February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Bewitching Readalikes for Joseph Delaney’s “The Last Apprentice” in Honor of “Seventh Son” Film

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The Witching Hour: Seventh Son

seventhsonmovieAnother reader-favorite young adult book series makes its big-screen debut on February 6. Based on Joseph Delaney’s “The Last Apprentice” (HarperCollins) adventure/fantasy series, Seventh Son (PG-13) is set during a time of enchantment, when supernatural evil threatens all of humankind. Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges), the last remaining knight of a mystical fraternity, must find and train a champion prophesized to have been born with great powers, the propitious seventh son of a seventh son. Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), farmhand and unlikely hero, leaves behind his quiet life to become the warrior’s apprentice, while the formidable witch, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), musters the forces of dark magic. Teens can sample a video trailer and photo gallery at the movie’s website.

Spellbinding Source Material

SeventhSon4Featuring a dramatic movie poster cover and an easy-to-grab paperback format, Seventh Son (2014; Gr 5-9) compiles the first two titles in Delaney’s “The Last Apprentice” series, Revenge of the Witch (2005) and Curse of the Bane (2006), providing the perfect lure to hook movie fans on the entire 13-book sequence. Originally published in 2010, the author’s Spook’s Bestiary (2014, all HarperCollins) has also been reissued with an eye-grabbing film image (fittingly, since this handbook has been “penned” by SeventhSon5John Gregory, a photo of Bridges in character). Set against manuscript-style backgrounds and illustrated with Julek Heller’s sinister and shadow-filled sketches, this guide to the “denizens of the dark” introduces various categories and subcategories of creatures including witches, mages, demons, water beasts, and elemental spirits. Advice is given about identifying, dealing with, and dispatching everything from a six-armed stone-chucking boggart to the host-animating human-blood-drinking strigoi (male) and strigoica (female) demons of Romania. Anecdotes about the Spook’s own fright-fighting experiences and those of his many apprentices appear throughout.

SeventhSon3Readers devastated to have turned the final page of the “Last Apprentice” finale will be thrilled to discover a new trilogy. In Delaney’s A New Darkness (HarperCollins, 2014; Gr 8 Up), Tom Ward, now 17, takes up the duties of Chipenden Spook, vowing to protect his turf from whatever dark creatures threaten, though he is young for the job and not fully trained. Despite his initial reluctance, he takes on an apprentice, 15-year-old Jenny, the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter who is imbued with several gifts of her own. Peril looms in the form of the frightening Kobalos, vicious beasts from the northern lands about which little is known. Determined to learn more about these mysterious and murderous intruders, Tom, Jenny, and the witch assassin Grimalkin embark on a journey that is filled with danger and surprises. Rapidly paced action and creepy creatures will keep pages turning quickly, and the background lore skillfully woven into the tale will make those new to Delaney’s oeuvre feel welcome.

Bewitching Fantasy

Tempt movie fans with these riveting tales bursting with thrills and spills, inventive supernatural elements, good-versus-evil conundrums, and memorable characters.

It’s time for The Iron Trial (Scholastic, 2014; Gr 5-9), and though the other aspirants try hard to ace the series of tests that will gain them admittance to the Magisterium, storied training ground for young mages, Callum Hunt, 12-year-old loner, is determined to fail. His father, a graduate who has forsaken all things magic, has drummed into Call’s head that the school is a dangerous deathtrap. Though Call does his sarcastic back-talking best to mess up, he is still chosen as apprentice by Master Rufus, senior mage, and has no choice but to board the SeventhSon2bus to the ominous and wonder-filled academy, a maze of caverns, twist-turning passages, and strange rivers hidden deep underground. Here, along with wary fellow apprentices Aaron and Tamara, he will train for the next five years. Call begins to explore his magical abilities, delves into the secrets that surround the long-ago death of his mother, and makes a shocking discovery that topples his perceptions of…well, everything. In the first installment of the “Magisterium” series, Holly Black and Cassandra Clare make the familiar fresh with a multicultural cast of complex and often conflicted characters, crackerjack world-building and a unique setting, and an approach that emphasizes the trio’s growing camaraderie as much as the exhilarating action.

ThicketyIn De’Noran, an isolated village nestled near and increasingly encroached upon by a dark and evil forest known as The Thickety (HarperCollins, 2014; Gr 5-8), the good folk follow the Path, a strict belief system that considers witchcraft to be the worst of crimes. Kara, whose mother was hanged as a witch six years earlier, leads an uneasy existence with her dejected father and sickly younger brother, shunned and maltreated by all and constantly eyed with suspicion. Lured into the frightening wood by a strange bird, Kara unearths a mysterious grimoire that she believes to have been her mother’s, and suddenly the alarming and addictive powers she has refused to acknowledge begin to surge. Fearful not only that she will be discovered but also of the dark deeds of which she is capable, Kara struggles to chart her course. Meanwhile, revelations about her mother raise the possibility that the line between good and evil—and the uses of magic—may not be so clearly drawn. Readers are immediately thrust into the life and death perils of Kara’s reality, complete with imaginatively nightmarish monsters, equally disturbing (and unfortunately believable) human characters, a society worthy of 17th-century Salem, and magical wonders that are revealed with regal pacing. Humming with suspenseful atmosphere and action, this fast-reading first volume in J.A. White’s series ends with a doozy of a cliff-hanger.

