As danger increases in the County, Tom is sent far north by his master to be trained by Bill Arkwright, another Spook. Arkwright lives in a haunted mill on the edge of a treacherous marsh and his training methods prove to be harsh and sometimes cruel. But he has toughened up many previous apprentices and now he must do the same for Tom and prepare him for the gravest dangers of his life.
But when the Fiend sends his own daughter, the ancient powerful water witch Morwena, to destroy Tom, Arkwright makes an error of judgement and Tom finds himself facing his enemies alone. The Spook and Alice realising his danger, hasten to his aid but will even their combined strengths suffice in the face of such terrible dark power? And what is the Spook’s mistake, the consequences of which might give final victory to the dark? -Goodreads
My Rating: 5/5
As the County becomes darker, so do these books. There have always been elements of horror to the series, but this one gets creepy as Hell at points.
The best bit of this book is the introduction to Bill Arkwright. He’s a fully trained spook who was trained by John Gregory. He’s one of the only ones who lived and passed the tests. His character is deeply flawed as he’s haunted (no spoilers here) by something that has made him harsh and sometimes cruel. He drinks a lot but he’s a good spook and John Gregory send Thomas to train with him for a while in things that John can’t spend much time on anymore – such as fighting with a staff.
As the County is getting darker and there are more powerful enemies and threats on the way, Thomas Ward has to get stronger and prepare for what is to come. Bill Arkwright is the best place to start that new breed of training.
Delaney does an incredible job of portraying Bill Arkwright’s character. It’s wonderful to see such a morally grey character done well in a children’s fantasy book.
The plot in this book is also one of the best so far. With the Fiend released, Delaney could have gone straight into some kind of final battle with the Dark, but he instead decided to take things slowly and have Thomas trained and face threats a little harder than ones before, upping the pressure and tension of previous books. Things are only going to get harder from here, but Thomas Ward is growing in strength and knowledge to prepare.