I like the cover of this book. It's not often I comment on cover artwork because, on the whole, I don't find pictures very meaningful, but this black and blood-red cover suits the tale within. Chris Humphreys' The Fetch is the first book in the "Runestone Saga", rather like the Norse sagas of old, with which it has things in common.
15 year old Sky's ancestor was a great Viking warrior, and his Norwegian grandfather, Sigurd, knew the secret magics of the runes. When Sigurd's old sea chest turns up at his house, Sky investigates and finds an old journal and a drawstring bag of Norse Runestones hidden in the lid. When Sky's cousin Kristin, who is a year older than him, comes for a holiday visit to his new Shropshire home on Wenlock Edge, they start to learn about Runestone magic. Sky discovers that he can send his Fetch back through time and get involved in his ancestors' lives. His first trip takes him to inhabit the body of his ancestor, Bjorn, a 15 year old Norwegian boy who is going a-Viking for the first time, and is on a raiding trip to England, to York. Inhabiting Bjorn's body, Sky fights as a Viking warrior and Berserker (a warrior who fights like an animal, rather than a human - most of the Berserkers about whom I've read are wolves, but Bjorn is a bear).
However, Sky learns from his grandfather's Fetch that the runes demand a price for the knowledge they give, just as Odin the Allfather had to pay a price for the Runes when he was first given them. Sky slowly discovers what kind of price that means - a blood price, and when his grandfather reveals whose blood, Sky is horrified.
Sky is a likeable character, with just enough immaturity left in him to allow him to make mistakes and to learn from them. He has a bit of a tendency to act without thinking things through properly, but he's redeemed by his willingness to accept the consequences of his rash actions without complaint.
Since this is book one of the series, I will note, without giving away too much, that the ending of the book resolves the immediate conflicts well although, as you would expect, it doesn't wrap up some of the central issues regarding Sky's ultimate fate. The teenage dialogue is a little dull, but the narrative style is strong and direct. The only thing that really annoyed me (and it's a fairly small thing), was this rather unnecessary jibe: [Kristin] was reaching into her bag again. Like most girls' bags, it was overflowing with rubbish. (p. 91) That is such a cliche ! Plus, I know plenty of men whose bags/briefcases also overflow with rubbish !
That aside, this book is a strong start to the series and I hope Humphreys maintains that strength. I shall eagerly look out for the sequels. The Fetch is also available from Amazon.com.