My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s the Spook’s job to protect the County from such things as ghouls, boggarts, and witches. He’s getting on in age and needs to train an apprentice to take over. Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and that makes him special, he’s Mam’s gift to the County.
The Spook takes Tom on for a months trial, first they deal with the Ghasts at Hangman’s Hill, fragments of souls that have moved on. Next Tom must last a night in a haunted house. At the Spook’s home in Chipenden, up near the fells, Tom begins his lessons. First he must learn about boggarts and how to bind one. He’s also told not to venture into the garden after dark and to stay away from Mother Malkin who is kept in a pit in the garden.
Tom is warned to also stay away from girls with pointy shoes and his first big mistake comes when he is rescued from bullies by Alice. When the Spook is called away to deal with the witches of Pendle Hill, Tom falls into a trap laid by Bony Lizzie who intends to release Mother Malkin. Fearing the Spook dead, Tom takes on the evil witches, but it takes a lot to kill off a witch as strong as Mother Malkin as Tom is about to find out.
This is the first in the Wardstone Chronicles, written for older children. If they can cope with Harry Potter then this will be fine. The warning on the back on the book says “Not to be read after dark”. There certainly are some chilling pages which make me shiver as an adult. I’ve loved re-reading these books as an adult and shall continue with the series.
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