I had planned to read my way through all The Wardstone Chronicles this year as part of a reading challenge to celebrate the thirteenth, and final, book in the series coming out, as well as the forthcoming film The Seventh Son. However, somewhere between good intentions and everything else I have got very behind in this endeavour. So far, I have read the first three. I reviewed the first book in the series, The Spook’s Apprentice, earlier in the year – and I enjoyed it. It was an intriguing start, with plenty more secrets and scares hinted at.
The second book in the series is The Spook’s Curse. In this story the stakes have been raised for Tom. Gregory, The Spook, lies ill so it is his young apprentice who must go and deal with a dangerous, bloodthirsty boggart known as a ripper. To make things more tricky the priest that the ripper is attacking is one of the Spook’s own brothers. And this is just the beginning. Tom and his master have to go to Priestown, a cursed place hostile to the likes of Spooks. It is menaced by the Bane, an ancient evil spirit that over time became so corrupted that it demanded a terrible annual tribute from the people who worshipped it. The Spook bound it to the catacombs underneath the cathedral years before but its power and influence are once again on the rise.
If only this was all they had to deal with, which would be bad enough, but the Quisitor’s arrival in town means even more trouble. The Quisitor’s mission is to hunt, judge, and punish all those suspected of witchcraft, and Spooks definitely come into that category as far as he is concerned. Tom and his mentor are in grave danger, but they cannot leave the Bane to wreak havoc on the town any longer.
I thought this story was exciting and tense. I enjoyed getting to know the Spook’s brother Andrew. His character is very different from his brother Gregory’s, he’s warmer, more straightforward, but he is just as resourceful. Alice’s character develops in this book too; can she fight against her witch heritage and stay out of the pit? Tom has a lot of learning to do during his battle against the Bane and the Quisitor. He is still doing his best to trust his instincts, which although do not always steer him absolutely right he does keep on trying his best. He has certainly got braver since becoming an apprentice. Tom discovers more about his mum’s own history, and he realises that right and wrong may not be such absolute concepts. Good, it seems, can come from something he’s been taught to consider evil.
Everyone involved has a pretty rough time of it in this story; some rest and relaxation would be in order after so much drama. I wonder if they will have an easier time of it in the next book The Spook’s Secret?
Well, I wish that were the case, but I think Tom has an even more difficult time in the third book of the series. As winter draws near Gregory and Tom have to move to the Spook’s winter home at Anglezarke. It is not a very pleasant place and the Dark is definitely getting stronger there. Another ancient entity is gaining strength; this time it is Golgoth. Golgoth is one of the old gods, the Lord of Winter. After a very long time laying dormant his influence is growing, the winters are getting longer and more severe. It is a menace that the Spook must face now, before things get any worse, but he’s not in the best of health again. And, he has his own more personal troubles to attend to. His past is catching up with him.
Tom has his own problems too. He’s worried about Alice, who cannot come to Anglezarke with them, and his dad is very poorly back at the farm. He also meets an old apprentice of the Spook’s, a most unsavoury character called Morgan. He’s a failed apprentice with a grudge the size of Golgoth’s barrow tomb up on the moor. He’s deluded and powerful, a very dangerous combination.
On the plus side, Andrew is back lending his practical help and providing a haven for his brother, Tom, and even Alice. More pieces of Tom’s inheritance from his mum are revealed. As in the previous two books Tom is still learning his way. He has a tendency to rush in and get himself into trouble. He also struggles to know whom to truly trust; his secrecy at times virtually guarantees disaster. On at least one occasion I was utterly frustrated with him, but it has been a very steep learning curve for a young lad.
I think The Spook’s Secret is my favourite of the three I’ve read so far. The story is dark, people’s motivations are not simple, and there is some heartbreak. I just hope they all recover before the next big challenge. Book Four, The Spook's Battle, awaits me...
Thank you very much to Random House Children's Books for sending me these books.