The Last Apprentice: Slither by: Joseph Delaney, illustrated by Patrick Arrasmith, (2013)
In this story we are introduced to new characters. Way to the north live creatures who prey on humans for the most part, using their women as slaves for breeding and drinking their blood. (Their favorite meal is blood.) Slither is a Haizda Mage, meaning he controls an area to the south, where humans live, and feeds off the blood of the farmer’s children and animals. He has incredible skills, to make himself large and small, as well as fighting skills, and he uses magical powers he derives from souls and from blood. He has formed an agreement with one farmer where he only feeds from the animals, and leaves the daughters alone. However when the farmer dies in an accident, things change. He gives his oldest daughter to the mage as a slave, for an agreement to take the two young daughter to safe keeping. Thus a traveling adventure begins.
However things do not go well. They are all taken captive. Nessa, the oldest daughter saves the life of Slither, for which he rescues them. However in doing so he kills a couple formidable foes. Now he is sent to trial by fighting against a beast which has never been defeated. Grimalkin joins him in this fight. She is drawn to the area by a meteor with special metal.
In this book, Delaney is more naturalistic than most of his other books, although he tend to this flavor. This book, the description of the effects of a disease carried by poison in the talons of the beast is just too much. It gets beyond disgusting.