I've been waiting for this book to reappear in our library for quite some time. My daughter recommended it, I knew I'd seen it there but the minute I went to look for it, it disappeared. Typical! Anyway, The Spook's Apprentice, a young adult book by Joe Delaney, was well worth the wait but I nabbed it just in time... when I checked online I saw that someone else is now waiting for it.
Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son. His parents are farmers in Lancashire, not well off, so Tom will have to make his own way in life as the farm is already being run by his elder brother. His mother decides to apprentice him to the local Spook, the man who protects villagers around from all kinds of dangerous individuals such as boggarts and witches. Tom isn't mad about the idea, Spooks are shunned by society in general, but his brother makes it obvious that, at thirteen, Tom is not welcome around the farm anymore - thus giving him very little choice in the matter. He sets off with the Spook and has to prove himself in a haunted house before they arrive at the Spook's home. Some weeks later the Spook is called away and Tom meets Alice. Alice has 'pointy shoes', something the Spook has warned Tom to avoid - girls with pointy shoes that is - but Tom ignores his advice and is tricked into setting free Old Mother Malkin, a witch confined underground by the Spook, and with a reputation too horrible to contemplate. Tom's troubles have only just begun.
This book is a pretty quick read, partly because it's not long, but also because you can't put it down! It's very good and I understand completely why it's so popular. For a young adult book it is actually genuinely creepy in places and has some ideas that maybe wouldn't be suitable for children under 12 or so to read. The writing is pacey, spare, and to the point, not a lot of time wasted with inconsequentials... perfect for teenage boys I would imagine (and grandmas who like good YA fantasy and horror. :-)) There are about six in the series, I have the second already on the library pile (thought I'd better grab it while it was there) and will definitely read all of them.