Curse of the Bane (The Spook’s Curse in the UK) by Joseph Delaney
Curse of the Bane (2005) is the second book in Joseph Delaney’s LAST APPRENTICE series. (The series is confusingly called THE WARDSTONE CHRONICLES in the UK and this book is titled The Spook’s Curse there.) The first book, Revenge of the Witch (The Spook’s Apprentice in the UK) was terrifying and though I really enjoyed it, I warned that it might be too scary for many kids in the target age range of 9-12.
Tom Ward is the thirteen year old apprentice of the regional Spook. Together they travel around the county banishing witches, ghosts, boggarts, and other evil creatures. Tom’s studies are going well and he is beginning to settle into his new role, but because people fear what they do, Tom is discovering that being a Spook is a lonely business. Now that his friend Alice has been sent away (because the Spook doesn’t trust girls, and he has a good reason not to trust Alice especially) Tom’s only “friend” is, sadly, the Spook.
When one of the Spook’s brothers dies in Priestown, the duo travel to that city for the funeral. Tom soon learns that this is not a safe place for them. One enemy is the Bane, a powerful dark creature who is bound in the catacombs below the city and is starting to stir. Another is a man known as the Quisitor who hunts witches and Spooks. When Tom notices that the Quisitor has imprisoned Alice, he knows that he must rescue her. This sets off a dangerous chain of events that could prove deadly.
So far there is a lot to like in the LAST APPRENTICE series. The imaginative stories are fast-paced and exciting with lots of action. The work that Tom is learning is interesting. For example, binding a boggart requires hiring and working with ditch diggers, masons, engravers, and other professionals. Tom’s job is a real trade; it’s not simply waving wands and pronouncing spells.
I also like Delaney’s complex and realistic characters. All of them have both admirable and unlikeable traits. Tom is sometimes sneaky and disobedient. The Spook has unflattering secrets that he keeps from Tom. We’re not sure if Alice is good or evil. Tom’s mother wisely suggests that Alice could go either way and that Tom may be able to influence her path by how he treats her.
As with the first book, Curse of the Bane is intense and often quite scary. The story and themes are heavy and devoid of levity. Delaney asks deep questions — such as what happens to the soul after death — but refuses (so far) to answer them.
I’m enjoying Christopher Evan Welch’s narration of HarperAudio’s versions of THE LAST APPRENTICE. Curse of the Bane is 8 hours long in that format.
The Last Apprentice (The Wardstone Chronicles) — (2004-2015) Ages 9-12. In the UK, these are The Wardstone Chronicles (The Spook’s Apprentice, The Spook’s Curse, The Spook’s Secret, The Spook’s Battle, The Spook’s Mistake, The Spook’s Sacrifice). Publisher: A wonderful and terrifying series by a new writer about a young boy training to be an exorcist. Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and has been apprenticed to the local Spook. The job is hard, the Spook is distant and many apprentices have failed before Thomas. Somehow Thomas must learn how to exorcise ghosts, contain witches and bind boggarts. But when he is tricked into freeing Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the County, the horror begins …
Other Last Apprentice Tales:
The Starblade Chronicles — (2014- ) Publisher: The first book in a chilling new trilogy from the author of the internationally bestselling Last Apprentice series! Tom Ward is an apprentice no longer—he is a full-fledged spook battling boggarts, witches, and other creatures of the dark. First in a three-book arc that introduces brand-new readers to Joseph Delaney’s haunting world. Tom Ward is the Spook, the one person who can defend the county from bloodthirsty creatures of the dark. But he’s only seventeen, and his apprenticeship was cut short when his master died in battle. No one trusts Tom’s skill, not till he’s proven himself. And a fifteen-year-old girl named Jenny knows more about the three mysterious deaths in the county than Tom does. She is a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, and she wants to be Tom’s first apprentice—even though a female spook is unheard of. Together, Tom and Jenny will uncover the grave danger heading straight toward the county, and they’ll team up with a witch assassin to confront it. A New Darkness begins a three-book arc that will introduce new readers to Joseph Delaney’s deliciously scary imagination and electrify his longtime fans. A New Darkness is perfect for every reader who loves thrills, chills, action, and adventure—no prior knowledge of The Last Apprentice series necessary! The Last Apprentice series, the first internationally bestselling series about Tom Ward, is soon to be a major motion picture, Seventh Son, starring Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Olivia Williams, Antje Traue, Djimon Hounsou, and Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin.
I know some kids who absolutely love these books!