I have to admit that I'm not a huge fan of fantasy books, until I get one that I like. This one looked like standard medieval monster fighting fare, but our School Secretary Extraordinaire, Amy, really liked it, so I soldiered through. I'm glad I did, because fans of The Ranger's Apprentice or The Last Apprentice will need to read this one. There are always a handful of students who only want to read medieval fantasy, so I need to get a few new titles every year.
Jobin, Matthew. The Nethergrim.
8 April 2014, Philomel
ARC from Baker and Taylor
Back in the day, Lord Tristan, the wizard Vithric and John Marshal managed to fend off the Nethergrim, a horrible monster who wants a tribute of seven children, but things have quieted down. Vithric has died, Tristan doesn't even feel like coming to the Fair, and John Marshal is busy with his holding and his fiesty daughter, Katherine, who should soon be married off. . Her friend Tom is an orphan who slaves under a cruel master, and Edmund chafes at working at his father's inn and not being allowed to read. When the Nethergrim takes several local children, including Edmund's brother Gregory, the three all have their reasons for heading off in search of it. They battle bolgugs and thornbeasts, and Edmund's knowledge of forbidden magic comes in handy. When an evil wizard finds the children and is determined to make them the final sacrifices for the Nethergrim, Edmund manages to escape by jumping in a freezing river, and is eventually found by John Marshal, who tells Edmund information about the Nethergrim that no one else knew. The two manage to find Tom, Katherine and the other local children, and an epic battle with a surprise appearance by a face from the past. The group is victorious... but only for the moment. John fears that things will get bad, and only he has the information to save everyone. He takes off with Tom, whose master would beat him if he returned, and Edmund, Katherine, and Gregory return to the inn to await their next adventures.
Strengths: The setting (complete with map) is convincingly European medieval, there's a nice mix of monsters, and the action and adventure are great. Even a couple of trusty animals. The best part, though, is the trio of young characters, and the trio of the old guard. Tom, Katherine, and Edmund are good friends, even though Edmund is in love with Katherine. And who wouldn't be? Her father has taught her to handle swords, and she's brave and very effective at fighting monsters. She doesn't even have to pretend to be a boy, like Pierce's Alanna. Awesome.
Weaknesses: Aside from Katherine, there's not a whole lot that's really fresh fantasy, but the target demographic won't really know or care.