The Next Great Fantasy Epic is here! For fans of Ranger's Apprentice and the Chronicles of Narnia.
Everyone in Moorvale believes the legend: The brave knight Tristan and the famed wizard Vithric, in an epic battle decades ago, had defeated the evil Nethergrim and his minions. To this day, songs are sung and festivals held in the heroes' honor. Yet now something dark has crept over the village. First animals disappear, their only remains a pile of bones licked clean. Then something worse: children disappear. The whispers begin quietly yet soon turn into a shout: The Nethergrim has returned!
Edmund's brother is one of the missing, and Edmund knows he must do something to save his life. But what? Though a student of magic, he struggles to cast even the simplest spell. Still, he and his friends swallow their fear and set out to battle an ancient evil whose powers none of them can imagine. They will need to come togetherand work apartin ways that will test every ounce of resolve.
In a story reminiscent of the Ranger's Apprentice epic and the Chronicles of Narnia, Matthew Jobin weaves reality, magic, and adventure into the next great fantasy phenomenon.
"A refreshingly metaphysical take on magic."
"Riveting... a hearty magical adventure."
"Elegant gem of a novel"
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"This book is a highly recommended purchase for libraries serving readers of middle school age and up; many readers will be eagerly anticipating the next entry in this promising new series."
"An original and subtle tale by a debut author... The Nethergrim reads like a classic."
About Matthew Jobin
A native of Canada, Matthew Jobin holds a Ph.D. In anthropology from Stanford University. He lectures in anthropology at Santa Clara University. The idea for The Nethergrim came to Matthew as a young boy exploring the forest surrounding his home. Intent on telling the story of this fantasy world, he's been developing it and its inhabitants ever since. Matthew lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Tina.
There are five things you should know about The Nethergrim that lie within these pages.
Cast of Characters
Edmund Bale is the son of innkeepers, newcomers to the tiny northern village of Moorvale. His father expects him to continue in the family trade, but he dreams of learning the hidden arts of magic, and keeps a secret store of books that he studies whenever he can spare a moment from his many chores. The words and ideas he finds within those moth-eaten pages tell him of a wider world, lands of wonder and adventure, and ideas that seem far too big for his sleepy, rustic home. The only thing that Edmund wants as much as a chance to apprentice himself to a real, proper wizard is a look, a word, or any sign at all that his friend Katherine might want to be something more than just friends.
Katherine Marshal is the only daughter of an old war hero, a man who once rode with the bold companions who are said to have slain the Nethergrim itself. He retired from that life to raise Katherine on a farm outside the village, where he trains the famous warhorses owned by Aelfric, Lord of Elverain. Katherine learned the arts of sword and saddle from her father, and has a knack for picking out the best amongst the yearly crop of young horses. She loves to put the growing warhorses through their paces, instructing them in the maneuvers of battle while at the same time practising with her own lance and sword. She melts whenever she catches sight of Harry, the only son of Lord Aelfric, but she knows he is too far above her station in life to be anything more than a fond, forlorn hope. She thinks of Tom, the orphan slave from the farm next to hers, as her best friend, and has become good friends with Edmund Bale, though Edmund can act a little strange at times.
Tom is an orphan, a bonded slave condemned to a life of back-breaking labor under the lash of his cruel master. He bears the long days, bad food and hard usage with a quiet patience that both amazes and alarms his friends. He loves caring for his master’s livestock, and has grown to become a talented healer, administering care and home-made remedies to keep the animals around him healthy and strong. Tom cherishes the rare times when he can meet with Katherine and Edmund, and hear them talk of their hopes and dreams. He himself dreams of freedom, sometimes—but not often, for he does not know how such a dream could ever come true.
Geoffrey Bale is Edmund’s little brother, just over two years younger, though sometimes it feels like ten. Every time their father scolds Edmund for straying from his intended future as an innkeeper, Geoffrey seethes inside—for no one speaks of Geoffrey’s future. One day Edmund will inherit the inn, even though he does not want it, and all the security that comes from being the sole heir, everything Edmund spurns with his stupid magic books—those are the things Geoffrey wants. Geoffrey even gets jealous when their father yells at Edmund and tells him to smarten up. No one seems to care if Geoffrey smartens up or not, so he runs around with a gang of village kids, breaking as many rules as he can and trying to forget that he does not really matter, because he is the little brother, the second son, the spare.
John Marshal comes from the south of the kingdom, from the downland hills known as the Burrs. He gave up a life as a horse-groom there to follow the great hero Tristan, and they are said to have destroyed the Nethergrim itself. John retired from his adventures with the air of someone who has seen too much to ever get a good night’s sleep again. Raising Katherine and training Lord Aelfric’s warhorses are the two things John wants to do with the years that might remain to him, and all he cares to know about anymore. He has done enough, lost enough and suffered enough. Let the world turn around him, he often thinks to himself, let the world pass him by, and let there be some peace at last.