SeventhSon1Keeper of a small and age-old store of magic, Sister Witch only uses her abilities in the service of others, and though villagers respect her, they maintain their distance. Since the death of his identical twin in a drowning accident, Ned, The Witch’s Boy (Algonquin, 2014; Gr 5-8), has been left with a severe stutter, an inability to learn to read, and a generally weak demeanor, causing townsfolk to mutter that the “wrong boy” survived. However, when a fearsome thief and his crew arrive on his doorstep planning to seize the magic and kill anyone who interferes, Ned manages to safeguard the power by taking it upon himself, suffering horribly as unreadable words burn themselves across his skin, and is carried off by the marauders. Meanwhile, Áine, a girl from a far-away village, wrestles to understand her dying mother’s prophesy that the “wrong boy” will save her life; daughter of the Bandit King, she is determined to return her recently transformed father to the loving man that she remembers. The fates of these two young heroes, one shy and self-doubting and the other take-charge and danger-ready, intertwine as they embark on an adventure that will test their abilities, stop a war between their two kingdoms, and set right an ancient wrong. Kelly Barnhill’s lyrically written novel eloquently folds themes of love, sacrifice, forgiveness, loss, and the power of words into a timeless tale of breathless adventure and potent self-discovery.

SeventhSon6Gregory Funaro amalgamates steampunk innovations, elemental magic, and rip-roaring adventure into a new series set in Victorian England. Left on a doorstep as a baby, Grubb, now 12 or thereabouts, has been suffering as overworked apprentice chimney sweep to the abusive and cruel Mr. Smears since the death of kindly Mrs. Smears. After an on-the-job mishap at an inn, Grubb stows away in the trunk of a visitor and soon finds himself within the mysterious confines of Alistair Grim’s Odditorium (Disney-Hyperion, 2015; Gr 5-8), repository for all things living and inanimate that are believed to possess magical powers (aka Odditoria). At first unsure of his footing (after a few anxious moments the enigmatic proprietor offers him a job), Grubb begins to feel that he has finally found a home. However, when he inadvertently lets the secret goings-on out of the bag, he draws the attention of Mr. Grim’s nemesis, the pernicious Prince Nightshade who has resolved to absorb any and all magical power. Almost immediately, it’s all-out battle with the necromancer and his army of reanimated skeletons and other monsters (a clash taken airborne when the Odditorium—amazingly—breaks free of its foundation and soars into the sky). The frenetic action is grounded with memorable characters, logical and exuberant world-building, delectable details (the vessel is powered by animus and piloted via organ keyboard), and delightful Dickensian twists. Fast-reading fun.

SeventhSon7Jonathan Stroud’s alternate reality is plagued by the Problem, an epidemic of hauntings that are running rampant throughout Britain. The Screaming Staircase (2013) follows the adventure of three psychic investigation agents who have the unique extrasensory abilities and training required to suss out, contain, and destroy Visitors ranging from commonplace and relatively innocuous Type One shades and stalkers to the more dangerous and deadly Type Two Specters, Phantasms, and Wraiths. Children and young teens make the best operatives, and while most agencies employ adult supervisors, the young members of Lockwood & Co. are resolute to remain in charge and independent. Narrator Lucy Carlyle teams up with the dashing and mysterious Anthony Lockwood and the downright annoying George Cubbins to get the job done, but when a minor case goes wrong (and a house burns down), the trio find themselves in dire straits; they must take on the terrors of Combe Carey Hall, known as the most haunted house in England, to restore their reputation and their finances…without ending up dead. A smart and spunky narration, truly spine-shivering moments, and the intermingling of supernatural occurrences and cold cases (many a malignant ghost lingers as the result of crimes perpetuated by the living) add up to a compelling, keep-the-lights-on read. Stroud gets it all right, from the equipment, weaponry, and methodology necessary for combating malicious spirits to the entertainingly mercurial interpersonal relationships between three intelligent and independent-minded adolescents. The adventures of “Lockwood & Co.” continue with The Whispering Skull (2014, both Disney-Hyperion; Gr 6-9).

Publication Information

BARNHILL, Kelly. The Witch’s Boy. Algonquin. 2014. Tr $16.95. ISBN 9781616203511; ebk. $16.95. ISBN 9781616204334. Unabridged CD audio. Highbridge. $34.95. ISBN 9781622314799.

BLACK, Holly & Cassandra Clare. The Iron Trial. illus. by Scott Fischer. (Magisterium: Bk. 1). Scholastic. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780545522250. Unabridged CD audio. Listening Library. $45. ISBN 9780804122603.

DELANEY, Joseph. A New Darkness. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062334534; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062334558.
_____. Seventh Son. Media Tie-in ed. pap $10.99. ISBN 9780062209702; ebk. $7.99. ISBN 9780062209719.
_____. Spook’s Bestiary: The Guide to Creatures of the Dark. illus. by Julek Heller. Media Tie-in ed. pap $8.99. ISBN 9780062081155.
Ea vol: HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2014.

FUNARO, Gregory. Alistair Grim’s Odditorium. illus. by Vivienne To. (Odditorium: Bk. 1). Disney-Hyperion. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781484700068.

STROUD, Jonathan. The Screaming Staircase. Bk. 1. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781423164913; pap. $7.99 ISBN 9781423186922. Unabridged CD audio. Listening Library. $50. ISBN 9780804123143.
_____. The Whispering Skull. Bk. 2. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-142316492-0. Unabridged CD audio. Listening Library. $50. ISBN 9780804123181.
Ea vol: (Lockwood & Co). Disney-Hyperion.

WHITE, J.A. The Thickety: A Path Begins. illus. by Andrea Offermann. (The Thickety: Bk. 1). HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. 2014. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062257246; ebk. $9.99. ISBN 9780062257277. Unabridged CD audio. Blackstone. $59.99. ISBN 9781483004136.

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Joy Fleishhacker About Joy Fleishhacker

Joy Fleishhacker is a librarian, former SLJ staffer, and freelance editor and writer who works at the Pikes Peak Library District in southern Colorado.

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