I picked this up a while ago but decided it would be a fun Halloween read. I wanted to preview it for my 10 year old son. He's been a fan of R. L. Stine's Goosebumps for years and from the general premise, I thought The Last Apprentice might be a fun series for him.
For being a middle-reader book, I found this rather engaging. I really enjoyed the character development. I liked the language and imagery used. And I found the story entertaining.
The concept of the book (the first in a series) is somewhat intriguing. We're in some "County" that feels loosely based on 18th/19th century America. A collection of small towns and villages spread over the countryside with generally religious/righteous people who are very superstitiously afraid of all things supernatural. Which is where the story comes in.
Gregory is a "Spook" which basically means he wanders around the County taking care of these supernatural problems….witches, ghosts, boggarts, etc. He's sort of like a colonial era version of the Ghostbusters. And he's taken our central character Tom as his apprentice. Tom is a bit frightened and wary of what this means, but he puts his heart into the effort and learns a lot, but also makes a number of very BAD mistakes which lead to a lot of bad problems for himself, the community, the Spook and others.
I felt like the story arc was pretty cohesive and the trajectory was generally believable. It was a bit of a stretch for me when Tom kept quiet about his encounter on the way back from town (I don't want to spell out what he kept secret, as it's a semi-spoiler). The Spook is Tom's authority figure and he'd given him very specific and particular advice. It didn't seem odd to me that Tom would have an opportunity to go against the Spook's advice…but it did seem odd that he didn't let the Spook know what happened. I guess perhaps he was ashamed/embarrassed, but since nothing had really happened, there shouldn't have been any need for hesitation. Still, I guess that's probably just me trying to put an adult mindset on a child's behavior.
Anyway, the story progressed well and I found myself caught up in the suspense and horror of the events as they unfolded. Things went from bad to worse to disastrous. And it felt like a natural rather than contrived flow. I was somewhat surprised at how everything finally came to a resolution.
So, overall, I enjoyed the book and found it an entertainingly creepy read. But, would I recommend it for my ten year old? NO. I would not. Part of me wants to because it was an entertaining read…but the larger part of me doesn't want to because this is a dark and gritty book. It's definitely written with children in mind. The horror stays on the tamer side of things…but it's still very creepy and very dark. The elements of violence and segments of gruesome interactions would certainly be frightening to anyone with tender sensitivities. Perhaps I'm being over protective as a parent…but I don't feel like this is the sort of book for a young reader. I could see the content working for a teenage audience…but by that point, it may come off as a little thin for teens who would rather graduate up to adult horror/thrillers.
Generally, I give the writing and the story 3.5 out of 5 stars, but even though it's a "kids" book, I can't recommend it for youngsters.
3.5 out of 5
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