Reviews for Revenge of the Witch

Booklist Reviews 2005 August #1
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 5-8. Delaney grabs readers by the throat and gives them a good shake in a smartly crafted story in which the horror is set within the parameters of a boy's new job. In an unspecified England some centuries ago, Thomas, the 12-year-old seventh son of a seventh son, is taken on as an apprentice by the local Spook. It's the Spook's job to keep the surrounding area free from witches, bogarts, and the creepy things that cause shivers in the night. Tom is not sure he's cut out for the solitary, scary life, and he soon finds himself in trouble, inadvertently freeing a terrifying witch, Mother Malkin, at the behest of a girl named Alice because he's desperate for a friend. Like Anthony Horowitz's Raven's Gate (2005), this is a gristly thriller; Delaney's descriptions of moldering bodies hoisting themselves from the earth and hairy pigs tearing into a witch's heart will have readers' eyes opening wide. Yet the twisted horror is amply buffered by an exquisitely normal young hero, matter-of-fact prose, and a workaday normalcy. Still, like Mother Malkin popping out of her earthy pit, bad things are always there to catch readers off guard. As the warning label on the cover notes, this is "Not to be read after dark." ((Reviewed August 2005)) Copyright 2005 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2006 Spring
Tom Ward is apprentice to the Spook, who defends the living against ghosts, ghasts, boggarts, and witches. When Tom helps a local girl feed an imprisoned witch, the witch escapes. Unless Tom can stop her, she will continue to commit unspeakable evils. The spare evocation of the creepily inhuman witches leaves space for readers' own imaginations to supply the terrifying details. Copyright 2006 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2005 #6
Tom Ward, seventh son of a seventh son, is apprenticed to the Spook, whose job is to defend the living against ghosts, ghasts, boggarts, and witches. While the Spook is away, Tom agrees against his better judgment to help a local girl who asks him to give some cakes to Mother Malkin, a witch the Spook has imprisoned in a pit; strengthened by a child's blood in the grisly treats, the old witch breaks out of the pit. Unless Tom can figure out how to stop her, the witch will continue to commit unspeakable evils. Simple, straightforward, easy-to-follow writing is matched with a plot that progresses in predictable increments; the book's design, with its generous margins and friendly leading, makes it even more accessible. The story is anything but tame, however. Using a dark tone and setting (furthered by sinister black woodcut-style illustrations at the beginning of each chapter), Delaney employs ancient superstitions, such as belief in the supernatural powers of salt and iron, to give his narrative an authentic feel. The spare evocation of the creepily inhuman witches leaves space for readers' own imaginations to supply the terrifying details. And although there are enough breaks in the action to keep readers from feeling overwhelmed, Delaney knows just how to scare kids: the back jacket contains a warning -- "not to be read after dark" -- that is more than justified. Copyright 2005 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2005 August #1
Readers seeking lots of up-close encounters with the unquiet dead and other creepy entities need look no further. Seventh son of a seventh son, and left-handed to boot, young Tom seems a natural to succeed Mr. Gregory, the aging "Spook" charged with keeping the County's many ghasts, ghosts, boggarts and witches in check. He's in for a series of shocks, though, as the job turns out to be considerably tougher and lonelier than he expects. Struggling to absorb Gregory's terse teachings and vague warnings, Tom is immediately cast up against a host of terrifying adversaries-most notably Mother Malkin, an old and very powerful witch, and her descendant Alice, a clever young witch-in-training who is capable of outwitting him at every turn, but may or may not have yet gone completely to the bad. An appendix of supposed pages reproduced from Tom's notebook adds little to information already supplied, but along with somber images at the chapter heads, does add atmospheric visual notes. By the end, though Mother Malkin has come to a suitably horrific end, there are tantalizing hints that the Dark Is Rising. Stay tuned. (Fantasy. 11-13) Copyright Kirkus 2005 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2005 October #2

