As you might have read on my profile in various social media and other platforms, I read, write and game in bulk. But I also listen, watch and enjoy in bulk as well (sometimes I also eat in bulk, but that’s not something to boast about).
So, with how many things I enjoy, I thought it would be good to recommend a few of them. These aren’t proper reviews, mind you. There won’t be a score. It’s just what they are and why I like them. It’s up to you if you wish to follow this recommendation and I would expect that when and if you do enjoy what I recommend, you come back and tell me what you think about it. And if you disagree, then I want to know even more!
To kick things off, let’s start with a novel series: The Wardstone Chronicles, by Joseph Delaney, aka The Last Apprentice aka The Spook’s Apprentice in other countries, a fantasy series with elements not from the traditional fantasy sources but from English folklore, such as boggarts, witches and other common elements of country superstition.
These local elements are what give Wardstone its charming character. There is a palpable clash between the supernatural and the religious, with churches condemning Spooks (the local supernatural problem solvers, much like Witchers but not as violent) but local priests calling on them, because they know The County (the fictional setting for the novels) and its dangers and know that Spooks can offer them the best possible help.
Old sayings and silly superstitions form the basis of the Spook’s trade. “Don’t trust a girl with pointy shoes!” might sound ridiculous to anyone, but in Joseph Delaney’s world, it makes perfect sense. Girls with pointy shoes are Witches, and you mustn’t love a witch. Fasting is ritual not just of religious import but the first thing Spooks must do before fighting evil.
This is also a series that slowly ramps up. At first, it’s about Thomas Ward’s education as a Spook with his new master, John Gregory. As the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, he can see things most can’t. So, much like Liam Neeson, he has a particular set of skills that make him ideal for a Spook’s apprentice. It’s about his life with Mr. Gregory and his friendship/tumultuous relationship with Alice, the girl with pointy shoes.
Then it adds conspiracies, prophecies, witch assassins (Grimalkin just rocks!) and even the DEVIL! Yes, he’s there too and is the main antagonist. But Delaney doesn’t throw everything at you from the start. He doesn’t throw you off the deep end. Much like Thomas, you first need to learn of the world before you can face its darkness and dangers. And the novels do exactly that. Thomas’ first adventures teach you and him about the County and what secrets and powerful beings it holds, what Old Gods lurk under cathedrals and the Witch clans of the wilderness, eating the bones of children to gain power.
Then in comes The Fiend and then things get real…there are moral choices, sacrifices, pain, misery and love. As Thomas grows and matures, so do the stories and the writing and the subject matter. I’ve read very few books where this happens, where the storytelling changes to match the character’s new points of view and maturity.
One point I will always love about these books is that they all feature Thomas’ journal at the end, with his scribblings on the different dangers they faced in the book. With scenes all about Gregory teaching him the business, you can almost hear his voice when you read the journals. The book is already done by the time you read those pages, but for just a few more minutes, Delaney manages to hook your right back into his County.
So there you have it, my first recommendation. Go read the first book in the series The Spook’s Apprentice (aka The Last Apprentice: Revenge of the Witch in the US) and enjoy it. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
Do you have any series to recommend to me? I’m always open for new stuff!