Title: The Skeleth
Author: Matthew Jobin
Series: Nethergrim #2
Edmund may be the son of the village’s only innkeepers, but he was enough of a wizard to beat back the Nethergrim and rescue most of the children stolen. He knows, though, his puny knowledge is nowhere near enough. So when a wizard arrives with a visiting party of lords, he thinks he’s finally found a teacher . . .
Tom was hoping to escape the grasp of his former master, but that plan quickly goes awry when Tristan’s castle turns out to hold unpleasant surprises. Now hunted by man and monster, he’s got to step up and be a hero, because there’s no one else. . .
Katherine is shocked when the absence of her father strips her of everything she once enjoyed. Now a servant in the house of her lord, she struggles to find a place in her new life. But conspiracies are unfolding, threatening both lord and land . . .
I wanted to like this more than I did, because the first book was excellent. This one retains the solid use of detail and characterization, with very good worldbuilding, credible and dangerous villains (all except the older wizard woman, who never got enough backstory), and the bravery and resourcefulness of three teenagers willing to put everything on the line. It’s also got that rarer sense of generations, with the older gentleman like John Marshall and Tristan offering their perspectives.
The problem was that I spent most of the story incredibly frustrated at Edmund and Katherine. Tom’s sections were the only thing drawing me to actually finish the book. I think what I dislike about both of their roles is the same, although it manifests in different ways: they’re incredibly passive about what’s going on. Edmund’s temptation wasn’t as big a problem for me as the fact that he ignores several very clear warnings (the worst of which was when he finds a door with three different languages spelling out: “Do not open this door.” Guess what happens next). And he’s not even thinking very hard about them. He just lets himself get drawn along. Katherine’s warning should have given him a special reason to pause, since he ought to know exactly what she was talking about—but he’d rather believe the person he just met than the one he’s known his entire life.
Katherine is worse because I would just get so angry reading her segments. She’s pushed from a strong, independent young woman into someone browbeaten by Lady Isabeau’s petty tyranny (and only calls her out on it too near the end to make a difference). What’s baffling is both how quickly they press her into service, along with how ready they are to declare her father a traitor instead of, I don’t know, figuring that he might actually want to warn one of the original foes of the Nethergrim that said eldritch horror is back? Or sending some rider to Tristan to check? And Katherine doesn’t insist on verification, either, or try to verify it herself, nor does anything rebellious beyond run to the stables a few times to cry in Indigo’s shoulder. Harry’s behavior, at least, I expected, based on who he showed himself to be in the first book.
So that spoiled the otherwise strong writing for me. I can’t quite bring myself to rate it as low as possible because it did swing up at the end, but I don’t think I’ll ever read this again. I rate this book Neutral.