Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Revenge of the Witch

Thirteen-year-old Tom lives on a farm, and when it comes time for him to be apprenticed, it is only natural for him to become the Spook's apprentice, because Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son. He is ambivalent about this new development, particularly when the time comes for him to spend his last night in the comfort of his own bed, knowing that in the morning, the Spook will come to take him away. Yes, he'll have a profession when he grows up, and yes, the Spooks do important, necessary work. But still...Gregory, his new master, is so serious, and it gives Tom the creeps to think of all the boggarts and witches he must have dealt with in his travels from town to town.

Still, Tom leaves with him, wondering if he'll manage to pass his first month of apprenticeship and be taken on permanently. His first test comes soon - that very night, he must spend the night, all alone, in an old haunted house. From there, Tom's life becomes a routine of learning interesting but disturbing things, both from Gregory's teachings as well as personal experience. An encounter in the village leaves Tom beholden to a young girl named Alice, to whom he foolishly promises help in return, should she ever need it. One day when his master has gone away, Alice indeed asks him for help, and while Tom feels uneasy about her request, he also feels he should honor his promise. Little does he know the danger his actions may unleash.

This creepy YA novel does not pull any punches - it moves beyond dark fantasy into pure, bone-chilling horror, and it does a wonderfully creepy job of it, too. Tom makes some big mistakes, but he learns lessons that he will never forget - with consequences that are sure to haunt his nightmares. This is an excellent opening to a series, with characters who are complex and intriguing, and who appear to have secrets in their past that we have yet to discover. Tom is likable but naive and a bit wishywashy- he tends to be pushed around fairly easily - but he does seem to learn from his mistakes. I am pleased to see that there are many more books in this series, and I intend to listen to the audio versions, because this production, read by Christopher Evan Welch, was so very well done. This spine-tingling tale is particularly effective read aloud, as the skillful narration draws out the suspense and cranks up the spooky atmosphere. Teens who enjoy Darren Shan's Cirque du Freak series would probably enjoy this series, as well as those kids who loved the Goosebumps series and the Scary Stories to Read in the Dark books and are ready to move on to something more substantial.

Books in The Last Apprentice series:
1. Revenge of the Witch
2. Curse of the Bane
3. Night of the Soul-Stealer
4. Attack of the Fiend
5. Wrath of the Bloodeye
6. Clash of the Demons
7. The Spook's Tale and Other Horrors


NOTE: These titles are U.S. titles; in the UK the series is called The Wardstone Chronicles and, and the titles are all different. Why do they do this? It is so confusing! For more information, check out the Joseph Delaney entry at fantasticfiction.co.uk.

Revenge of the Witch (#1 in the Last Apprentice series) by Joseph Delaney; narrated by Christopher Evan Welch (HarperAudio, 2005)

Also reviewed at:
Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog: "Revenge of the Witch is a little darker than your typical YA fantasy book, and I really liked that. It makes it scarier and more exciting! Just be sure to, er, read the book in the daylight..."
A Garden Carried in the Pocket: "I think young people would love the book for all the deliciously frightening events and for the magical education Tom is receiving."
Read_Warbler: "The writing is pacey, spare, and to the point, not a lot of time wasted with inconsequentials... perfect for teenage boys I would imagine..."

10 comments:

  1. Hmm..it sounds a little to fantasy for me, what do you think?

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  2. this sounds like something my husband would really enjoy.

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  3. I wonder why they change the titles too! So messy and so needless :P

    This sounds awesomely creepy and just...awesomely awesome :P

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  4. I had no idea this series was scary/horror! Thanks for the RA advice -- I often feel stuck for things to recommend to kids who have loved Goosebumps, etc.

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  5. VA Gal - It's very much in the vein of a ghost story - maybe a little too horror for you? I can't remember if you like horror or not?

    Tamara - I wish I could get my husband to read a YA book! I've been trying to get him to read Feed for years. Sigh.

    Nymeth - This would be a great choice for RIP in the fall. I'd love to hear what you think of it!

    Kiirstin - It is a lot scarier than the horror for younger readers, though, imo. Although I am probably more easily freaked out than the average teen. :)

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  6. Big ReaderApril 29, 2010

    I have read the first four of these, and I have enjoyed all of them. I think they are creepy as well because they are so vividly written. Delaney does a great job creating a clear picture of his fictional world. I love the characters and how they grow and change as the series unfolds. I highly recommend the rest of them to you. I also wanted to thank you for your suggestions on this blog. I recently finished Mistress of the Art of Death and loved it. I have requested Serpent's Gate, and I hope that it comes in soon.

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  7. Loves BooksApril 29, 2010

    I have read the first four of these, and I have enjoyed all of them. I think they are creepy as well because they are so vividly written. Delaney does a great job creating a clear picture of his fictional world. I love the characters and how they grow and change as the series unfolds. I highly recommend the rest of them to you. I also wanted to thank you for your suggestions on this blog. I recently finished Mistress of the Art of Death and loved it. I have requested Serpent's Gate, and I hope that it comes in soon.

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  8. Big Reader/Loves Books - Oh, I'm glad to hear that they continue to be so good. I love series in which the characters change and grow, from story to story. And I'm so pleased that you enjoyed Mistress of the Art of Death, too. I just bought The Serpent's Tale from Audible to listen to, and I'm very much looking forward to that.

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  9. Love, love, love these, and I usually don't do horror. Can't wait until the 7th, Coven of Witches, gets to my library!

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  10. Ms. Yingling - I can't believe it took me so long to start this series, when everyone loves it so much! I love this kind of horror because it's like creepy ghost story folklore, really atmospheric, but you get to know the characters much better than in a typical ghost story.

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