise of the house but hopefully they will soon find a place every bit as special, a real haven from the dark.

So where is the series going? Well, for me, I think that the time is soon coming where the Spook hangs up his cloak and staff to enjoy a happy and well-deserved retirement. I would like to see Tom become Spook, set up another house just like Chipenden and then take on an apprentice all of his own - he may even marry Alice...

Events do seem to be coming to a head and it will be interesting to see what Joseph Delaney has in store for his fans. The Spook's Nightmare is another excellent addition to the series. Highly recommended.

Joseph Delaney is a retired English teacher living in Lancashire. He has three children and seven grandchildren and is a wonderful public speaker available for conference, library and bookshop events. His home is in the middle of Boggart territory and his village has a boggart called the Hall Knocker, which was laid to rest under the step of a house near the church. Most of the places in the Spook's books are based on real places in Lancashire. And the inspiration behind the stories often comes from local ghost stories and legends.

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The Spook's Nightmare reader reviews

from UK

8-stars

It was a great book, but it lacks romance. I really want to see Tom and Alice walk together side by side to the sunset or romantic things, I'm still waiting.

from Wales

10-stars

One word, MAGNIFICENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8.9/10 from 3 reviews

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