Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

The Spook The Spook's Revenge
by Joseph Delaney
Random House

Supplied for review by Random HouseNew Zealand

Reviewed By: Jacqui Smith

It’s hard to know what to do when I am asked to review the thirteenth and last book of a thirteen book fantasy series which is evidently very popular among its intended YA audience – especially when I haven’t read any of the preceding twelve! The first thing was to read it, and this I did, although I found it not exactly smooth going, in some parts considerably more engrossing than others.

Delaney does a good job of putting together his sentences, and his grammar is impeccable, as one would expect from a retired English teacher. But I’m still not sure about the novel’s overall structure, and whether it provides a satisfying conclusion to such a long series. A major character dies, and although he’s given a fair bit of exposition, I doubt if the manner of his death is sufficiently heroic for the fans.

Another thing that did concern me, right at the start, was the map included at the front, with rivers branching as they flowed down onto the plains from the mountains rather than the other way round, and those branches ending nowhere in particular. This was intended to represent a county, somewhere in northern England, at some point in what felt like the seventeenth century because of the social structure, apart from the absence of firearms. It is however, a fantasy world, its human population plagued by boggarts and very old-fashioned witches.

Tom, our lead character, is apprentice to a spook, a person whose job it is to deal with such incursions of the Dark. He is apparently a teenager still, and prone to acting without a whole lot of thought – it is apparent to the reader that a great evil cannot be destroyed without another taking its place, but Tom plainly doesn’t get it. Personally, I tend to the theory that "destroying the ultimate evil" is generally a bad idea when writing fantasy, even if Tolkien did it… And, like in many of these fantasy worlds, there seems to be no ultimate good to balance it. Why is it so easy to write about devils, but so hard to write about the divine (God or gods, whatever)?

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