Wizards and monsters, peasants and lords, battles and spells, friendship and betrayal; all are packed into this second of a bleak fantasy series that began with The Nethergrim (2014).
The young friends Edmund, Katherine, and Tom get little chance to celebrate their escape from the ancient horror of the Nethergrim before separating again. Katherine is torn from her beloved warhorses and swordplay to serve as a scullery maid. Runaway slave Tom seeks refuge with the legendary hero Tristan, only to find a decrepit old man with his castle besieged. Lovelorn Edmund, still tormented by the Nethergrim’s seductive evil, turns for tutoring to an apprentice wizard with her own dark secrets. And behind it all, Lord Wolland, in a treacherous bid for power, has loosed the demonic abomination of the Skeleth. Jobin again portrays a dark, squalid, and violent world, yet now it’s graced by more valor, loyalty, kindness, and simple good cheer than the previous title exhibited. Even after poor choices and painful disappointments, the three protagonists are maturing into their respective strengths. Their alternating viewpoints adroitly interweave into a dense, intricate plot, sustaining momentum despite expository infodumps and incessant forced cliffhangers. When the storylines finally collide in a rousing triumph, the three young friends have only a moment’s respite before all is upended once more.
Gritty, complex, and self-consciously epic; a solid contender for the teen answer to Game of Thrones. (Fantasy. 11-15)