Saturday, February 1, 2014

Topic #3: Once Upon a Time...

So for the third topic we were tasked with writing about a book.  I tend to read series more often than stand alone books, so I thought I would talk about the current series that I've been reading: The Last Apprentice (or the Wardstone Chronicles) by Joseph Delaney .

I got into the series because the movie Seventh Son is loosely based on it and wanted to get some background knowledge of it. After reading the first book and comparing it to the movie trailer, it's already going to be a vast different story I think. This young adult dark fantasy series is about Tom Ward (who is the seventh son of a seventh son) and his apprenticeship to Master Gregory to become a Spook, someone who goes about dealing with 'the dark' in the County.  There is a total of 13 books in the series (I'm currently on book 5), with a few additional books that expand on the world.

(Everything else under a cut, because this could be taken as being a bit spoilery)

While the book is fantasy and has supernatural elements (we're dealing with boggarts, witches, spirits, and the like), it's rather subtle in my opinion.  While Master Gregory and Tom are seventh sons of sevenths sons, with some talents of their own, they do not fight 'magic with magic'.  They have to use physical physical strength, traps, and instinct to achieve results.  The pace of the books are quite quick (they are easy reads for myself); you have a basic premise of what the book is going to be about relatively fast (in the first chapter or two). The chapters themselves are usually short, and at the beginning of each new chapter is an illustration (usually related to that chapter) and is a nice extra touch.

I have to admit, I'm more curious about the other characters than in Tom (though he definitely grew on me this past book).  I'm really curious to learn about his mother's history (it's hinted that she may be a witch herself - but had belonged to the dark at one point), the witch covens and why they came and cursed Master Gregory, and other and other points that are hinted but aren't really covered (as of now).  At the end of each book, there are Tom's journal entries, which gives details about things that he learned during that particular book.

There are a few things that irritate me about the series:

For one, I feel we never 'see' Old Gregory at all.  While Tom might be apprentice, it seems that he is alone a great deal during the adventure we are brought along to read. Gregory seems to be off doing something else or incapacitated during a good portion of the story. We don't really 'see' a lot of Tom's training (the 'textbook' training - the information he needs to know when facing the dark) and while the actually events are part of his training, it would be nice to see learn more of the foundation (the beginning of the fifth book actually feels this need quite nicely).

I also have really conflicting feelings about Alice.  Alice is a young woman who's family are witches. She herself has gone through some training herself but is currently living with the Spook and Tom.  She has caused some trouble and the Spook worries quite a bit that she will turn to the dark, but she also saves Tom quite a bit.  Tom is stuck between his friendship with her and his growing duty and obligation as a spook - he's clearly troubled when she uses dark magic but it's usually for his benefit. He also doesn't want to get her in trouble and lose her company.  Alice does not seem to see any wrong practicing dark magic, especially if it helps Tom (and the Spook in turn).  She's very bitter when it comes to the Spook, which while understandably considering all the times she's helped out but is stilled not completely trusted by the Spook, she doesn't seem to look at it through the other's perspective. I'm very intrigued with Alice's fate and it'll be interesting to see how things unfold.

I just finished Wrath of the Bloodeye today and it is my favorite of the series so far.  A rather important detail about Alice was revealed (though I had guessed it part way through the story) and I do feel bad for her.  I think the story is only going to get darker from here on, especially since the Fiend (aka the Devil) seems to be the big bad of the series. I would recommend this series to people who enjoy a slightly less fantastical world than that represented in a series like Harry Potter.

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