ARC Review: The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin

Genres: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Adventure, Mystery
Series Name: The Nethergrim Trilogy
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Publishing House: Philomel
Number of pages: 368
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Pre-Order on AMAZON | THE BOOK DEPOSITORY

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 together–and work apart–in ways that will test every ounce of resolve.

For many months now, I’ve been trying to find that perfect YA Fantasy book to satisfy my thirst, but have found nothing that could really satiate that intense craving. So many of them these days have vague and shitty world-building, flat characters, and plotlines that are more apt to be called “plotholes”. The majority of them also put too much emphasis on the romance, so much sometimes that other important aspects are forgotten and greatly overshadowed (I am looking at you, The Winner’s Curse). Since then I’ve cursed this genre under my breath, and despaired over the fact that books of quality that are more about the adventure and friendship are far and few between.

Thankfully, just like how Vithric saved Tristan against dark and sinister creatures (which pretty much jumpstarted their saving the rest of the world), The Nethergrim rescued me from this dark abyss and gave me hope that perhaps this genre isn’t so dead and lackluster after all. The spectacular and visually-enticing cover aside, I enjoyed this book a lot, and found myself not having problems at all picturing it in my head. In fact, I’d go ahead and say everything about this book screams BLOCKBUSTER FILM. Character-wise and (especially!) plot-wise, I can see it perfectly as a film that people of all ages would enjoy. Yes, adults, you can read this and not worry about gouging your eyes out of your sockets. It’s that good.

The Nethergrim follows the story of Edmund. He is the son of an innkeeper and is expected to inherit the business, but deep inside, he has the heart of a wizard. Despite his father’s disapproval, he hoards books that talk about magic and tries to understand them whenever he is out of his father’s sight. He is resigned to his “fate”, but at the same time, he can’t resist his own calling. One day, tension rises in the town when livestock and farm animals keep disappearing, only to be found days later completely eaten except for the bones. It rises even higher when children also started disappearing, a situation that’s oddly similar  to one many decades ago, when the feared Nethergrim caused havoc in the region. But that can’t be, right? The Nethergrim was slayed by Tristan and Vithric. In that case, there can only be one answer: he has risen again.

CHARACTERS

What I appreciate the most about this book is the fact we follow a trio of normal friends. And by normal, I mean they’re not les chosen ones that are often too apparent in Fantasy books these days. Edmund is the son of an innkeeper who loves to read and learn new things in a town where the majority of the residents don’t even know how to write their name; Katherine is the daughter of a stable master who has been trained to fight with swords, and; Tom is the slave of a cruel master, who makes him work hungry and tired until the light of dawn. Three different individuals whose backgrounds paint a picture of the lifestyle of the medieval ages, I find them the book’s strongest points, as even though they’re different from each other, when put together, they blend beautifully. 

There were times I did want to punch Edmund, but for the most part, he’s a cool main character. I love how he isn’t someone who’s inherently good at what he does. We see his frustration as he tries to learn how to cast magic, and how he’s determined to steal one after his father burned his stack of hidden books (nooo!). I love how despite not being someone really special, despite not being strong enough or smart enough or witty enough, he still goes to save his brother from the clutches of a highly sinister entity. He is definitely easier to relate to in many levels as his struggles feel real and familiar.

If I have a complaint regarding this aspect, it is that I felt Katherine and Tom are not fleshed out enough. We get a bit of backstory from them, but unlike towards Edmund, I am not as attached as I want to be (I do feel sorry for Tom, however. His master’s very cruel and the instances when I wanted to jump into the story and punch the lights out of him were too many).

WORLD-BUILDING/SETTING

Unfortunately, we only see a bit of the world here, and only in the parts surrounding Edmund’s town. I’m not really bothered about it, though, as during reading, I was able to visualize the sceneries and the scenes clearly. There is a map included in the book, which gives a detailed illustration of what this part of the world looks like. Yes, this book is largely centered on a small area, but the end of the book hints of greater adventures beyond the world Edmund and his friends have known, and I’m terribly excited about it.t

With regards to the origins of The Nethergrim, what I appreciated about it is the fact we don’t know much about it because the heroes who’ve fought against it are mum about what happened. What it is, where it’s from, where it lies, are all a mystery the majority of the book, and the journey of finding more about it was fun and intriguing.

ACTUAL PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS

Man, can you believe this? A YA/MG book where parents are actually existent! I shit you not when I say the majority of books in these demographics usually has the absent parent syndrome, where they’re a.) workaholics; b.) dead; c.) on a honeymoon in the Caribbean and won’t be coming back for, oh, the next few weeks. Give or take.

