Wrath of the Bloodeye: Tom gets a new master

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Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph DelaneyWrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney

Wrath of the Bloodeye is the fifth book in Joseph Delaney’s very popular LAST APPRENTICE (or WARDSTONE CHRONICLES) series for middle graders. This book has also been released in other countries, such as those in the UK, under the title The Spook’s Mistake.

Tom has been John Gregory’s apprentice for a couple of years now. In the last book, Attack of the Fiend, three witch clans worked together to summon the Fiend (the Devil). Now he roams the earth and would like to kill Tom because the rumor is that Tom will be the most powerful spook in history. Or maybe it would be better for the Fiend if he befriends Tom…

Call me what you will, Tom. I have many names… But none adequately convey my true nature. I’ve been misrepresented by my enemies. The difference between the words fiend and friend is merely one letter. I could easily be the latter. If you knew me better…

Realizing that Tom is nowhere near ready to face such a foe, Mr. Gregory decides to send Tom to his former apprentice, a spook named Bill Arkwright. If Tom thought his life with Mr. Gregory was difficult, he realizes how wrong he was when he arrives at Mr. Arkwright’s house. The place is a dilapidated watermill in a boggy area. Arkwright doesn’t keep it up very well because he’s an alcoholic, so everything is damp and moldy. Delaney’s descriptions of this feel like something Lovecraft would write:

..the creature enveloping me in a stench of dank, moldering loam and rot from stagnant pools.

In addition to his poor housekeeping skills, Arkwright has other flaws. He’s the kind of drunk who gets violent, he lets ghosts live in his house, and he’s very secretive about something. Very quickly Tom is missing Mr. Gregory (and his best friend Alice) while trying to adjust to his new living arrangement.

The water around Mr. Arkwright’s home is inhabited by water witches and other nasty creatures that thrive in wet environments. As Tom is getting toughened up physically, he’s also learning to deal with these beasts. One of them is a horrendous water witch who can paralyze anyone who looks into her blood-filled eye. As you’d expect, Tom gets mixed up with her and has a frightening experience. It is genuinely gruesome and scary.

Despite all of his recent familiarity with the dark and the personal losses he’s racked up since leaving home, Tom’s character hasn’t developed much. I hope we’ll see more development in the next couple of books because it’s time for his personality to progress a bit. Likewise, the issue about Alice — is she good or evil? — needs to move on a bit, too. I like where Delaney is going with this — showing that genes are not destiny and that our training, social interactions, and other factors play a large role in determining who we become — but after five books there is not much movement here, either. I suppose that’s because this is a 13-book series (plus additional related tales) and Delaney is in less of a hurry to finish than I am. This will be fine for readers who are happy to indulge in such a long tale (and I completely understand this), but these days I tend to feel a little jaded about the tendency for authors to drag things out. But I am sure that Delaney’s fans are happy to spend more time with Tom, and that’s just fine with me. In fact, I’m all for any long series that can keep kids reading, so my rating for these books reflect that children are the target audience.

There is a bit of overall plot progression in Wrath of the Bloodeye. We learn more about Alice and get a few hints about Tom’s mother. The ending of this book suggests that more information is coming in the next book, Clash of the Demons.

The 8-hour long audio version of Wrath of the Bloodeye produced by HarperAudio and read by Christopher Evan Welch is quite good, though I really don’t like his voice for Alice and I’m afraid it might color my perception of her character.

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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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  1. “..the creature enveloping me in a stench of dank, moldering loam and rot from stagnant pools.”

    So atmospheric!

  2. When a character’s name is Arkwright and they live surrounded by water, I make instant assumptions about any secret project they might be working on.

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