The Last Apprentice

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

The Last Apprentice -- or, alternately, The Spook's Apprentice or The Wardstone Chronicles, depending on where you live -- is a series of dark YA fantasy books by Joseph Delaney.

The series chronicles the events during the training of Thomas J. Ward under the tutelage of John Gregory, the County's local Spook, whose job is to protect the locals from the dark. And what is the dark? Every horrible, evil, going-bump-in-the-night thing you can imagine, from boggarts to witches and everything in between.

The series' books currently[when?] include:

  • The Spook's Apprentice (Revenge of the Witch in the United States) - 2004
  • The Spook's Curse (Curse of the Bane) - 2005
  • The Spook's Secret (Night of the Soul Stealer) - 2006
  • The Spook's Battle (Attack of the Fiend) - 2007
  • The Spook's Mistake (Wrath of the Bloodeye) - 2008
  • The Spook's Sacrifice (Clash of the Demons) - 2009
  • The Spook's Nightmare (Rise of the Huntress) - 2010
  • The Spook's Destiny (Rage of the Fallen) - 2011

And a number of "side" books that provide further background on the characters, creatures, and settings in-universe:

  • The Spook's Tale (The Spook's Tale and Other Horrors) - 2009
  • Spook's Stories: Witches (A Coven of Witches) - 2009
  • The Spook's Bestiary - 2010
  • I Am Grimalkin (Grimalkin: The Witch Assassin) - 2011

The series is notable for running mainly on old-school European superstitions about magic, witches, demons and the like--because even though you're likely to find the books in the children's section of the bookstore, you don't want to read these to your kid at bedtime.

And, certainly, they are not to be read after dark. Especially page 47!

The following tropes are common to many or all entries in the The Last Apprentice franchise.
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
  • Action Girl: You don't mess with Grimalkin. The clans' s warriors are pretty frightening in general, just like the witches who stay in the Combe.
  • And I Must Scream: The Spook buries witches to keep them from causing trouble. This is usually done because their spirits stick to the bones, but even live witches meet this fate. Then again, they get buried for a reason.
    • Alices' torture in the Fiends' domain...
  • Animal Eye Spy: 'Familiar' magic seems to be this.
  • Anti-Anti-Christ: Alice.
  • Armies Are Evil: Among kidnappings, attacks and general destruction, armies are really unpopular in the series.
  • Badass Cape
  • Battle Couple: Tom and Alice.
  • Because Destiny Says So: It's safe to say that many readers have stopped bothering to keep track of how many grand prophecies people make in these books.
  • Black and White Morality: It starts off as this but eventually falls to Black and Grey Morality as Tom has to make larger and larger compromises with the dark to the point of selling his soul to The Fiend.
    • The Black/Grey becomes only stronger over time and by the end of book 7, the Spook has not only TOLD Alice to use a mirror, he basically recruited Grimalkin to help destroy the Fiend.
  • Blood Magic: One of the various types of powers witches can draw on. It's Mother Malkin's signature method.
  • Boy Meets Ghoul: Tom and Alice
    • Subverted because They both have a nonhuman parent.
  • Burn the Witch: One of two surefire ways to permanently destroy a witch. Unfortunately, it tends to happen to good and falsely accused witches most of the time.
    • Even almost happens to the Spook.
  • The Cat Came Back: The Spook repeatedly tries to send Alice away to limit her involvement with Tom, yet they never stay separated for long.
  • Chained to a Rock: Tom's mother was chained to a rock with silver chains when his father first saw her. After he rescued her they got married.
  • Chess with Death: Tom vs. the Fiend.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Alice. It would put a damper on the fun if she had to ask her mom every time she wanted to run off with Tom.
  • Crapsack World: The county, post-Fiend.
  • Dark Secret: Mam had a pretty big one.
  • Deal with the Devil: If you've gotten that far in the series, this doesn't need explaining. It's pretty hard to miss.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: From book eight we get Fiend:[Alice] is trapped in the dark for eternal torment. Eternal! That means it will go on forever!
  • Detect Evil: The chill spooks get whenever a Denizen of the Dark is near.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: From A Coven of Witches: Did Grimalkin just stab the Fiend in the arse?
  • Enemy Mine: Gimalkin is apparently this by the end of book seven.
  • Empathic Weapon: Apparently, the Destiny Blade likes Tom.
  • Faking the Dead: Alice, after being rolled.
  • Fed to Pigs: Mother Malkin shouldn't have attempted to flee through the pigpen while she was shrunk and the pigs were agitated...
  • Fingore: The Spook's last apprentice, Billy, dies of blood loss when his hand is trapped underground with a malicious boggart. And later, Bony Lizzie removes the thumbs from his corpse.
  • Forged by the Gods: Three legendary swords mentioned in book eight.
  • Freudian Trio: Alice (Id), Tom (Ego), the Spook (Superego).
  • Friendly Enemy: In book six, many witches, among them Grimalkin and Mab, put aside their differences and work with the spook-friendly troupe to stop the Ordeen.
  • Gypsy Curse: The Pendle clans curse the Spook.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Tom's mother and Bill Arkwright die fighting the Ordeen and her forces.
  • I Am Not Left-Handed: Or rather, I Am Not Right-Handed. A tactic used by the spooks fits this, where they carry their staffs with their right hand and quickly toss it to their left to deliver Critical Hit.
  • Language of Magic: The Old Tongue seems to be this, in a lost language version.
  • Lady of War: Grimalkin.
  • Misterious Mist: A lot of it.
  • Named Weapon: The Destiny Blade. Counts as a Meaningful Name, too.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: How many times has Tom accidentally caused the Monster of the Week (or book, rather) to end up being STRONGER as a result of not following instructions?
  • Oh Crap: You really shouldn't have given Mother Malkin those cakes, Tom.
  • Only the Worthy May Pass: Only true heroes may enter a sidhe.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Alice. While she is a witch, she does it only because she was born into that life. And she's also a victim of the ploy to get Mother Malkin's strength back.
  • Pupil Turned Evil: Morgan.
  • Religion Is Magic: Inverted; faith won't help you at all against the dark. In fact, priests who overestimate their holy powers tend to get in trouble when they try to do a Spook's job.
  • Screw Destiny: The Spook claims he makes his own path. For now.
  • Selkies and Wereseals: In the fifth book, the hero is forced to separate a beautiful selkie from her aging husband. In the series, selkies age very slowly, and are considered bad luck or are taught to be prostitutes.
  • Skeleton Key: Tom and Mr. Gregory have skeleton keys provided by Gregory's brother, a locksmith.
  • Supernatural Sensitivity: Horn has this, in that he can detect darkness in people.
  • Things That Go Bump in the Night: What spooks regularly combat.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Fiend is constantly trying this on Tom because it means he'll rule for eternity.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The County. Although Word of God says it's based upon Lancashire in England.
  • Who You Gonna Call?: Spooks fit this to a tee.
  • Wicked Witch: Mother Malkin, Up to Eleven. Bony Lizzie is more of a Vain Sorceress in terms of appearance.
  • Willfully Weak: From book eight: [about using serious dark magic] Alice: I've always had more power than I've shown to you, Tom.
  • You Can't Fight Fate