Revenge of the Witch

Joseph Delaney, Author, Patrick Arrasmith, Illustrator , illus. by Patrick Arrasmith. HarperCollins/Greenwillow $14.99 (343p) ISBN 978-0-06-076618-4

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.)

Reviewed on: 10/10/2005
Release date: 09/01/2005
Genre: Children's
Compact Disc - 5 pages - 978-0-06-082402-0
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-0-06-076620-7
Prebound-Sewn - 384 pages - 978-1-4177-7015-1
Prebound-Sewn - 368 pages - 978-0-7569-6894-6
Hardcover - 325 pages - 978-0-7862-8641-6
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