Spooky. Creepy. The Last Apprentice: The Revenge of the Witch is classic terror at its best. Its tone is quiet and understated, which makes the way its horror sneaks up on you (from behind) all the more startling.
Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son. Growing up on his parents’ farm he has always been able to hear voices from the ‘haunted’ woods near their North Pasture. The eldest son (Jack) will inherit the farm and Tom, as the youngest, must find another way to earn his living.
‘The Spook’ is what the villagers call the man who gets rid of evil spirits, witches and supernatural beings of dangerous and malevolent intentions. As the seventh son of a seventh son Tom has raw extrasensory abilities not found in the average townspeople. He is apprenticed to the Spook. He begins his training in boggarts and witches (and is told to beware of girls with pointy shoes). The Spook is called away to help a distant village and while he is gone Tom forgets the warning about girls with pointy shoes AND his instructions regarding the witch trapped in a pit in the Spook’s garden. The parallel here to the classic The Sorceror’s Apprentice is brilliantly accomplished and developed.
Tom finds himself defending himself and the town from Mother Malkin, (the evil witch) and her family. He unwittingly involves his own family: his parents, brother, sister-in-law and his newborn niece in the mortal danger of his new profession. Tom wrestles with the question of evil itself–is someone born evil, or does it grow within a child who is immersed in that environment? How do you treat the evil ones humanely (not simply killing them) while continuing to protect the people of a town?
The first in a series, I am looking forward to reading the next installment of The Last Apprentice books. I am interested in seeing Tom’s development as he gains knowledge and experience fighting the witches, boggarts and ghosts that threaten the people of his time. He is undecided about so many things at the end of The Revenge of the Witch–as is appropriate for a 12-year-old boy–that I am hungry for the next installment! Also, The Last Apprentice is that tantalizing of all experiences–a good scare!