In Revenge of the Witch, Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son and his father needs to find him an apprenticeship. With little options left, his mother gets him apprenticed with the Spook, whose job it is to defend the county from dangerous creatures such as witches, boggarts, and ghasts. Twenty-nine have apprenticed to the Spook before and many have not managed to complete their apprenticeship (whether they quit or were killed) and this may be the Spook’s last chance to train a new one. Is Tom prepared for the journey?
At first I didn’t particularly like the book. The first couple chapters seemed to cover a lot of information, but I didn’t feel invested in it. For example, we know Tom is a seventh son but hear nothing about five of his brothers, which makes it hard to really get a feel for him and the family he was leaving behind in order to become an apprentice. It took some time for the book to hit its stride, but once it did, it was much more enjoyable.
Throughout Revenge of the Witch, we follow Tom through his first missteps as he gets tricked by a girl in pointed shoes and must deal with evil blood witch Mother Malkin. Some of the mistakes Tom makes bring more questions on the Spook himself than on Tom (why is Tom left alone so often without proper supervision or sent with Alice by himself when she is potentially dangerous?)
The strongest element in this book is the way it deals with good and evil. Rather than as absolutes, there is an in between that must be considered as well. Life is complex and Joseph Delaney makes it clear that these issues are treated as such, with promises that things will only become more uncertain in the future, because Tom has a big future in store.
Most surprising about this series is how bloody and dark Delaney is willing to go. It is not something you would expect in a children’s series, but it does help establish real stakes and danger. Tom has just begun his long, treacherous journey, and there is bound to be more to come.