Book review

The Spook's Apprentice by Joseph Delaney (2004)

Spook. Usually it means a ghost, but in this book it means an exorcist - someone who searchesout evil,and binds it, so that the ordinary people can live in peace, unmolested.

Can you imagine being an apprentice exorcist? It's a lonely and frightening job. Take Thomas Ward, for instance. He travels the county with his Master, in all weathers, with only a little to eat. When they reach their destination, there's a terrifying job waiting to be done. A ghast perhaps, boggart or witch to silence. And when the task is finished, and Thomas can go back to the Spook's house to rest withouthaving to lookover his shoulder, he has no friends, because who will befriend a boy whomingles with evil every day?

Someone else who mingles with evil perhaps:

She was probably about my own age - if anything slightly younger. Her face was nice enough, for she had large brown eyes, high cheekbones and long black hair. She wore a black dress tied tightly at the waist with a piece of white string. But as I took all this in, I suddenly noticed something that troubled me.
The girl was wearing pointy shoes, and immediately I remembered the Spook's warning.

Bit late to start remembering warnings really. Alice has already done Thomas a favour and she'd like something in return:

'...I'll have to settle for a promise.'
'A promise?' I asked, wondering what she meant.
'A promise to help me just as I helped you. I don't need anyhelp right now, but perhaps one day I might.'
'That's fine,' I told her. 'If you ever need any help in the future then just ask.'

Well, he's just an apprentice spook, otherwiseThomas Wardmight haveknown to be a little more on his guard when dealing with strangers. But a promise is a promise and once given must be honoured.

It's going to get him into a lot of trouble...

Brilliant. I loved the degrees of evil in this book. Some evil is manageable. Some isn't. You have to learn to trust your own judgment.

What can I read next?

Thoroughly enjoyable, though I'm going to have to think pretty carefully before I buy my next pair of pointy shoes. If, like me, you enjoy The Spook's Apprentice, you'll be happy to hear there's a sequel:

  • The Spook's Curse

If you enjoy seeking out ghasts and pitting your wits against them, have a look at this excellent story by Chris Wooding:

And that silver chain that the Spook bears, to bind witches, puts me in mind of Sabriel's bandoleer of silver bells that she uses to bind the Dead in Death. A fantastic trilogy by Garth Nix:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

The Spook's Apprentice features in these lists: