Author: Joseph Delaney
Publisher: Bodley Head
Release Date: Out now!
Spook’s: A New Darkness is the first book in a new series, The Starblade Chronicles, by my favourite children’s author, Joseph Delaney. You may or may not be familiar with his previous 13-book series, The Wardstone Chronicles, which begins with the immensely popular The Spook’s Apprentice. This book begins eight months later from where that series ended, with Thomas Ward becoming the Spook of Chipenden. You don’t need to have read any of the pervious books before you start A New Darkness, but it does help, and it is much more fulfilling for the reader if you recognize the characters and familiarize yourself with events of the last books, which are sometimes (but not heavily) referenced in this book.
A New Darkness begins with Thomas Ward, our hero and protagonist, investigating the deaths of young girls in a neighbouring town. They are dying in mysterious circumstances and as the Spook of Chipenden, it is Tom’s job to protect the County from all things from the dark, and it seems that the culprit in this case is something Tom’s has not yet encountered.
A New Darkness raises some issues that haven’t been considered in the last series, for example, the opportunity for a female Spook. Tom meets a young girl named Jenny who is obsessed with becoming a Spook, and as the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, she certainly seems to have some abilities similar to Tom, who is seventh son of a seventh son, like all Spooks. We also meet some old friends which fans will recognise, such as Grimalkin, the witch assassin (and surely the best character?!) and there is a mention of Slither, the main character from Slither’s Tale, book 11 in The Wardstone Chronicles.
Delaney’s characters are well rounded and very likeable. Tom has changed since the events that led up to him becoming the Spook. This is evident from the way he deals with tough situations. He certainly looses his temper more quickly, and seems much more unhappy. I must say I miss John Gregory, but things move quickly and there isn’t much time to notice his absence. I even liked Jenny, who seems to be a replacement for Alice, another main character fans will remember. We don’t hear much about Alice in this book, but I get the feeling that her and Tom’s story is far from finished. I’m sure she’ll be back soon enough. But don’t let her absence put you off. Delaney’s books are always a brilliant read, perfect for children aged 11+ and adults like myself. Be warned, there are gory parts, and scary parts, but I think children like that, and these books wouldn’t be the same without it.
There is a massive cliffhanger ending, unusual for Delaney judging by his previous work, and the next installment will be out (I hope) sometime next year. We will also be seeing the film version of The Spook’s Apprentice at some point closer to Christmas, called Seventh Son. I don’t think it will do the book justice, but it might be worth a watch.