Thursday, November 19, 2015

Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: The Last Apprentice/The Spook series

I have been terrible at posting in the Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge since June.
Well...no time like the present I guess.

Instead of doing everything I have read since July I'll focus on the "Spook Series" also known as the Wardstone Chronicles or The Last Apprentice books by Joseph Delaney.   I reviewed the first book, The Last Apprentice, back in January.

Yes these are children's books or Young Adult. But my youngest son was reading them so I thought I would read along with him.  Sometime around book four I passed him up.
I remember seeing the first book, The Last Apprentice, when it first came out.  I flipped through it and got the idea then that Spooks were something like rangers, only focused on get rid of ghosts.
The inevitable comparison though is to Harry Potter.  Like Harry, Tom Ward starts out as a young boy and grows into his destiny.  Tom's backstory is not as tragic, but he has plenty of secrets about himself to learn.  I will be honest. These books are not as good as Harry Potter, but that is hardly a slight. Hardly anything is as good as Harry Potter.  But these books do have some charm and they are a really quick read. So here are my reviews, game information will follow.

The Spook's Curse (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Curse of the Bane) - 2005
The second book in the series deals with the death of the Spook's brother and their journey to Priestown. Here Tom are the Spook reunited with Alice, but she is in the hands of the Quisitor.  To make matters worse, the monster imprisoned in the catacombs under Priestown is waking up and exerting more control over the priests to turn them evil.  The Spook, Tom and Alice have to work together to defeat the Bane.
What I liked the most about this one was the development of Alice as a character.  You get the idea that she will be or already is a very powerful witch in her own right.
Number of Witches: Only 1 confirmed

The Spook's Secret (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Night of the Soul Stealer) - 2006
Winter has come to the County and the Spook, Tom and Alice travel to the Spook's winter home.  We learn a lot more about the Spook's background and he is not as "pure" as he claims to be.  We learn he has kept his "wife" and her sister locked up in his cellar because they are Lamia Witches.  We also meet Morgan, a failed apprentice Spook turned Necromancer and now an enemy of John Gregory the Spook.
This book sets up the formula that will appear in other books, Tom and Alice fighting multiple enemies at the same time.  In this case Lamia Witches and Morgan/Golgoth.  The tone in this book is also a bit darker than the first two.  Tom's dad dies and Morgan keeps the soul imprisoned.  Fairly dark. I liked that in his youth the Spook was not so principled.
Number of Witches: 3, plus 1 Necromancer

The Spook's Battle (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Attack of the Fiend) - 2007
Ah, now we are getting into the meat of the series (so far).  Tom's mother "Mam" (I'll admit, I hate that name. She really should have had a proper name) has gone home to Greece to fight the Dark there.  But in the meantime Tom's brother Jack, with Jack's wife and daughter are all captured by Pendle Witches and his mother's trunks are taken.  Alice goes ahead to Pendle, where she still has witch relatives of her own, to find out what is going on.  When she does not return Tom and Spook go into the heart of town populate by three powerful clans of witches.
In addition to learning more about Tom's mother (she was likely a domestic Lamia witch) we learn more about Alice. She is the daughter of two witch clans for example and still has plenty of relatives left.  We also meet one of the coolest characters in the series, Grimalkin the Witch-Assassin.  But the Big Bad of the series is finally revealed; the Fiend or The actual honest to goodness Devil himself.  And he wants Tom.
Number of Witches: 100s

The Spook's Mistake (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Wrath of the Bloodeye) - 2008
Tom has entered next phase of his apprenticeship where he will go train with a different Spook for 6 months.  This time with former apprentice Bill Arkwright.  Here Tom learns more about Water Witches and learns more about the plans the Fiend has in store for him.  He is afraid that Alice is getting closer and closer to the Dark.  He also makes an unlikely ally in the form of Grimalkin.  Here also Tom learns that Alice was not the daughter of two benign witches but the daughter of Bony Lizzy and the Fiend himself.  The Spook wants to put her in a pit but Tom and Bill intervene.  *Note to be fair we learn that Alice is Bony Lizzy's daughter in the "Seventh Son" Movie, I just thought at the time they were being lazy.
Number of Witches: half a dozen or so

The Spook's Sacrifice (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Clash of the Demons) - 2009
Tom, Alice, his mother, Bill Arkwright and a reluctant Spook join forces with the Pendle Witches to travel to Greece to battle one of the Fiend's greatest allies, the Ordeen. We learn a lot more in this book.  Tom's mother is not just a lamia witch, she is Lamia herself and all Lamia witches are her offspring.  She has been fighting the Dark now for centuries.  We meet some Greek Spooks who have different ways of fighting the Dark and Grimalkin continues to be a bad ass.  Tom has to make a very choice between two equally bad options and ends up under the power of the Fiend.  Alice then uses more Dark magic to keep him out.
Number of Witches: 100s

The Spook's Nightmare (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Rise of the Huntress) - 2010
Tom, Alice and the Spook return home to find the County ravaged by war and the Spook's home destroyed.  Tom and Alice have to step up and do more of the work as the Spook is in a funk.  They end up on the Ilse of Mona where they encounter fear and resistance from the people.  They also discover a shaman, a cache of black magic energy, a half-demon, a demonic monster and Alice's mother Bony Lizzy.  One of the things I liked about this one was how witches become more powerful when they turn 40.  As someone in my 40s I think that is a great idea! We are also introduced to a Bird Witch which can summon birds to do her bidding.
Number of Witches: 4 or 5

The Spook's Destiny (Published in the USA as The Last Apprentice: Rage of the Fallen) - 2011
"Never go to Ireland" is the warning given to Tom by the Morrigan.  But Tom has no choice and he follows Alice and the Spook to Ireland where they have to deal with a group of "Goat Mages" attempting to summon the old god Pan.  Here Tom spends a lot of time tied up, unconscious or away from the Spook.  Alice is actually captured by the Fiend at one point and taken to Hell.  Tom must battle The Morrigan and the twin sister of a witch he and Bill Arkwright once dealt with.
He meets the god Pan (who is not as bad as everyone makes him out to be) and he even has a chance to visit Cú Chulainn in a sidhe mound.
This one started out slow for me, but I was excited they were in Ireland.  The meeting of Cú Chulainn was great and gaining the Sword of Destiny was cool too.  But the best part was more interaction with Grimalkin.  I won't spoil the end for you, but it is cool.
<spoiler>Tom defeats the Fiend and gets Alice back from hell.</spoiler>

It has been a fun series to say the least.

Need to pick up the last few books...for my son of course.

Books read: 25
Current Level: Crone,  Read 16 – 20 Witchy Books

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