The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch


In sharp contrast to the last review, Joseph Delaney's The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch delivers an enormously satisfying reading experience. While it is marketed in the Teens/Young Adults section, it is pretty strong stuff--when I turned it over to Linda to read last night she read the first few pages and then said, "I can't read this at night, it gives me the creeps."

In this series we will follow the adventures of Thomas Ward, seventh son of a seventh son and now apprentice to "The Spook," whose valuable, but grossly undervalued service to the community, is reaching an End. Thomas Ward is the last apprentice.

In this first book of the series, we see Thomas apprenticed and watch as he learns about Ghasts, Ghosts, Boggarts and their binding, and Witches. These latter are not the airy-fairy wiccan, dance around the circle and everybody be happy Witches. These are the blood and bone witches of English Folk and Fairy Tales. These are the witches that would stuff Hansel and Gretel in the oven without a second thought. These are the witches who sour milk and carry away babies in the night--witches who are buried upside down so they have less traction to climb out of their graves. In other words--really, really scary witches.

Delaney takes the stuff of folklore and turns it into a compelling story in a quasi medieval time. I thoroughly enjoyed this first book, and plunged through its three-hundred plus pages in a matter of hours. I've already purchased the second and am halfway through that.

There are some disturbing elements--a hint of anti-clericalism, but given the circumstances of the time and events surrounding, hardly surprising. I'll watch this strain and see if it develops. It looked like it might veer off into virulent atheism a la Pullman in this second book, but instead treads a careful line of not much liking the strictures of institutionalized religion, while not denying that there is a God.

So, at the end of this first book we discover that the Dark is getting stronger and the apprenticeship of Thomas Ward is all the more necessary. With the dark rising there must be those who are fit to meet the challenge of it. And that cautionary note is salutary in this day and age when the Dark has changed its overt form and rises in the form of all sorts of seeming goods--stem-cell research, extracting vital information from prisoners, bringing democracy to the world. These things are not in themselves bad, but there can be bad means of bringing them about (embryonic stem cells, torture, unjust war) that we must be willing to identify and fight. The first lesson of an apprentice is to learn when we are awake and when we are dreaming.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on October 28, 2006 10:30 AM.

Dr. Illuminatus: The Alchemist's Son was the previous entry in this blog.

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