The Last Apprentice Series by Joseph Delaney
I haven't read the whole series- just the first four books-which right there tells you that these are a great read. I might read one book in an okay series, but not two, and certainly not four.
Tom Ward is the seventh son of a seventh son with some odd talents like seeing the dead. His parents have run out of money to pay for a more "mainstream" apprenticeship, so Tom is sent to the Spook to learn the art of fighting witches, warlocks, and other evil creatures that make life hard for folks in the County. It is lonely work, and some of it is scary, but Tom is a natural. He soon meets a girl in pointy shoes (the exact kind of girl in the exact kind of shoes that the Spook warned him to stay away from!) and struggles with if she is a benign witch or a malevolent one. Tom can't trust her...but there's something about her that makes him want to.
The Last Apprentice has the most innocent 'romance' I've seen in a recent series- it's very believable and doesn't push kids into adult situations. There's no mention of kissing until Alice's cousin tries to entrall Tom in a later book.
It reads a little darker than early Harry Potter, but is on par with the later ones- there are boggarts and witches, spirits and demons, and Tom spends a lot of time digging pits and lining them with his iron and salt mixture to trap them.
There's an interesting theme about the role of a Spook versus the role of a priest. In the beginning books, Tom seems to think that the priests just pray and aren't active enough in their fight against evil, but his tone changes as he becomes more experienced. I don't know how that will turn out, but the Spook respects his brother the priest, though the reverse is not true.
Tom does make a lot of poor decisions, but some young men do *wink*, so it's not unbelievable. I'm not prone to nightmares, and didn't find the images particularily scary, but a lot of other reviewers have. I will wait until my son is at least 12 to introduce him to Tom Ward, but I'm sure they'll be good friends!