Author: NM Browne
304 pages • £6.99
Man, it sucks to be an orphan in a children’s fantasy novel. Tommo, this tale’s eponymous apprentice, has had such a woeful life that the NSPCC would fall over themselves to use him as a poster boy. Imprisoned for years in a damp basement, forced to grind magical spellstones that curse him with a deadly disease and then sentenced to death for running away, Tommo’s sunk about as low as he can go.
For all the misery, this is still a heartwarming standalone tale. Tommo flees his confinement and teams up with fellow sad-sack Akenna, a young girl escaping an abusive father. Followed by a flock of mysterious birds, they soon discover they share a joint destiny…
While their adventures are exciting, the book falls down when it introduces its adult characters, whose squabbling power-plays slow the action until you want to skip their bits to see what Tommo’s up to. Occasional clunky writing doesn’t help but, thankfully, the innocent charms of this spellgrinder’s apprentice just about manage to outweigh the bad.