The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney (The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 1)

10/10 Chilling, memorable and full of wonderful characters.

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

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19 positive reader review(s) for The Spook's Apprentice

Our interview with Joseph Delaney

The Wardstone Chronicles began in 2004 with the publication of The Spook's Apprentice. In 2008 the fifth book in the series, The Spook's Mistake, was released to further complement a series that is without doubt the b [...]

Read interview


Joseph Delaney's The Wardstone Chronicles series

The Spook's Apprentice

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 1

The Spook's Curse

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 2

The Spook's Secret

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 3

The Spook's Battle

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 4

The Spook's Mistake

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 5

The Spook's Tale

The Wardstone Chronicles

The Spook's Sacrifice

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 6

The Spook's Stories: Witches

The Wardstone Chronicles

The Spook's Nightmare

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 7

The Spook's Destiny

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 8

I Am Grimalkin

The Wardstone Chronicles

The Spook's Blood

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 10

Slither's Tale

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 11

Spooks: Alice

The Wardstone Chronicles: Book 12

The Spook's Apprentice reader reviews

from Somewhere

Just a great book, would 100% recommend if you haven't read the book already.

from England

Joseph came to my school and did a talk about his books and he grabbed my attention the minute he began to talk. I have now read the entire Spooks series . They are so amazing you should definitely read them.

from Norway

if you like these books you have to read joseph delaneys arena 13. they are a master peice

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.

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.

from Pamilan

Just too awesome... Deserves way more publicity than it's receiving. A wonderful series! Hats off to the author.

from South Africa

After I read one of your books I had to re-eead the other ones too!

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.

from Italy

Best series ever. I would like to read many books like these.

from New Zealand

This book is fantastic and am using for my school book report!

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!

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

from Gloucester, England

So far it is really good and I just started reading today xxxxxxxxx

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!

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.

from Somewhere

Hello, I'm going to meet you today, heheheeee and I can't wait, your books are well, good!

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.

from North Craolina


from Hokkaido

I loved it but... teenage? Perhaps for younger readers yet really fantastic anyway. If you liked this try The Wind Singer.

from England


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

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.

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.

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.

9.4/10 from 25 reviews

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