Kidding aside and all seriousness in now, I really appreciate how The Nethergrim realistically portrays parents and their roles in the lives of their children. There are parents who expect too much from their sons and dismiss their individuality for the supposedly “sake of the greater good”. There are parents who realize their mistakes, learn from it, and become better fathers. There are parents who are loving and caring and willing to sacrifice their lives. The whole package. They aren’t absent, they’re here, and they’re not going away anytime soon.

TWISTS

There are times I think I’ve read everything and nothing can surprise me anymore. Most of the time, that’s true. When I read the usual book, I can see the twists coming miles away, and the sheer predictability of it all makes me very sad. I love it when a book surprises me, when it shocks me, when it angers me (in a good way…), when it leaves me with my jaw wide open.

I am very sorry to say that when I started this book, I expected less of it in that regard, because I thought I could call on the twists early, but apparently that was naive of me. Many times throughout the book, I was left thinking, “Holy shit, what the fuck? Are you serious?!” and then go, “Crap. I didn’t see that coming.”

Of course, being the very compassionate and kind reviewer that I am, I’m not going to disclose what those twists are (I am quite tempted to, though), but let’s just say if there’ one thing you can definitely look forward to here, it the assurance the climax will take your breath away.

OVERALL…

I love it. There are some stuff here and there that may need a bit of polishing and tweaking, but overall, it’s a fun read that will prove itself enjoyable to all ages and sizes. It’s that kind of book whose storyline you can perfectly see could work as a film. Plus, with the trio of main characters, there will rarely be a boring moment. Some may find it too young for their tastes, and I can finally understand where they are coming from, but it’s an enjoyable read nonetheless!

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
World-building
Impact
Opening
Climax
Ending
Overall: 4.2

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Faye

Faye

A 21 years old Filipina who loves books, games, languages, and most especially, food. Secretly wishes to be an astronaut so she can explore the stars. Has a love-hate relationship with Philippine politics. To get in her good graces, offer her Foie Gras, Or shrimp. Or a JRPG. A YA sci-fi book works, too. You can follow her on twitter here: @kawaiileena

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  1. says

    Your overall thoughts on the book makes me want to read this one, despite it being a tad bit young. But I love books that you can totally see as a movie…there’s a simplicity about that which I love! Fantastic review! :)

    • FayeFaye says

      Yes! I agree! I like books like Harry Potter or How to Train Your Dragon where you know they’re for the young ones but they still resonate with your adult self. The simplicity makes it appealing :)

  2. says

    Haha! It’s great to have books that run like a movie in your brain. I think that Unraveling by Liz Norries is one of them. (Gosh, I wish that would be a movie. Sigh.) *reads your description* okay, this sounds pretty cool. They ARE normal, wow. I’m glad you found the characters to be awesome, though a little more backstory and strong characterization wouldn’t hurt. PAAAAREEEENTS!!!! WOW. That’s fresh haha. Oh, yay, a book that actually takes you by surprise. Look at that! I’m so happy that you loved this one, Faye! Gorgeous review, my friend :)
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    • FayeFaye says

      Ooh, really? I have Unraveling, untouched, in my bookshelf. Looks like I need to get that one as soon as I can ;)

      I know! We need normal people for a change. Normal people with normal aspirations but still ends up doing something extraordinary through hard work and diligence, not because of some deus ex machina or other bullshit inherent power.

    • FayeFaye says

      Thank you, Lily. Not that I’m being snobby about YA fantasy, but there is just SO many bad apples out there like you can’t believe. And even those decent ones, the exaggerated romances just have to ruin the fun! :/

    • FayeFaye says

      Hah, I’m 21 and I still seek books like this! Definitely nothing wrong with that, my friend. Thank you for stopping by!

  3. says

    Ooooo I haven’t actually heard of this book till I read your review. It sounds like a promising one! I feel like a lot of people have had not the best luck with books recently so 4 stars actually makes this one sounds very appealing to me. I also love fantasy but it’s quite difficult to find an epic fantasy in YA that satisfies me totally or close to.

    I’m glad the characters aren’t the chosen ones or whatever. That usually leads to Mary Sues and such, which doesn’t make for a very enjoyable read. The world also sounds quite descriptive, even if it’s smaller. Hopefully in future installments it will grow and become even more complex/detailed. Parents?! What are these mystical creatures who are so often missing from YA? [; Hehe. I’m glad to hear they’re present and provide an impact (even if not positive) on the characters identities and their current life.

    I’m quite excited to give this one a read now, I love twists you don’t see coming and I’m super intrigued to see what’s in store. Wonderful review! (:

    • FayeFaye says

      Thanks for stopping by, Larissa. I know what you mean, we need more normal people in fiction because those are the people we can relate to much easier. Mary Sues and Gary Stus are the worst, definitely! And YES TO PARENTS! :D Loved their roles here:)

  4. says

    I’ve never heard of this book, but now I’m definitely checking it out. I haven’t read a good YA fantasy in. . . ever. It’s always the middle-grade books that seem to have better fantasy to me. YA tends to be bogged down by romance more than anything else.

