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*The Fetch (The Runestone Saga #1)* by Chris Humphreys- young adult book review

The Fetch (The Runestone Saga #1)
by Chris Humphreys
Grades 7+ 368 pages Knopf July 2006 Hardcover    

Chris Humphreys’ The Fetch is a story with roots in Norse legend, real history, and modern mysticism. It is also that rarity, a genuinely frightening YA novel. And it is fantastic.

The plot at first seems generic, almost clichéd: Sky, a fifteen-year-old boy, finds a mystic talisman left by his mysterious grandfather, Sigurd. When the talisman, a collection of runes, becomes activated, Sky awakes to the true power of his heritage.

And then it all goes wonderfully wrong, until The Fetch arrives at an honest, and well-earned, unhappy ending. That this ending is clearly only the beginning of Sky’s adventures will be little comfort to those facing a silent back cover. But The Fetch is still a satisfying read, in large part because Humphreys is willing to go dark. There are no dei ex machina or easy coincidences here. Just when it seems everything must go wrong, it does, giving Sky’s story an honesty rare and refreshing as an ice water bath.

It’s a generic beginning, but even while Sky revels in his standard heroic calling, The Fetch is heavy with the promise of darker things to come. And come they do, in the form of dark dreams, raven wings, and ancestral betrayal. Humphreys moves his Sky beyond the standard YA heroic template with the addition of a bit of reason and the crucial addition of Sky’s cousin, Kristin. The cheerful, always real friendship between the cousins makes Sky much more likeable and sharpens the stakes of their magical game beyond the usual vague world-saving.

It’s hard to discuss The Fetch without giving away its secrets, and as with all magic, those secrets don’t mean as much if they aren’t earned. Puzzle out the riddles of the runes for yourself. Just don’t be surprised if they’re deeper than they appear.

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