"I was going to learn how to protect farms and villages from things that go bump in the night. Dealing with ghouls, boggarts, and all manner of wicked beasties would be all in a day's work. That's what the Spook did, and I was going to be his apprentice." Twelve-year-old Thomas Ward, as the seventh son of a seventh son, has no inheritance and is bored with farm work, and even though his new job will mean the superstitious villagers will forever shun him, he is eager to go off to adventure with the tall, hooded man he calls the Spook. His mother, a magical person herself, approves, and the Spook's teaching is strict but kind. But when Tom has only learned enough to be able to control their house-boggart, he is tricked by Alice, the young daughter of a witch family, into inadvertently releasing and then killing Mother Malkin, a witch the Spook has imprisoned in a pit. This is no polite wicca-type witch, but a snuffling, slime-trailing, cannibalistic creature reminiscent of Tolkien's nasgils. The story of Tom's escape from the reincarnated witch's hideous revenge is full of horrible details, as Alice helps, and then once again betrays him. This well-crafted novel marks an auspicious start for an exciting and fast series for young teens. (Ages 10-14) --Patty Campbell
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8–When 12-year-old Thomas, seventh son of a seventh son, is apprenticed to the local Spook, whose job is to fight evil spirits and witches, he expects a life of danger. However, the boy doesn't realize just how soon he'll face a powerful enemy alone, as Mother Malkin escapes her confinement while the Spook is away. Thomas is forced to use his wits, and the help of his enigmatic new friend, Alice, to fight the evil witch. And defeating her is only the start of the boy's problems. Delaney's characters are clearly presented and have realistic depth, and Thomas's mother and Alice stand out for their strong words and actions. The protagonist's voice is clear, and his conflicts over his actions ring true. This first entry in a proposed series is an excellent choice for readers who are looking for a more sophisticated alternative to R. L. Stine's Goosebumps books (Scholastic), and the pacing and edgy illustrations at the start of each chapter will appeal to reluctant readers. Delaney's rural, quasi-medieval world is populated by a variety of magic creatures, and readers will look forward to discovering more of them, along with Thomas, as the series continues. A solid choice, particularly for middle school boys.–Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI
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