Book Review: Wrath of the Bloodeye by Joseph Delaney

I’m moving on from the structured review to a more free-flowing style, which I feel suits me better. I’ve found that in describing a writer’s style, it changes very little from book to book and can become repetitive, so I’m going to focus more on my thoughts and feelings about what I’ve read rather than a pre-defined layout.

Wrath of the Bloodeye is fifth book in the Last Apprentice series (see my earlier review for the fourth book, Attack of the Fiend). This one comes in at 511 pages, so it’s a slightly smaller than the previous book, and with large fonts and a smaller-sized hardback, it makes for a quick 2-3 day read.

The last book saw the release of the Fiend (the Devil), who has it in for Tom. As a result, the Spook decides Tom needs more intense training and sends him to one of the Spook’s former apprentices, Bill Arkwright. Bill is farther north in lake country, which allows for all kinds of trouble with water witches, the worst being Morwena, also known as the Bloodeye.

This is probably the darkest book of the series. Tom suffers some abuse at the hands of Bill, who is not only a stern taskmaster but also an alcoholic prone to fits of rage. I found this uncomfortable, as it hits a little close to home for me. What it also does is make the supporting characters seem far more real than they have in past entries. Bill is a flawed, wounded individual, and wonderfully written.

We also get a lot more time with Grimalkin, who I have mentioned is the most intriguing character to me. We learn much about her motivations and backstory, and some things begin to make sense regarding her character.

Alice’s love for Tom is now very clear at this point, as they exchange a kiss in the book. It is a bittersweet moment, however, as she continues to use whatever means she can to keep Tom safe, means which infuriate the Spook and lead to serious consequences and revelations at the end of the book.

It seems as if the Spook will not have a prominent role in this story, since Tom is sent off to train with Bill. But he shows up in about the last third of the book, for reasons I’ll explain below. The Spook is still a curious character. He seems to care about Tom, but he is becoming more and more resistant to having Alice around. He believes Tom is too careless and ignorant at times, and sending Tom to Bill is an attempt to toughen Tom up for a confrontation with the Fiend.

As I stated above, this is the darkest book so far, which made for some emotional connections to the story. As Tom is suffering abuse at the hands of Bill, I sympathized with Tom and wanted him to strike back. Unfortunately, whenever he does this it just makes things worse. At the same time, it’s hard to feel sorry for Tom, because in this story it becomes clearly apparent what his greatest flaw is – he is disobedient to both Bill and the Spook, and disobedience has consequences. I’m not condoning Bill’s abuse, but Tom could make it easier on himself by just doing what he’s told. Here’s an example of how bad Tom has it after he enters a room in Bill’s house that he was told to stay out of:

“Arkwright came bounding down the stairs and ran right at me. For a moment I thought he was going to hit me with the bottle, but he used his right hand to clout me across my left ear. Trying to dodge the blow, I over-balanced, lost my footing, and crashed onto the hall floor. I looked up, my head ringing, gasping for breath. I felt stunned and nauseous: The fall had driven all the breath from my body. Arkwright lifted his boot and I thought he was going to kick me, but instead he crouched close to my head, his furious eyes glaring into mine.”

Later, there is a part of the story where Bill is taken by water witches. Whether he is dead or alive at this point of the book is irrelevant. Tom was now thoroughly and totally, alone. Up against a whole pile of water witches, alone. Against the Bloodeye, alone. With the Fiend out there looking for him. This part of the story I found riveting. How would Tom handle being on his own, with no assistance? I began to not just read what it would be like to be the Spook, fighting all sorts of evil, by yourself, but instead I began to feel what it would be like, and it was incredible. Call it a high point, or a milestone in Delaney’s writing – I wish there were more of these moments.

Just when things seem to have taken a turn for the worse, the Spook re-enters the story. It’s not in a good way, however, as a trap has been set for him. Again we are treated to an intense and compelling portion of the story:

“The next moment there was no doubt. The Spook was walking down the quay toward me carrying his staff and bag, his footsteps echoing. I suppose we noticed each other at exactly the same moment because no sooner had I set eyes on him than he came to a halt. He stared at me for a long time before continuing more slowly. I knew he would have worked out that it was a trap. Why else would I be tied up like that in full view? So he could either retreat and make his escape or come forward and hope that he could deal with whatever had been prepared. I knew he wouldn’t leave me – so it was no choice at all.”

From there we move to the final climactic battle, in which Grimalkin makes her appearance. There is less Deus Ex Machina in this book, as Tom relies on his skills and assistance from others, although he does seem to use his ability again in the final conflict. However, now that this ability has been established, it is less disconcerting than its use in the previous story. After the battle we move on to the bittersweet ending, and a tension is established between Tom and the Spook. Will it eventually drive them apart? Add in the appearance of the Fiend and a major bombshell about someone close to Tom, and you probably have the gloomiest ending to a book in the series to date. But it’s also the best book of the series. It is a darker, thrilling read, and Delaney keeps getting better. I’m looking forward with great anticipation to the next story…

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