Newly minted spook Tom Ward takes on a surprising new apprentice and investigates a gathering storm in the first installment in this Last Apprentice sequel series.
A mysterious evil is abducting and slaughtering residents of Chipenden. Tom is joined by Jenny, a seventh daughter of a seventh daughter who dreams of becoming a spook and wields some unique powers of her own. The witch assassin Grimalkin returns, and the trio investigates the assailant and the dark purpose it serves. Filling his tale to the brim with creepy creatures and cultural exposition, Delaney does his best to establish this new series as a newb-friendly continuation of the Last Apprentice universe. He succeeds, but the deep dive into back story gets in the way of the action at times. The narrative moves forward in fits and starts, constantly interrupted by awkward paragraphs explaining who relates to whom and what the history between them is. Fans may enjoy the shoutouts, but new readers will just want to get on with the exploits at hand. The adventure itself is serviceable, but it feels like a long preamble for bigger things to come. To make matters worse, a smart, shocking narrative decision late in the book is undercut by the novel’s final sentence, a pivot that may well provoke groans rather than curiosity.
Promising but questionably formed. (Grimalkin’s notes, glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)