Review: The Novice by Taran Matharu

The Novice Taran Matharu Summoner
The Novice Taran Matharu cover Summoner

Title: The Novice 
Author: Taran Matharu 
Series: Summoner #1 
Genre: Fantasy, YA 
Publication date: May 5, 2015 
Rating: ★★★★ 

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.

Everything about this book appealed to me. From the setting to the writing to the characters to everything. This is quite a traditional fantasy story in many ways and maybe that’s why I loved it so much. It has orcs, elves, dwarfs, war etc. Still, these ingredients could make a disgusting kind of soup if mixed wrongly.

It all starts out with Fletcher and I have to admit that it’s a nice change to have a male protagonist again. The book is written from a third person POV and we follow Fletcher as he gets into a lot of trouble at home and accidentally summons a demon, Ignatius. That eventually leads to him starting his studies at the Adept Military Academy to become a battlemage. Shortly put.

I liked him a lot. He was everything you would want your hero to be. He was brave, sharp, intelligent, adventurous, loyal, honest… A bit naive as well. His character was well developed and felt very realistic. I believed in Fletcher and rooted for him. He felt real and wasn’t just the sum of everything a hero should be.

The other characters were likable as well. Even the ones that were supposed to be despicable. You know what I mean? A character can be so delightfully evil you simply start loving them for the adventure they bring to the story. I know it’s messed up, but their wouldn’t be a story if there weren’t any bad guys, right?

“A warrior's greatest enemy can also be his greatest teacher.”

The demon part was interesting, although I should admit that I expected them to be a bit more, well… more. I had expected a stronger connection between a summoner and his demon and for them to be more intelligent. Less like tools. But once I got over those expectations, I realized they were pretty awesome nonetheless. Further on in the book, when we got to know them a little better, it was fun to learn their individualities, their moods and their personalities.

The story itself has everything a good fantasy story needs. A good pace, an interesting setting, action, adventure, friendship and… no love interests. No, I’m not kidding. You read it right. None. I love love stories, I do, but it was unexpectedly nice to read a book that doesn’t involve romance for once. There are some hints at it and I’m guessing the next book(s) will probably involve some, but for now everything is just about the story and the development of friendships and loyalty. It was enough.

I’m looking forward to the sequel although it’ll probably be a long time before its release. Things were left unsolved and I’m dying to see what will become of Fletcher and his friends. Also, I think we haven’t quite learned the bigger picture. We’ve seen a glimpse of it, but I’m sure there is a lot more to come. So I’ll mark the release date as soon as it’s made public. I wouldn’t want to miss it. And in the meanwhile, you should definitely give this a try. The Novice is a very straightforward kind of book and you immediately feel Taran Matharu didn’t need the ‘things a YA novel should have’-list to write good fiction.

To conclude I also want to say something about the books that may or may not have had an influence on Taran Matharu when he wrote this book. People point at Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (although I think his daemons are nothing like these demons) or at Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings (because of the elves and dwarfs etc.), but I don’t agree. If there’s one series I strongly felt had an influence, it was J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Don’t get me wrong. This book is not trying to be ‘the new Harry Potter’. At least I didn’t feel it that way. Fletcher isn’t Harry and the Academy certainly isn’t Hogwarts. It had nothing of Hogwarts’ splendor and magic, but it started to become every bit of a home to Fletcher as Hogwarts was to Harry. I don’t know, it was just this overall feeling I got. I’m not sure I can properly explain it. Both are stories about a lonely boy trying to find his place in an unknown world and making the best of a destiny he never asked for. The author himself states he found inspiration in Pokémon and Digimon and although that might be true, I still rest my case.

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1 comment:

  1. What an amazing review! It only made me more curious, ahhh! ♥ Also ... Pokémon? I got the impression while reading what you said about the demons! I was a huuuuge fan of Pokemon as a kid, so I'm definiitely intrigued.

    I'm actually really excited to get this started as soon as possible & hope that I'll enjoy it as much as you! :D

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