The Last Apprentice/Wardstone Chronicles Book #1
Perfection Learning; 2006
Audiobook; 5 discs; read by Christopher Evan Welch
A review in 10 words or less (or close enough): Perhaps the creepiest job known to man, but what Tom's born to do.
For years, Old Gregory has been the Spook for the county, ridding the local villages of evil. Now his time coming to an end. But who will take over for him? Twenty-nine apprentices have tried—some floundered, some fled, some failed to stay alive.
Only Thomas Ward is left. He's the last hope, the last apprentice.
The Spook is getting old. It's not easy ridding the countryside of things that go bump in the night. And Tom just happens to be the seventh son of a seventh son which means there are no more hand me downs available to him, the lot has been handed out, and he's stuck as the Spook's newest apprentice. The learning curve is steep, and Tom is about to find out how scary the consequences can be for trusting the wrong people.
The tale of a young boy learning from a wise, older man isn't new. Usually, though, the wise old man is something of a curmudgeon. He's strict, entitled, and not really interested in providing constructive criticsim. The Spook is just the opposite. Sure, he can be a little tough on Tom, but he understands the weight of the job he's passing on to his young student, and he leaves room for error. What better way to learn than by experience?
The underlying theme of good and evil is also excellently portrayed in this middle grade title. There are no purely good or purely bad beings. Delaney does a nice job of showing characters with both lightness and darkness, and the idea of hope and friendship to balance both out.
The Not So Awesome
I always have trouble truly connecting with a story in audiobook format. I honestly believe it's the process of not actually seeing words...connecting words to my imagination. I liked Tom, but I never really felt for Tom. I feared the witch, but my imagination couldn't connect with an image. Perhaps reading I might have had that experience.
The book was also slow in parts, then, as typically happens in middle grade fantasy, felt rushed at the end. Like, "I've been writing long enough...time to wrap this thing up as quickly as possible." It's a series starter though, so perhaps best not to give everything away at the beginning.
Overall, an exciting read. And, it's going to be a movie, so I'm ahead of the game! One of my "trouble" teens loves this series (which completely surprises me because he's not one to readily talk about books) so perhaps I'll continue reading to keep the conversation going.
Similar Titles: The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan; Magyk by Angie Sage