Curse of the Bane: Another scary adventure

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Curse of the Bane (The Spook’s Curse in the UK) by Joseph DelaneyCurse of the Bane (The Spook’s Curse in the UK) by Joseph Delaney

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsCurse 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.

~Kat Hooper

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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One comment

  1. I know some kids who absolutely love these books!

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