YA-Review: The Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu

The Novice is the first book in the Summoner series and a book that has been on my bookshelf for a while. I loved the cover and the blurb, but I was hesitant to read it without knowing for sure when the second book would be released. Now that the trilogy is complete, it was a go.

The Story
The Novice is about Fletcher, an orphan in the remote village of Pelt who is thrust into a world of war, politics and tournaments when he accidentally summons a rare demon. The first book is both a set-up for the rest of the story and an introduction to the world Fletcher lives in that is at war with Orcs and Elves and the only thing that can turn the tide are the new battle mages. In that world Fletcher has a role to play, together with his cute little Salamander demon Ignatius.

The writing
The way a story is written shapes the whole story and it’s what keeps me reading. The writing for The Novice is good, flowing with strong imagery. It gives a good view of the world Fletcher lives in, without the long info dumps that will bore young readers. If this was a story for adult readers I would have wanted a deeper layer, but for the young audience it is intended for (14-15 year-olds) it works well enough.

The writing also shapes the characters and I found that as a reader you get a good view of the characters, especially Fletcher and through him his friends and enemies. Though at times I did found it a little shallow as a lot of what we find out is told, rather than experienced.

My opinion
I loved the world we were introduced too. It was a mix of Tolkien, Warhammer and Pokemon with recognizable themes for readers, such as inequality and racism, poverty and discrimination. Plus Fletcher and his little demon Ignatius are just too cute.

If I was reading this book just for me, I would rate it higher. However, looking at it from a reviewer’s POV, there are a few niggles. Such as a the heavy borrowing from War Hammer and The Hobbit (Elf on a white stag ring any bells, albino orc).

Then there was the easy plot device of “injustice” to gain sympathy and create the story. I know this is something young readers love and identify with. At the same time, it makes the story look too black and white (the evil evil nobles vs the poor). It would have been more believable if there was a mix and a more complicated story. The use of this plot device made the story lose momentum from the great start it had.

Lastly, something that annoys me in a lot of fantasy stories and not just this one, is the power structure. I notice a lot of authors don’t do research for their political structure but use it as they see fit. As a historian there are a lot of elements here that a king would never do. There are too many to get into and in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter, but it is a niggle that annoys me and I would have loved to see more depth in the political structure as it plays a large role in the story.

Despite all that, I really did like this story and I was drawn in from the first chapter and I’m looking forward to reading more.

The Novice Book Cover The Novice
The Summoner #1
Taran Matharu
Feiwel and Friends
May 5, 2015
My personal library

When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.

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