For years, Old Gregory has been the Spook for the county, ridding the local villages of evil. Now his time is 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.
"I was going to learn how to protect farms and villages from things that go bump in the night. Dealing with ghouls, boggarts, and all manner of wicked beasties would be all in a day's work. That's what the Spook did, and I was going to be his apprentice." Twelve-year-old Thomas Ward, as the seventh son of a seventh son, has no inheritance and is bored with farm work, and even though his new job will mean the superstitious villagers will forever shun him, he is eager to go off to adventure with the tall, hooded man he calls the Spook. His mother, a magical person herself, approves, and the Spook's teaching is strict but kind. But when Tom has only learned enough to be able to control their house-boggart, he is tricked by Alice, the young daughter of a witch family, into inadvertently releasing and then killing Mother Malkin, a witch the Spook has imprisoned in a pit. This is no polite wicca-type witch, but a snuffling, slime-trailing, cannibalistic creature reminiscent of Tolkien's nasgils. The story of Tom's escape from the reincarnated witch's hideous revenge is full of horrible details, as Alice helps, and then once again betrays him. This well-crafted novel marks an auspicious start for an exciting and fast series for young teens. (Ages 10-14) --Patty Campbell