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Revenge of the Witch: The Last Apprentice    by Joseph Delaney order for
Revenge of the Witch
by Joseph Delaney
Order:  USA  Can
Greenwillow, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Twelve-year-old Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son, a powerful heritage. His father is a farmer, and his mysterious Mam comes from overseas and has unusual sensitivities and abilities. When it's time for Tom (like all his brothers but the eldest) to be apprenticed, he's sent to learn to be a Spook, under old Gregory. Tom's mother tells him that she married his father and bore seven sons just so that could take on this task of protecting the common folk from things that go bump in the night.

Old Gregory tests Tom by leaving him in a haunted house overnight, and teaches him to apply empathy to conquer fears, and to trust his own instincts. The Spook's household is run by a boggart, who both hits and helps Tom - the latter, once proper flattery is applied. From the beginning, Tom questions some of what the Spook tells him, particularly to 'Never trust a woman.' Of course, it's this that gets Tom into trouble. A foolish promise that he makes to pointy-shoed Alice (niece of witch Bony Lizzie) results in the release of a very nasty, very powerful witch, Mother Malkin. This happens when Old Gregory is away. Then the witches steal a child for their blood magic, and it's up to Tom to stop them, since 'Someone has to stand against the dark.'

After capture and escape, Tom foils an attack against his family with great difficulty, and a little help from Alice, about whose future he must make a hard decision. She's an interesting character, a young witch brought up badly, who might either develop as benign or malevolent. But I'm sure that Tom will see more of her, as his Mam warns, 'It's getting darker, son ... And it's coming sooner than I expected.' Our young hero will clearly have many more horrific foes to face in future episodes of the spooky Last Apprentice series.

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