The Fetch (The Runestone Saga Series #1)

The Fetch (The Runestone Saga Series #1)

4.6 5
by Chris Humphreys

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FETCH: The apparition, double, or wraith of a living person.

In the attic, in an old sea chest, secreted away, are a mysterious journal and a set of runes: 24 stones that will change Sky’s life forever.

When Sky and his cousin Kristin find their Norwegian grandfather’s runes, Sky feels like the wait is over, like he can now release the

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FETCH: The apparition, double, or wraith of a living person.

In the attic, in an old sea chest, secreted away, are a mysterious journal and a set of runes: 24 stones that will change Sky’s life forever.

When Sky and his cousin Kristin find their Norwegian grandfather’s runes, Sky feels like the wait is over, like he can now release the breath he wasn’t even aware he’d been holding. But when he lays out the stones in a runecast they find in Sigurd’s journal, he is catapulted into a world filled with more possibilities and more danger than he ever imagined.

This first entry in the Runestone Saga is an utterly unique blend of horror, supernatural possibility, and historical truth that will leave readers wrung out from tension and clamoring for more.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Humphreys commands a fantastically dark tone. [The Fetch] ambitiously—and successfully—combines a runic puzzle with horror, fantasy, betrayal, and gripping historical fiction."—The Horn Book Magazine
Children's Literature - Kristy Lyn Sutorius
Fifteen-year-old Sky has a full summer to master the dialect of his new town and best the visions of the wraith he sees at night after the sun goes down. His differences extend beyond his regular sleepwalking and the uni-brow that he tries to control. Sky was born with a caul, or piece of the amniotic sack over his mouth and nose, and a doppelganger called a fetch that can go before him in his world or travel through time. These features, as well as his Norwegian blood, indicate that he is meant for great things. When Sky locates a bag full of runestones, similar to tarot cards, in a traveling trunk that once belonged to his dead-beat grandfather, his experiences draw him further from the time and space that we know. Along with his cousin Kristin's help, Sky travels back to the Viking days of his ancestors. Murder, shape shifting, and international travel take the stage in this combination time-travel occult fiction from actor-turned-author Humpherys. ??
Sky, with the help of his cousin Kristin, unravels the secrets of his past when he discovers a set of runes and a mysterious guidebook in an old sea chest in this opening book of The Runestone Saga. His past is tied to his Norwegian grandfather, Sigurd, who had supernatural abilities that Sky also possesses. Each can project their "fetch" through time and space to inhabit other bodies or to serve as a body double. Sigurd is deceased, but he left the runes for Sky so that Sky might fulfill his destiny. Yet Sky's destiny is not without peril, and when he places the runes in a runecast-and also uses a Ouija board-he has experiences that he never could have imagined possible. The plot definitely drives the story. Many decisions are made for Sky and his cousin as they are pulled into Sigurd's mystical world of runes and Viking ancestry. Secondary characters such as Sky's parents are one-dimensional, and Sky and his cousin lie to Sky's parents in order to sneak away on a trip to Norway. Humphreys has a knack for creating tension, however, and he also does an excellent job of combining mystery, horror, and fantasy. In addition, the author asks interesting questions: "Is our behavior dictated by our genes, inherited . . . stretching back through time? . . . What can we control and what can't we help?" Purchase where fantasy is popular and for teen patrons who like their books packed with thrills, blood, and an eerie creepiness. VOYA CODES: 3Q 4P J S (Readable without serious defects; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2006, Knopf, 300p., and PLB Ages 12 to 18.
—David Goodale
Sky has a history of sleepwalking, so he isn't sure if the voice he hears or the shadowy hood and bony fingers are real or a dream. When a sea chest of his grandfather's arrives at his parents' home, Sky feels his waiting time is over, although he hadn't realized that he had been waiting at all. In his eagerness to look through the battered chest, Sky misses his school bus and has to hitchhike to school?—?only to spy a double of himself, and find that the teacher thinks he is already in class. Could it get weirder? Oh, yes. Sky discovers Norwegian runes sealed in the chest. Unfortunately, he can't read them, or his grandfather Sigurd's Norwegian log. When Sky's cousin Kristin arrives for a summer visit, he isn't sure if she is too grown-up and ladylike to confide in. Still, the family intrigue is too fascinating to ignore, even for 16-year-old Kristin, and she and Sky get caught up in the mysterious magic. That's when Sky realizes he has a "fetch": an apparition or wraith ("hamr" in Norwegian) that can connect with his ancestors. He realizes he can kill. And that's when Kristin finds out she must act as Sky's research assistant to learn about the runes, and that she wants a bigger role. Could it get weirder? Oh, yes.... The ultimate question, though: is it destiny? Canadian Chris Humphrey's family background and acting experience led him to create this compelling story of Vikings and life-death magic. The riveting tale is the first book in a projected series. (Runestone Saga, Book 1). KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2006, Random House, Knopf, 355p., Ages 12 to 18.
—Dr. Lesley Farmer
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-Born with a caul over his face, possessing a distinctive unibrow, and having a tendency to sleepwalk, Sky bears all of the marks that the Norse associate with a person able to travel with his "fetch," or spirit double. But it isn't until the British 15-year-old discovers an old set of runestones belonging to his Norwegian grandfather that he discovers his bizarre destiny. Aided by Sigurd's spirit and his cousin Kristin, Sky embarks on a wonderful and frightening spiritual journey-inhabiting the body of a Viking ancestor, taking the form of a hunting hawk-all the while hunted by a dark, hungry presence. Humphreys's writing is tense and atmospheric, and both Sky and Kristin are well-developed, interesting characters. However, several plot elements (such as the two teens being able to make a trip from England to Norway without their parents knowing) test the bounds of credibility. The use of runestone divination and old Norse history and culture is effective, and may draw teens to seek further information on those subjects.-Christi Voth, Parker Library, CO Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A boy is drawn into the violent past of his grandfather and Viking ancestors. Sky's not looking forward to a summer with his estranged cousin Kristin, until they find Grandfather Sigurd's runes in an old chest in the attic. Runecasting leads Sky to animal shapeshifting, dangerous haunts and visions of going a-Viking with his berserker forefather, Bjorn. Sky and Kristin run off to Norway on a mysterious quest, where they discover that Sigurd is neither so dead, nor so benevolent, as they'd originally suspected. Sky's lessons in unexpectedly potent violence lead him to some hard decisions. The cousins slog through overwritten prose (though some historical Viking scenes are brought beautifully to life with language reminiscent of Anglo-Saxon alliterative rhythms). Despite pacing, a compelling adventure that asks hard questions of its characters. (Fantasy. 10-13)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Runestone Saga Series, #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.15(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.86(d)
700L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt



