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Monday, February 23, 2015

The Nethergrim Blog Tour {review and guest post}

I'm thrilled to have The Nethergrim Blog Tour, which is celebrating the paperback release of The Nethergrim, stopping by today with my review and a great guest post by author Matthew Jobin...

The Nethergrim
(The Nethergrim Trilogy #1)
by Matthew Jobin
2/10/15 (paperback edition)
Penguin Young Readers

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. 


"The Nethergrim itself is indeed the stuff of nightmares... fantasy fans will find much to enjoy in this elegant gem of a novel, and the haunting message that the monstrosity of some humans can rival even that of ageless creatures is so carefully and effectively inlaid that it will likely linger even after other details fade." 
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"The beginning of what is sure to be a sweeping, epic fantasy series. Debut author Jobin tells a riveting, slowly building story, and his rich, evocative writing style only adds to the package. Perfect for imaginative middle-grade readers craving a hearty magical adventure." 

"Matthew Jobin creates such a magnificent world in his story that you cannot bring yourself to put the book down. I could compare it to J.R.R. Tolkien and yet even that does not do it justice! Jobin takes everything about the "successful fantasy formula" and throws it out the window. This has definitely been a worthwhile read and is definitely jumping to the top of my books to recommend to children/parents looking for a good fantasy and adventure title!" 

Legend says that the beastly Nethergrim was defeated, many years ago, by the mighty knight Tristan and Vithric, the famous wizard...but strange things are happening in Moorvale: first livestock go missing, then children, then foul beasts attack. Fourteen year old, wannabe wizard, Edmund Bale, is convinced The Nethergrim has returned, and when his little brother becomes one of these missing children, Edmund and his friends- Katherine (who Edmund may love) and orphaned slave Tom- set out on a dangerous journey to rescue the children and defeat The Nethergrim...but no one knows what the mysterious Nethergrim looks like and it may not be all that it seems!

The Nethergrim, the first book in Matthew Jobin’s middle-grade trilogy, is a thrilling, lushly developed, fantastical tale! Like The Chronicles of Narnia or The Hobbit, The Nethergrim’s writing is rich and enthralling, its world is both whimsical and deliciously dark, and its characters are admirable and relatable. Jobin weaves together pure fantasy, folklore, exciting adventure, and eloquent storytelling, to create a wonderfully enchanting story that will leave young readers riveted.

The world within The Nethergrim- from Edmund’s little town to ominous ruins of an ancient people and the dark, spine-tingling lair of The Nethergrim- is vivid and imaginative. Jobin fills this world with many exciting magical elements! I love Jobin’s unique, thought-provoking, and metaphysical take on magic. And the fantastical creatures Jobin has created- from the nasty bolgugs, mighty Thornbeasts, and the chilling Nethrgrim itself-  are captivating in their ghastly whimsy. I found The Nethergrim to be an especially mesmerizing and unforgettable being and foe.

Our young characters, Edmund; Katherine; and Tom, are all endearing, likable, and relatable in their own ways. I loved Edmund’s intelligent curiosity, Katherine’s brave heart, and Tom’s gentle spirit. I enjoyed them as individual characters and an engaging trio.

Jobin takes both his characters and readers on a wild journey full of twists, thrills, and good ol’ fashioned adventure, that will leave readers excited for more!

MY FINAL THOUGHT: Refreshingly original, yet with the feel of a classic, with writing that is both lyrical and accessible, The Nethergrim kept me spellbound from beginning to end!

5/5 yummy cupcakes

The powerful strange: the meaning of magic and superpowers in fiction
by Matthew Jobin
It does not take long for a child to learn that wearing a cape made from a bedsheet does not make him Superman. It does not take many tries, waving a stick in the air and shouting “Wingardium leviosa!”, before a child comes to learn that if she wants to fly, she must first purchase an airplane ticket. It is worth asking, then, what good there is in writing about such things. Both magic and superpowers have the ability to cast the problems of life into sharp relief, allowing us direct access to fundamental ideas that are too often mired in the topical. By lifting us, for a little while, out of our own world, they allow us to see that world and its nature all the better, suddenly clear because it is momentarily strange.

Superpowers, it turns out, make fine metaphors for the problems of any sort of power. By wondering what we would do if we could knock over a building with a single punch, we can come quite directly to the point of asking whether we follow laws because they are morally right, or only because we cannot find a way to break them. When we consider the idea of mutant heroes blessed with superpowers by outlandish genetics, we are confronted, in the starkest terms, with what we really mean by the term equality. As we move toward a future where human beings might use technology to become far more disparate in form and ability, I think such issues well worth exploring.

Magic, that intrusion of the strange, can help us to consider the strangeness of our own existence. In my own fantasy series, The Nethergrim, the young hero aspires to a school of magic that is focussed on exploiting opposites and polarities. He begins with the Aristotelian elements, things like Fire versus Water, but then in time moves on to consider other oppositions: Order versus Chaos, One versus Many, that which moves versus that which is still. In doing so, I hope to invite my reader into thinking about our own world, and the many opposites, both physical and conjectural, that appear to inhabit it. On some future day, my reader might consider the dimensionality of spacetime, or look in curiosity at a battery and wonder why there is such thing as positive and negative, and perhaps The Nethergrim series will have helped her understand how very odd our own universe happens to be.

Both magic and superpowers together have one last important use, as vehicles for the questions of what it means to be uniquely ourselves. If there is one thing which best defines the progression from childhood to adulthood, it is the struggle for identity. Children are often told that they are special, and yet in growing up they find themselves amidst a sea of others who have all been told the same thing. There is a tension in our world between achievement and integration. We want our children to rise high in life, but to a large extent rising high means rising relative to others. When considering what it would mean to be the mighty Chosen One amongst the ordinary folk, we are challenged to think of what it means simply to be our own selves, blessed with certain abilities and yet saddled with frailties, like and yet unlike to the seven billion strangers with whom we share a planet. Fantastical stories can thus both thrill us with their otherworldly possibilities and give us space to consider things like power, identity and the nature of our own real world. The superhero’s cape and the wizard’s wand can serve as tools for investigating the most important ideas we will encounter in life—and best of all, they make it fun to do.

Matthew Jobin spent 25 years developing the Nethergrim’s world–its story, present and past; its landscapes; its language. He was originally inspired as a boy exploring the forest surrounding his home in Canada, and has been intent on telling the tale ever since.

Matthew, who holds a Ph. D. in anthropology from Stanford University, now lectures at Santa Clara University and lives with his wife in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Brenda said...

I love that cover, and the mix of magical creatures and world building.

Morgan @ The Bookish Beagle said...

I loved The Nethergrim as well for many of the same reasons you mentioned! You summed it up perfectly: it felt like a classic while still maintaining originality. I loved the world building and the stark but lyrical writing. I also like that it wrapped up in a satisfying way but still leaves you wanting the sequel. Great review!