Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Spook's Apprentice - Joseph Delaney



Before I talk about Joseph Delaney's The Spook's Apprentice itself, I want to comment on (a) the cover image and (b) the title used by the US publisher. The American cover image and the American title (The Last Apprentice: The Revenge of the Witch) fail to give the book the same air of menace, compared to the British title and cover image. I wondered why they had been toned down (because they do appear toned down, at least to me): is "dark" fantasy not acceptable in the US ? I'm curious to know how other readers feel about the two images. As for the US title, why all the wordiness - it ruins the anticipation, in my view...


Thomas Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son and 13 years old. He is apprenticed to the local Spook, a man who deals with the Dark (specifically witches, boggarts and other nasty beings). The job is hard and the current Spook is distant and many apprentices have failed before Thomas is taken on. Somehow Thomas must learn how to contain witches, bind boggarts and exorcise ghosts. But one day when he is helped by Alice, a local girl, against a gang of village boys, he is tricked into promising that he will help her any time she needs help. Unfortunately she needs Tom's help in freeing Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the County. And thus the horror begins...


The film rights to the book have already been bought up by Hollywood. Apparently it's being produced by Alysia S Cotter, who is also producing films of two other children's books: Midnight For Charlie Bone (with Basil Iwanyk, who is co-producing The Spook's Apprentice) and Endymion Spring.

11 comments:

Kerry said...

I agree that the US release certainly looks toned down to me.

fusenumber8 said...

If I might be so bold, the word "spook" has some negative connotations in American slang. I suspect that may account for the change of title. And I happen to adore the cover of the American version. Y'all Brits have the menacey flickering image, yes. But the woodcut view of a cloaked figure walking out of the gloom just runs little goose pimples down my spine.

Michele said...

Oh I'm glad it's not just me, Kerry ! I thought it interesting that the paperback UK edition has a black cover, whilst the hardback UK edition is a dark brown - and it seemed to me that the paperback edition was also more menacing than the hardback one.

Fuse#8, I didn't know that. In the UK, a "spook" is a ghost or spectre (slang) or a secret agent or spy (informal). I had never come across it in the context of a disparaging term for a non-white person. In light of that, it's interesting that the film is apparently going with the UK book title.

Emily said...

I prefer the UK cover myself. It may be darker than the US version, but I think it portrays the atmosphere a lot better.
And if I may say so, I don't think the word "spook" has a negative conotation in America at all; at least, no worse than it is in the UK.

Michele said...

Thanks for your comments Emily. I've discovered that the cover of the third book in the series is a dark (midnight ?) blue - which seems in keeping with the colours of the first two books.

Emmy said...

They probaby changed the covers for marketing purposes. The US version is a bit more noticeable than than the original.

Michele said...

I would tend to disagree with you. Amongst a welter of other brightly coloured book jackets, the American one is entirely missable, whereas an all-black, brown or blue cover (as the first three books have been) do stand out. I know this for a fact from seeing the books in a local bookstore..

Nicole -- Benevolent Baker said...

anyone know if it's only the cover that was changed for the US edition?

Michele said...

I quite clearly stated in my review that the cover and title were both changed.

Migalf said...

Was this in reply to Nicole? "I quite clearly stated in my review that the cover and title were both changed". I believe what Nicole was trying to ask is: Is it just the Covers AND TITLES that are different between the UK and the US versions of the books, or is some of the writing different as well?

Michele said...

Yes it was. And I don't know what else has changed. I'm not in the habit of buying American editions of British books.