“Who’s there?” he asked. Softly but out loud, he was sure. Almost sure.

No reply. Sky gave them five seconds. It was a reasonable question. If he’d woken up because someone had spoken, it was only fair that they speak again. Said who they were. Stated their business.

“Did you say something?” His tone was less polite now.

Silence still. He couldn’t hear breathing, but anyone could hold their breath. He could hold his for two minutes and twenty-two seconds.

“Look . . . ,” he started, quite angrily, then stopped. If someone was going to speak, they’d have spoken by now. Unless they had a reason not to. But there were other possibilities to consider. Number one . . . was he even awake? The fact that he was standing up didn’t prove it either way. Not when you were King of the Sleepwalkers.

He reached his hand forward and it almost disappeared, the room was so dark. Reached slowly, because if there was someone still holding their breath there, you really, really, didn’t want to be touching them. . . .

Nothing . . . nothing . . . nothing . . . uh! . . . hardness . . . wall! Two walls and inside, too, he could tell by the slight give of the wallpaper. One there, one . . . there. Joined. So, a corner. He was in the corner of a room. Probably his bedroom, but he couldn’t be certain of that yet. He’d woken up in lots of other rooms. He’d woken up in no rooms at all.

Still, a corner. A good place to get your bearings. You weren’t close to a light switch . . . but at least no one could creep up on you from behind.

He wedged his back into the join of walls, narrowed his eyes, tried to see anything in the black- ness . . . Aha! Light. Red light. His clock radio: 4:17.