    Though the fact that this is good is probably because it leans more towards middle-grade. xD Great review! ^_^
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    • FayeFaye says

      I kind of agree. in YA Fantasy, it’s the romance that bogs down the general atmosphere of the book, and they greatly overshadow the other aspects that make fantasy a fantasy. Like even though I enjoyed Throne of Glass in general, the romance there was so overwhelming and eye candy sweet that it was just… ugh x_x

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. says

    Wowowow this sounds amazing! I’ve been looking for a good YA fantasy too, one that is not not overflowing with romance (I like it but…eek. TOO MUCH). I love flawed characters that grow and learn from their mistakes. No one likes perfection, it’s just not realistic. Edmund sounds like someone I will potentially root for, I like they he has to struggle to find his magic, and that he and his friends aren’t destined to be great, but make themselves great. <3 <3 GAH, need more of these! Wonderful review Faye, I'm adding this to my TBR asap!
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    • FayeFaye says

      I knooow. Thinking about the characters now give me the fuzzies deep inside. I love how they’re so relatable in many levels, and how through their determination and courage they find themselves doing extraordinary things. Definitely looking forward to book 2 now!

  6. says

    Yay Faye! I’m so glad that you were able to find a fantasy read which met all your expectations and gave you more! I love that parents are actually present in a book for once, and that they are decent, we certainly need more of this! Also I love a book which keeps you on your toes, I’m glad that this book still had endless surprises in store for you. Thank you for putting another brilliant book on my radar!
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  7. says

    “les chosen ones”

    *snorts*

    FAYE!!! The second it became clear that you actually liked this book, I started bouncing around in my chair, and by the time I got to, “It’s that good,” I was in a full-blown SQUEEEEEE. Not even joking. I was all set to one-click, but it’s like $11, so I had to wishlist it instead. (I have RULES! Friggin’ rules . . . ) Anyway, I am SO immensely pleased that you finally found a fantasy that worked for you (and most likely ME too). YES! Great review, dollface ;)
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    • FayeFaye says

      Woo boy, thanks for adding pressure on my back :P Now I’m worried you wouldn’t like it after all, and to think it was my review that made you go for this. Oh well, I really liked the book, so I have high hopes that you will, too!

    • FayeFaye says

      Haha yeah. It’s not that he was annoying, but he lacked confidence in himself when I knew deep inside he had it in him!

  8. says

    I think Middle Grade books are severely underrated. I astounded to see a book where parents actually exist and don’t randomly go away when it is convenient.

    I also like it that that these people are not particularly special and are just normal people.
    I love it when there are huge twists in a novel. Like you, I can second guess when something is coming. On the one hand I kind of get a thrill from being able to guess something but then on the other hand it kind of pisses me off that I clicked on easily how something unfolds.

    Thanks for stopping by and great review :) I might check this one out!! :) xxx <3
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    • FayeFaye says

      I know! I’m pretty proud of myself at times, but I will always welcome it if a book manages to surprise the lights out of me.

  9. says

    I know what you mean about the YA Fantasy genre. I’ve been avoiding it lately partly for the reasons you mentioned. The fact that you said you could see this being a blockbuster definitely interests me because that means there is REALLY something to it.
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    • FayeFaye says

      YES! Absolutely. I mean, it’s not the next Harry Potter, but it’s definitely up there plot-wise and character-wise.

  10. says

    Oh wow! This sounds AMAZING! Definitely adding it to my TBR list! I haven’t been a huge fan of the more hyped about fantasy novels (Throne of Glass, Shadow and Bone, etc); so I completely see where you’re coming from in terms of being cautious of the genre! Although I’m SOOO glad to hear this one worked so well for you! :D Thanks so much for sharing Faye, and, as always, PHENOMENAL review!
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    • FayeFaye says

      Yeah, I mean, Throne of Glass and Shadow of Bone weren’t that bad, but heroines whose eyes turn to mush when it falls upon the love interests? You won’t see that here. Thanks for stopping by! :)

  11. says

    This is awesome, you know I’ve been on the lookout for good fantasy books as I’ve never really read one because they always end up being paranormal!

    “I love how despite not being someone really special, despite not being strong enough or smart enough or witty enough, he still goes to save his brother from the clutches of a highly sinister entity. He is definitely easier to relate to in many levels as his struggles feel real and familiar.”

    Often times we get these kick-ass characters and as much as they are awesome, I agree with you that an underdog character is more relatable and it feels much sweeter when they accomplish their goals. I will definitely check this out Faye! Lovely review, as always :)
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