Tristan, they say, is the only hero ever born who really acts like one. Tristan—Lord Tristan, these days—is the only great man whom you might meet, and come away from the meeting thinking that his greatness was not all a sham. They say Tristan is the greatest warrior who ever lived. They say that though he is fearsome in battle almost beyond the power of a poet to tell, he is yet a good and gentle man, who has retired to become the sort of lord that peasants do not really mind ruling over them. Surely Lord Tristan must be getting old, by now, but if anything really bad should happen, it makes folk happy to think that he yet lives, and might spring forth with his sword to save them all once again.
Vithric was the most talented wizard of his time, and the only real friend that Tristan ever had. Trained in the arts of Dhrakal, which Edmund will tell you means “wheel-magic”, Vithric apprenticed to an ambitious, far-seeing wizard, and came into the north on the hunt for a long-lost creature called the Nethergrim. Vithric and his master got much more than they had bargained for, though, for the Nethergrim was coming awake again, and its servants had returned to infest the mountains. Their attack threatened to overwhelm the lands of men, but with Tristan’s aid Vithric checked their advance, and then led a band of bold companions to the Nethergrim’s lair. Though he long ago moved south to the capital, Vithric never lost the gratitude of the folk in Elverain, and they were all grieved to hear of his early death from a wasting disease.
Harman and Sarra Bale
Harman and Sarra Bale come from the town of Bale, down in Quentara—and if you’re wondering, no, they did not have the last name Bale back then. Folk in the kingdom sometimes change last names, taking on nicknames, names of places, or names for the things they do for a living. Harman and Sarra keep an inn, the only one in Moorvale, so perhaps their old last name had something to do with keeping inns, too. Perhaps their old last name was silly, and they were happy to be rid of it when they moved to Moorvale. Harman and Sarra have two sons, Edmund and Geoffrey. Harman scolds Edmund and ignores Geoffrey, while Sarra tries her best to defend Edmund and remind Harman that Geoffrey exists. Edmund has never been sure—did his parents simply never love each other in the first place, or is love always doomed to fade away?
Harold—Harry, to his friends—is the only son and heir of the barony of Elverain. All of his older brothers and sisters died as babies, so Harry is the last hope for his family line. Folk tell Harry that he is growing up to be exceptionally handsome, though they sometimes hint that is not such a gift, in the end. More than anything, Harry wants to impress his cold, stern father, but Lord Aelfric had children too late in life, and is far too much of a rigid old grouch. Harry has an easier time with his mother, but she always seems bent on shaping everything he does and says, and the more he listens to her, the more he hears folk snickering behind his back. Harry tries to be good, and tries to remember how much better his life is than all of the lesser folk in the kingdom, but sometimes he cannot help but feel sorry for himself, and wish that less was expected of him.
Martin Upfield is Katherine’s only living kin besides her father. He is a cousin on her mother’s side, and it looks like Katherine’s exceptional height must come from that half. Martin is a great, bush-bearded hulk of a man, somewhere between twenty-five and thirty. He did not inherit enough to settle on his own land, so he supplements his meager plot with odd jobs for his neighbors. Katherine has always wondered why Martin never came to work for her father—perhaps he is too proud to admit how poor he is.
Lord Aelfric is the ninth baron Elverain, in an unbroken line that stretches back for two hundred years. Aelfric cares very much for tradition, and the rights of ancient heritage. He believes in a settled order to the world, and thinks that a usurper sits on the throne down in Paladon. He likes hunting and falconry, as a lord should. He was not a young man when he married, and speaks to his lady wife as though she was a diplomat from a foreign, hostile nation.
Lady Isabeau of Elverain
Lady Isabeau of Elverain comes from Darrow, somewhere in the eastern part of the kingdom that almost no one in Elverain could find without help. She is no longer young, but her husband, Lord Aelfric, was a full-grown man when she was born. She had six children with Aelfric, but five of them died as babies. Perhaps that is why she is so ready with her anger, and so jealously protective of her only living son. Folk bow to Isabeau, as is her due, but it sometimes seems that they do not really listen when she talks, and even after all this time she feels the sting of being an outlander. Her son Harold listens, though, and that is a great comfort. Sometimes it feels as though Harold is the one good thing she has done with her life.
Athelstan Barnwell is the wealthiest peasant in Elverain, one of the only men for miles around to have a farm all of his own. Most peasants share things in common, plowing strips of land side by side, but Athelstan keeps his holdings like a little kingdom, scowling at everyone one who dares come near. He has grown old, sour of face and bent of back, and never seems to show the slightest trace of love for his five grown daughters. He is even worse to Tom, the slave he purchased in an alley down in the city of Rushmeet. Some folk, especially Athelstan’s hired hands, murmur that the secret to Athelstan’s wealth is really Tom—that it is Tom who keeps the flocks and livestock healthy despite the bad fodder and endless abuse. Don’t say that to Athelstan, though, unless you’d like some hard words from him, and more than likely a withered old fist waved in your face.