A brief introduction:
A Spook, as he is called by the people, is what we would normally call a warlock. His job is to deal with all the things that go bump in the night. Ghosts, ghouls, ghasts, witches, boggarts. He rids a place of these. Despite all the work he does, he is not welcome amongst the towns people so he lives in the outskirts. And lastly, he must be the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. As only he has the gift to be able to see and not be fooled by all of these creatures of the dark.
The story is told by Thomas Ward, living with his parents and his six other brothers at a family farm. With his eldest already married and baby on the way, the house is becoming quite crowded. It is decided that Tom be an apprentice with the Spook, him being a seventh son.
Upon first glance of Tom, the Spook is skeptical doubting if he is prepared for the road ahead. An agreement is made, Tom would train with the Spook for a year, after that year he would decide if he wishes to continue training or go back home.
On the journey back to the Spooks house, Tom has his first encounter with a creature of the dark; a ghast. Not dangerous just wandering the countryside. As they’re walking, the Spook begins explaining about what he would be training for and the type of creatures he would eventually face.
His first test is to spend a night in a haunted house to see if he has what it takes for this job. Soon after the lessons begin. He is given a notebook and quill, he must take down everything the Spook says during their studies. “Your most important weapons against the dark are salt and iron lad”, the Spook tells Tom.
He is warned about women with pointy shoes, “If pointy a shoe she wear, witch she be” He also gets an explanation on the different types of witches and the magic they practice.
He is tasked with fetching the weekly supplies in the town. Whilst returning from the town he is impeded by some local boys, only to be aided by a girl; Alice, a girl with…….pointy shoes. All she asks is for a favour at a time of her choosing.
He does not mention this to the Spook, something he would regret later….
While the Spook is on a job, Alice calls in that favour. 3 cakes to be dropped in a caged pit in the Spook’s garden, one each night at midnight. The pit holds Mother Malkin, a very powerful witch. The cakes, blood cakes, made from the blood of young children, would give her the strength to break free.
With children disappearing in the town, the men decide to go burn the house of a witch Lizzie, who is Alice’s aunt.
Mother Malkin escapes and her first target is….Tom. He is captured and thrown into a pit akin to the one she was in. He manages to get free and chases after the witch. He is almost beaten until he remembers something the Spook said, “Witches be powerless in the face of water“. Into the water he pushes her, but he notices a dark figure slithering away…….in the direction of his home at the farm.
He chases after and gets back to the farm first and he must contend with the witch once more as she tries to get hold of Ellie’s baby. Jack’s wife. Jack is Tom’s eldest brother. He finally rids the world of Malkin, but the experience has created tension in the family.
With his head low he returns to his master and must explain all that has taken place.
It’s a nice introduction to the story, having Tom contend with a powerful entity this early promises a lot from this young lad.
But will relations with his family be mended? We can only wait and see…