It's the middle of the night. You're home alone. You hear a strange creaking somewhere in the house. It could be anything—your dog on the stairs, a tree scraping against a window, or maybe it's an invisible ghost coming to drag you into the cellar and bury you alive.
Okay, it's probably not that last one (at least, we hope not), but it's always fun to imagine something scary. The immense popularity of the Paranormal Activity franchise proves that. And if you grew up with Harry Potter, you know just how exciting it is to escape into a new fantasy world.
Foreign locations. Dangerous magic. Supernatural villains. Joseph Delaney's Wardstone Chronicles has it all. The first book in this series, Revenge of the Witch, isn't just another Harry Potter clone, though. In fact, we think the supernatural creatures in this series would eat Harry Potter clones for brunch.
Originally published in the U.K. in 2004 as The Spook's Apprentice, Revenge of the Witch chronicles Tom Ward's first few adventures with the mysterious Spook. Spook is a grizzled old man who is as fearless as he is fearsome; he protects the County from supernatural evils. And while the Spook mentors Tom, Tom comes up against some pretty formidable foes himself: haunted houses, invisible boggarts, and, of course, witches bent on revenge.
We're not saying that Harry Potter ever had it easy, but Tom Ward, our narrator, faces a steep uphill climb right from the very beginning. And we doubt the County Tom lives in will ever be made into a theme park. His world isn't all bright and candy-colored like a bag of jellybeans. It's uncharacteristically bleak, actually, as the book's illustrations show.
In addition to not being sweet, Tom's journey isn't short, either. Tom has an education to receive, even if he's getting it out in the countryside battling monsters rather than at some fancy boarding school. We guess you could say Tom is more street smart than book smart.
As of June 2013, there are twelve titles in the Wardstone Chronicles series (or, The Spook Books if you're on the East side of the Atlantic pond). That's a dozen opportunities to get some book smarts of your own, if you want more of what's to offer in Revenge of the Witch.
Also, there is a 2014 movie called Seventh Sonthat is based on Revenge of the Witch. The film stars The Dude, Jeff Bridges, as the Spook, and the glamorous Julianne Moore as the evil witch, Mother Malkin. Mother Malkin often looks like a giant oozing blob of snot in the book, so the fact that Julianne Moore plays her in the movie proves to us that Ms. Moore can literally do anything.
Tom might just be able to do anything, too. Tom fights adversity of all kinds, and always triumphs in the end. And while not all of us can relate to battling vengeful witches, we've all faced scary challenges of our own. So we'll take a little inspiring bravery wherever we can get it.
There comes a point in all of our lives when we have to get off of our butts, leave our houses, and get our first jobs. We're sorry to tell you: usually, your first job stinks. You might be picking up balls at the golf course, dressed in a chicken suit in the middle of August. Or bathing angry animals with too-sharp teeth and claws at your local pet grooming shop.
Or, if you're Tom Ward, the protagonist of Revenge of the Witch, you become an apprentice to a creepy old man who can talk to the dead. And his job doesn't even pay minimum wage.
But Tom needs this apprenticeship in order to become independent from his family. He wants to support himself. And isn't that why you've saved most of that money from your summer jobs—to go on that trip you've been daydreaming about, buy a car, or go to college?
While we might not be fighting witches (we went on the interview for that job, but never got a call back, sigh) we can really relate to our boy Tom. We know what it's like to have to work at a tough or dirty job, as the first step toward something better. As the first step toward discovering who we are. And trust us: it does get better.
On Joseph Delaney's official website, you can learn more about the Spook books and the author. There's even a tab called "Scary Stuff," but we're staying away from that one. Why don't you click it and report back to us, okay?
How Many Titles Does This Thing Need?
Answer: Three. UK book title: The Spook's Apprentice. US book title: Revenge of the Witch. And the movie title: The Seventh Son.
The Spook's Writer
No spoilers here, just a behind-the-scenes look at the mind the Spook sprang from. We think his wife might be a werewolf...
The 30-Minute Sell
In this interview, Joseph Delaney says he needs thirty minutes to sell one of his books. Well, it doesn't take nearly that long to read this interview, and we're sold.
The Spook's Creator
Would Joseph Delaney ever want to be in Tom's shoes? It might be nice to travel to another country, but it might be too scary for him.
The Illustrating Man
What kind of sick, twisted mind came up with the illustrations for Revenge of the Witch? Meet artist Patrick Arrasmith in this video.
The Spook's Theme
A fan of the series composed a theme song for this book. Does it conjure up dark images of Revenge of the Witch? You decide.
Behind the Hood
You know, Joseph Delaney kind of resembles our mental image of the Spook. Do you think his teeth are sharp?
What's This Book Called Again?
Here's the UK cover for the book. We think all the scary hands coming out of the ground are a chilling touch.
The Spook's Collectibles
There's even a fancy hardcover collectible edition of this book. It looks like something we'd expect to see in the Spook's library.