Format: hard cover, first U.S. edition, 2014
Reading Time: about 4 hours
One Sentence Synopsis: The final battle is here, and Tom calls on old allies to face down enemies and try to defeat the Fiend for good…but to do so he will have to sacrifice what he loves most in the world: Alice.
After several detours, Joseph Delaney finally returns to his protagonist, Tom Ward, in this 13th and final book in The Last Apprentice series. As I mentioned in my review of the previous book, I am Alice, I’ve grown quite tired of this series, but now the end is nigh and I can put this series to rest. As I also mentioned before, I don’t think there are very many people who are still paying attention to this series, but I did manage to find a couple of reviews, which I’ve summarized below, and after that are my own thoughts, which are chock full of big spoilers. That’s necessary because I can’t really give an honest review without exploring major plot points. If you don’t want spoilers, it’s probably best to skip to the last paragraph, where I summarize the book and the series in whole. For a good synopsis of the story, check out this post by Awake At Midnight.
Barb Middleton at Reading Rumpus states: “Delaney departs a bit from his usual pattern in this series finale. There is still plenty of action and violence, but there are no new monsters and more revisiting adventures Tom and John had in previous books. It doesn’t read like a finale. I had more questions at the end then answers…The forces of evil are putting the Fiend together except this time Alice is helping a powerful mage. This part of the plot needed to be fleshed out more because Alice’s motivations and casting aside of friendships to the point of sacrificing Grimalkin and others just didn’t make sense to me. I would have expected her to be torn more but she just stepped into the cauldron of evil and suppressed her good side. It doesn’t make much sense until the end. In the grand battle at the end I expected Alice and the mage to be present but they aren’t. Grimalkin gets more page time in this book then Alice and I find her character one dimensional and less interesting than Alice…I wasn’t keen on the prophecy because it gave away some major plot points. This technique adds tension but I find that I prefer different ways to pull the reader along. The problem with a series this long the characters have not changed much and the plot starts to feel recycled. But really, this is more candy reading for me. I just want something fast and entertaining and that is what I got. I’m not expecting anything too deep.”
Karissa at Hidden In Pages says: “I enjoy Tom as a character, he has more and more powers appearing as he unlocks his heritage both as the son of a lamia and as a 7th son of a 7th son. He does get a bit whiny at points in this story though, something that was new for him and not at all fun to read. My favorite character of the novel continues to be Grimalkin. She is super tough and really fights for what she believes in, she is just such an awesome character to read about and she is in the story quite a bit. Alice isn’t in the story a lot and she was one of the biggest disappointments for me in this book. Her character takes a turn that I didn’t enjoy and I was disappointed in the direction things took with her and Tom…This book is much darker than the rest of the series (more along the lines of I Am Alice, which was also darker). It is very violent and there is a lot of heartbreak and betrayal. I continue to really enjoy the epic struggle between light and dark that takes place in these books. This book really shows some shades of grey as well, since some dark characters are forced to band together with the good in order to fight an even greater evil. Some people have complained about the simplicity of the writing style, I don’t think that has really changed. Delaney has always had a somewhat stark and simplistic writing style…at times the dialogue between characters has felt forced or stilted…Overall I really enjoyed this book a lot but there were a few disappointments too. I was really disappointed in the lack of resolution and in the direction Alice is taking as a character.”
I have many problems with Fury of the Seventh Son, but I will start with the positives. It was a very quick read, I blazed through over 400 pages in 4 hours. The pages are small, the print is large, and Delaney’s writing style is bare bones and he keeps the plot and action moving. In the first one-third of the book, Tom is on his own and has tracked down the stolen head of the Fiend to an ominous tower in a neighboring county. The tower is full of witches and a dark mage, and Tom has to figure out how to get inside and retrieve the Fiend’s head before it can be re-attached to the body and bring the Fiend back to life. This scene involving the tower is tense and dramatic, and is some of the finest writing yet from Delaney…it harkens back to events in Wrath of the Bloodeye, where I said Delaney had achieved a milestone. The tower scene is close to recapturing that high point. Such milestones have always come when Tom is completely alone.
And that’s it for the positives. As described above, Alice’s character, who we just had a whole book devoted to, completely and suddenly changes. It makes absolutely no sense – Delaney spends very little time exploring the abrupt change (in fact it is told from Grimalkin’s limited viewpoint) – and this shallow characterization is completely at odds with what was developed in the previous book. Yes it was clear that Alice’s journey took her close to the Dark, but manner of the change and the romance that immediately blossoms between her and the dark mage Lukrasta (who was supposed to have died in the Doomdryte ritual but is still alive – really?!), seems unbelievable and exists only for the sake of the plot, considering how Alice has always felt about Tom. The purpose of I Am Alice was to retrieve a blade that Tom needed for the ritual to destroy the Fiend, but because the ritual is not performed, it negated the entire plot of I Am Alice, and that book now simply exists as a means to get Alice closer to the Dark. Boooo.
Grimalkin’s character is relatively consistent, and there’s a great scene where she has to repair her broken leg using a silver pin, which causes her great pain. John Gregory has become weary and senses his time is short, which is believable. But Tom’s characterization is probably the worst of the book. With Alice’s turn to the Dark, Tom becomes jealous, angry, and as whiny as a lovesick puppy. This was incredibly annoying to read, especially after we’ve waited so long to return to Tom as a protagonist.
This section is going to have some serious spoilers…beware! After the tower scene I mentioned above, the plot is all downhill from there. There is a big battle between the forces of Light and Dark at the Wardstone. In this battle, John Gregory dies. Strangely, his death is covered in one short paragraph as Tom steps over his fallen body. I get that Tom is in the middle of a battle, but this is a character that Delaney has invested a lot of time in. The scene is so cold and unfeeling that although it is a bit of shock – which might be a stretch due to the amount of foreshadowing that telegraphed it – the effect is that John Gregory’s death is robbed of much of the emotional impact that it should have had. This is where Delaney has made his biggest mistake in this series, in my opinion…when you consider what I mentioned above, the most compelling scenes in this series have been when Tom is alone and up against great odds. Too much of the series has involved deferring to John Gregory and alternate protagonists. John Gregory should have been gone several books ago – the series would have been better for it and his character could have gotten the send-off he deserved.
Another hole in the plot involving the big battle has to do with Lukrasta and Alice. I kept expecting them to show up but they were nowhere to be found, except for some fog that caused paralysis before the battle started. Despite being on the side of the Dark, and despite aiding the minions of the fiend before, and despite warning Tom that destroying the Fiend would unleash a greater evil, they did not aid the Dark once the battle began. This made zero sense. Perhaps Alice did not want to face Tom, but at a minimum Lukrasta would have tried to stop him. It seems like a forced plot point to keep Alice and Tom apart. These events led to a bitter and disappointing ending. Alice is still on the side of the Dark, John Gregory is dead, Tom doesn’t see his family again, and although the Fiend is defeated, a greater threat has been created, but the story of The Last Apprentice ends here.
In conclusion, despite some compelling storytelling in the first part of the book, it is the shallow and nonsensical characterization, big plot holes, and a largely unresolved ending that brings the series to a disappointing close. Frankly I’m surprised I stuck with The Last Apprentice so long, but I did become invested in the characters, and every now and then it’s great to have a quick, easy read. Unfortunately, reviews of the trilogy sequel, The Starblade Chronicles, point out issues that are similar to what I experienced in Fury of the Seventh Son, and are perhaps even a bit worse, so here is where I will call it quits in the story of Tom Ward, the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.