Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Last Apprentice

The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delaney

Middle grade fiction from HarperCollins this book follows young Tom Ward as he begins his apprenticeship with the county Spook. The Spook fights "the dark" in the area. Tom, being a seventh son of a seventh son is uniquely qualified to fight all the things that go "bump in the night." This is the first book in a seven book series however, the storyline ends nicely in this book so there is not a cliffhanger awaiting you at the end. Tom's first year as an apprentice is filled with danger as he encounters Alice (a village girl with pointy shoes), Mother Malkin (an old vicious witch), and Bonny Lizzy (another equally as dangerous witch). All of Tom's training may not be enough to save him or his family from these evil women.

This book is surprisingly scary for middle grade fiction. The reading level is for 7-11 year olds depending on the reader and is not for the easily scared child. I did like how the story is told through Tom's eye's so we learn as he learns. The chapters are a manageable length and while the book is on the long side I think most readers will be so engrossed in Tom's struggles that they will have to know what happens and finish it. The illustrations at the beginning of the chapter are excellent and give the reader a great sense of the dark and danger that Tom faces on a daily basis. The character of The Spook is firm and fatherly and you cannot help but like him even though he is often hard on Tom. Tom is a very likable character who is easy to identify with as he learns his new trade and is often scared of the predicaments he finds himself in. Recommended for readers 8-10.

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