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The Skeleth    by Matthew Jobin order for
by Matthew Jobin
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Skeleth is the second in The Nethergrim epic, a middle grade fantasy series by Matthew Jobin. The first entry introduced three young people in the village of Moorvale, who had been raised on tales of the heroic defeat of the evil Nethergrim by brave knight Tristan and talented wizard Vithric. But did they really succeed?

Fourteen-year-old Edmund Bale is passionately interested in magic and seeks to learn in any way he can, even by theft. Edmund adores tall tomboy Katherine Mashal, who helps her father John (one of the original band of heroes) train horses and herself trains as a warrior. She is attracted to Harry, son of the local lord. Katherine and Edmund are close friends with Tom, slave to a brutal master.

In The Nethergrim, local children (including Edmund's younger brother) and animals went missing and our heroic trio managed to save some of them and defeat the Nethergrim's minions, while Edmund achieved his first magical feat. Tom left with Katherine's father John, in search of his old comrade, Lord Tristan at his castle of Harthingdale.

As The Skeleth opens, Edmund starts to hear the Nethergrim in his mind, cajoling him and tutoring him in magic - why? He's approached by a magic user called Elli who asks for his help, and tutors him. In her father's absence, Katherine is forced to work as a servant in the local lord's castle. Lord Wolland arrives with his entourage, preaching treason.

Meanwhile, Tom and John reach Harthingdale to find it taken over by enemy Wollanders and a sorceress who unleashes Skeleth that turns men into zombies. A brave and resourceful Tom finds and helps Tristan, who then sends him on a mission. There are captures, escapes, ambushes and betrayals as the action mounts. Edmund resents Harry and Katherine distrusts Elli. But the three friends continue to stand - and fight - together.

While the first episode was pretty solid, this second one has a rather scattered plot. But it does advance the story and ends on a dramatic note that sets the scene nicely for what will follow.

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