The Last Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
Witches, dragons, and Jeff Bridges. There are a lot of entertaining elements in the new film Seventh Son. Unfortunately, it hasn’t exactly been pulling in glowing reviews which won’t just hinder the possibility of a sequel, but might also stop people from picking up the book. That could be a mistake, especially because the tone of the film is dramatically different from that of the book.
Seventh Son is based on The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch (also known as The Spook’s Apprentice) by Joseph Delaney, the first in a 12 book series for middle-grade readers. That might come as a surprise to those that saw the film, where 33 year old Ben Barnes plays the protagonist Thomas Ward. The original series starts with Tom at the age of 13, however, making for a simpler start to Tom’s coming-of-age tale.
In Tom’s world witches, ghosts, and boggarts are a real part of life and there is one man in the county, the Spook, that stops them all from causing trouble. As the seventh son of a seventh son, Tom has the ability to be a powerful Spook and is apprenticed out to the current one, Old Gregory, to learn how to move, bind or in extreme cases dispose of these supernatural creatures. Tom studies hard, but doesn’t always agree with the Spook’s methods. When Gregory leaves to take care of a problem out of town, Tom is left to his own devices. His compassion and misplaced trust lead to a big mistake that puts his life and those of his family in danger. This forces him to use his limited training to set things right.
The Last Apprentice is a pretty quick read and a great start to the series. Tom’s character grows a lot within the brief timeline and Delaney leaves the reader with a clear idea about where his character is headed and the urge to continue following Tom’s story. And while the supernatural elements are fairly conventional, it’s interesting to learn along with Tom and see that supernatural doesn’t always equal evil.
Potential readers should be aware that there are a few issues in the representation of women/girls and how certain characters generalize them, however. I’m holding out hope that the next books in the series will do a better job as there are some interesting female characters introduced within this one.
Especially because Thomas starts off so young in the series, I see a lot of potential for growth in the future and I’m excited to continue the journey with him. That’s partially why it’s so unfortunate that the film took a different track by not leaving room for future adventure and learning. But ultimately, if the movie turned anyone away from wanting to pick up the series, I hope they will reconsider and give Tom and Old Gregory a chance to teach them about hairy boggarts, benign witches, and ghasts.
For more discussion about The Last Apprentice, Kendyl and the other Adaptation hosts have covered it on a recent podcast which you can find here. Beware of spoilers!