Now that was strange. He’d woken up at 4:17 the previous three mornings. But he’d definitely woken up those mornings; so the odds were good that he was awake now. He’d also been alone; so he was almost certainly alone now.

This was better. Still, to be on the safe side, he needed to get his bearings.

With the clock there, his bed was beneath it and the window over . . . there! Yeah, there it was, a rectangle of slightly lighter gloom. Hadn’t one of his teachers, three schools back, said, “It’s always darkest before the dawn”? His parents hadn’t gotten round to putting curtains up yet, so the darkness wasn’t blocked by anything except itself. It had been raining quite heavily when he went to bed, and the clouds must still have been thick out there. Yet even as he looked, something silver shot through the intense dark. It came, went, as if someone had shone a flashlight, then snapped it off.

That needed checking out. Perhaps that was what had woken him.

He pushed himself away from the wall, took a step toward the window. A floorboard creaked, loudly. It was full of creaks, this old house they’d rented. With the wind blowing, as it was that night, it had taken him ages to fall asleep because of all the shiftings and settlings. They sounded like voices; and this creak had a definite cry to it, the word “Don’t!” So he didn’t. Didn’t take another step, just stopped, waited. The wind picked up outside, something moved against the window, a thump followed by a scratch, like a finger placed then dragged away. That was . . . not good. He almost turned, ran to where the door had to be. Then he remembered his father’s words from a few weeks back.

“That needs trimming or it’ll break the glass in a storm,” he’d said. They’d been standing in the little orchard-garden of their new house, and he was pointing at an oak whose branches pressed against the wall. “And you’d probably use it as a fire escape!” Henry had grabbed Sky around the shoulders, twisting him in a wrestling move. “Too tempting for you, my lad.”

Of course, Sky thought, that’s all it is!

Confident now, he stepped forward, the movements in the floor just creaks, the thump and scratch just a tree. Then, as he reached the window, the clouds shifted, allowing moonlight through again . . . which explained the on-off light. The garden, previously dark, was instantly full of contrasts, the sides of the trees facing the moon silvered by it, their backs streaming away in shadows. He pressed his cheek against a pane, sought the moon to the right of the house. It was low down, just above the treetops, nearly full.

And it was red. It looked like it was covered in blood.

He knew what that was. The sun had risen enough over the curved surface of the planet to bounce its rays off the departing moon. He knew this for a scientific fact; but it didn’t stop the shivering that came.

And that’s just the cold, he thought. So I’ll go back to bed, pull the duvet over my head, doze till the alarm goes off and the music starts or until sunlight—yellow, not red—moves into the room.

He took one step toward that sanctuary. Just the one before a sudden movement below halted him. Something had slid swiftly from moonbeams to shadow. It failed to blend there because it was wider than the tree it moved behind, and Sky saw a long cloak settle onto grass, saw bleached, white fingers wrap around the trunk, saw another hand reaching toward the house, a finger uncurl. Saw a black hood tipping back, up.

He shut his eyes so he would not have to see any more. But he could not shut his ears.

“They are here.” The words wheezed up from the darkness. “Bring them. Bring them to me!”

More than anything now, he wanted to believe he was still asleep. That this was one of his nightmares. However horrible, at least they were familiar. They ended when you woke up. You could be comforted after a nightmare.

This wasn’t a nightmare. He was awake. So this . . . thing was real; the skeleton hand, the black cloak, real. The empty hood that should contain a face, a face that should even now be reddened by moonlight, real.

His scream, though, when it finally came, could have come from a nightmare—squeezed out, dead slow, stuck for the longest time in his throat. While whisper slowly grew to wail, the hood stayed motionless, lifted up at him, that beckoning finger raised. At last, he heard his parents scrambling for dressing gowns; corridor light etched his doorframe, feet thumped toward his room. But only at the very moment that his door burst open did the finger lower, the hood drop. Only then did the shape move away, slipping out of the rectangle of sudden bedroom light, dissolving into shadow, vanishing down an alley of apple trees.

From the Hardcover edition.

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