My husband and I started a new series together this month: The Last Apprentice by Joseph DeLaney. To be honest the covers of these books are quite dark looking - I found the first one kind of creepy - so I have always avoided them. But my husband was fascinated by them, so we checked out the first book from the library for him. He loved it, asked me to read it, and we have now read the first three in the series.
This series is aimed at people ages 10 and up, which is probably about right. However, these books are quite a bit darker and a bit scarier than most other young fantasy out there right now. So, if you have a timid reader, it might not be a bad idea to wait on this one for a few years or at least pre-read it first.
Revenge of the Witch is the first book in the series, and in it we meet Thomas Ward, the seventh son of a seventh son who has been apprenticed to the local Spook. A Spook is someone who rids the area of creatures of the dark (ie witches, ghosts, ghasts, etc), and while a necessary part of society are definately not looked fondly on. The Spook, whose real name is John Gregory, is a fairly strict teacher, and Tom is a bit of a coward. But, as time progresses and Tom learns more, they begin to get on rather well. Through a series of events that are pretty much all Tom's fault, a powerful witch is released from captivity. Tom is able to stop her for a time, but the Spook warns him that she will be back and seeking revenge. Will Tom be ready when she comes?
Very enjoyable first book in a series. It starts of pretty fast-paced and continues that way throughout. Other than Tom (who grows enough to decide to stay an apprentice), there isn't a ton of character development, but the characters we do meet are fun and I was anxious to get to know them better. Tom's Mam is of particular interest - there is definately more to her than meets the eye.
Oh, and I hate the cover of this book. To me it looks like the Spook is missing his leg, and he has a rather creepy face. I never would have started this series based on this cover.
4 out of 5 stars
Curse of the Bane starts off shortly after Revenge of the Witch ends. Tom is continuing his work as the Spook's apprentice, and he has even had his first opportunity to trap a boggart by himself. The Spook and Tom head to Priestown, named for the number of priests (who hate Spooks) there, for the Spook's brother's funeral. While there, they need to tackle the Bane, a creature of the dark, that lives in a labyrinth under Priestown. The Bane is bound to the labyrinth, but he has been gaining in power and it is only a matter of time before he escapes, causing a reign of terror.
I liked this book as much as the first, though there was a fairly strong anti-religious sentiment to it. Nothing that would make you stop believing your faith (it's aimed at religion in general), but enough that it is definately there. Both my husband and I commented on it. I would probably read this book with my kid to discuss any questions about the soul and existence after death as they come up, since it's a theme. We also start picking up hints about the Spook's past. He's developing into a rather interesting guy.
4 out of 5 stars
Night of the Soul Stealer is the third book, and is quite a bit larger (length wise) than the first two books. This time there are two competing storylines: Meg, a lamia witch that the Spook is/was in love with, and Morgan a former apprentice that failed to make the Spook's cut. Morgan has since turned to the dark and is able to control spirits; he is trying to awaken Golgoth a former god (for lack of a better term) that controls winter. Tom's father is also very ill.
I don't really want to say much else about this one in an effort to avoid spoilers. We do learn a lot more about the Spook and Tom's Mam in this book, which was by far the best part. Meg's storyline is quite predictable, but it really worked well for the rest of the story. I hated Morgan's storyline though. It was super predictable, and it really didn't seem necessary. Other than helping open up some of the Spook's past, the story itself didn't move forward by this storyline at all.
So far, this is my least favorite in the series. However, it has a feel of a bridge novel. The book in every series that is a bit harder to get through but is necessary to the overall story (maybe like Harry 5). So, we will at least read the next one before giving up all hope :)
3.5 out of 5 stars
There are two other books out in this series: Attack of the Fiend and Wrath of the Bloodeye (which won't actually be released until next week). I could find very little about this series on the web, including the publishers web site; the one source that had any real information was Wikipedia. Typically, I try to avoid taking anything from that site as truth, but it appears that there will be at least 7 books in this series, and we look forward to them all.