Delaney may plumb familiar subjects but expert storytelling and genuinely scary illustrations on Arrasmith's part keep this debut novel fresh. This first in a planned series, the Last Apprentice, introduces nearly 13-year-old narrator Tom, whose parents arrange for him to apprentice with the Spook, as their farm will be given to their eldest son. A haunting description gives readers a sense of why Tom might be fearful of the Spook, who roams the countryside, protecting farms and villages by supernatural means ("His long black cloak and hood made him look like a priest, but when he looked at you directly, his grim expression made him appear more like a hangman weighing you up for the rope"). However, as a seventh son, like his father, Tom "can see things that others can't," such as the corpses of long-ago hanged soldiers that moan and sway at the far end of his family's property. This is the stuff of skin-prickling campfire stories: Tom must overcome a series of trials to prove himself worthy of the apprenticeship. Readers can almost hear the thumps in the cellar of a haunted house where the hero must spend the night ("Who could have been digging down there in the darkness? Who could be climbing the stairs now? But maybe it wasn't a question of who was climbing the stairs. Maybe it was a question of what "). After readers race through this tantalizingly creepy tale of solitude and sorcery, they will clamor to learn about Tom's future adventures. Ages 9-12. (Sept.)

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2006 July #3
A boy apprentices to the village Spook, who keeps the farms safe through supernatural means. "Expert storytelling and genuinely scary illustrations keep this debut novel fresh," said PW in a starred review. Ages 10-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2005 November

Gr 5-8 -When 12-year-old Thomas, seventh son of a seventh son, is apprenticed to the local Spook, whose job is to fight evil spirits and witches, he expects a life of danger. However, the boy doesn't realize just how soon he'll face a powerful enemy alone, as Mother Malkin escapes her confinement while the Spook is away. Thomas is forced to use his wits, and the help of his enigmatic new friend, Alice, to fight the evil witch. And defeating her is only the start of the boy's problems. Delaney's characters are clearly presented and have realistic depth, and Thomas's mother and Alice stand out for their strong words and actions. The protagonist's voice is clear, and his conflicts over his actions ring true. This first entry in a proposed series is an excellent choice for readers who are looking for a more sophisticated alternative to R. L. Stine's "Goosebumps" books (Scholastic), and the pacing and edgy illustrations at the start of each chapter will appeal to reluctant readers. Delaney's rural, quasi-medieval world is populated by a variety of magic creatures, and readers will look forward to discovering more of them, along with Thomas, as the series continues. A solid choice, particularly for middle school boys.-Beth L. Meister, Pleasant View Elementary School, Franklin, WI

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VOYA Reviews 2005 October
Thomas Ward, the seventh son of a seventh son, is about to begin his apprenticeship. Tom's master is no ordinary craftsman, however. He is the Spook, the man responsible for ridding the country of supernatural pests. Although Tom has powers beyond his birth order, his journey to become the Spook's last apprentice is still a bumpy one, fraught with errors in judgment that bring him face-to-face with an evil he must defeat if he is to survive Delaney's debut novel, the first in a planned series, is suitably creepy, particularly late in the book when Tom returns to his family's farm unknowingly followed by the cast-off spirit of a dead witch. The book is populated with memorable characters, most notably the gruff and powerful Spook; Alice, the girl witch torn between her family and her own values; and Tom's Mam, whose mysterious powers and plans hint at a hidden agenda. Unfortunately the novel is compromised by the bland and often stilted narration of Tom, a surprisingly dull hero. If Delaney can develop Tom into a more interesting character, the series shows promise. But as it stands, this first installment is merely an adequate new entry for supernatural fantasy fans. For a stronger and more engaging character in a similar line of work, readers should try Franny Billingsley's The Folk Keeper (Atheneum/S & S, 1999/VOYA December 1999).-Vikki C. Terrile PLB $15.89. ISBN 0-06-076619-0. 2Q 3P M J Copyright 2005 Voya Reviews.