The Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu
Published: 05.05.2015 by Hachette Children’s Group
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis: 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.
I was hesitant when starting this book. I had seen some raving reviews, and some negative reviews. But I really wanted to give it a try, so I could form my own opinion. I’m glad I did!
This is where my biggest issue with the novel lies. It has some extremely similar aspects to some of my favorite stories. For example, there’s the human race, the Elven race and the Dwarven race. There is currently a war against the Orcs -lead by a pale Orc. While the three first races don’t like each other -prejudices- they have to team up. I know, this sounds so similar to Tolkien. And at first, it really irked me. (The demons also remind me of The Golden Compass…). But I decided to let my annoyance go, and stick with the story. I have to admit that I grew to truly enjoy it.
Aside from all of that, I don’t really know all that much about the geography of the world. Fletcher, the main character, comes from Pelt which is a small village in the mountains in the North. He travels/flees his village, and ends up at the Citadel, where summoners -people who can summon demons- are trained. That’s where most of the story plays out.
There is also a very strict caste-system in this world. The nobles are on a whole other level than the commoners, and discrimination is outright. It infuriated me so often, that people can treat others so badly, just because they weren’t born with noble parents.
I highly enjoyed the plot of this novel. Once I set aside my issue with the similarities, I found myself wanting to get back to reading it constantly. I even thought about the characters and story line while studying. I was so invested in the story, mostly because I was invested in the characters too.
There were some mysteries, schemes and plots throughout the story that kept me intrigued -figuring out who is friend or foe. It was an interesting and enjoyable read, and I’m glad I persevered after the first annoyance.
Can I just say: that cliffhanger! What? I need to know what happens next. Right now.
I think I enjoyed the story quite a bit, because I grew quite attached to the characters. I love that the author paid attention to the side characters as well, instead of only developing the main character, Fletcher.
But first, let’s talk about Fletcher. I enjoyed the fact that he was a smart guy, who doesn’t give up easily. Although I guess that can be said for many fantasy main characters, when I think about it. The main reason Fletcher stood out to me, is that he’s not another version of the “sudden discovery of a prodigy who will save the world”. While he does have considerable power as a summoner, he has to work hard to get on the same level as the others. He works incredibly hard, and doesn’t get everything right from the first attempt. I think that perseverance and hard work is what’s truly important.
There were many other characters I like. First, Fletcher’s adoptive father. Although he’s not present often in the novel, I felt such gratitude for him. He was so kind, and warm -and truly saw Fletcher as his son. Othello was also interesting. Not only because he was a dwarf, but because of his family, his history and everything. I especially enjoyed learning about his family dynamics. Sylva, although there is still a lot of mystery surrounding her. I know very little about the Elven girl. Seraph, whose family dynamics I also found intriguing.
Like I said, there was something intriguing about every character. Some I hated, some I loved, some I felt for so badly. I only wish I could actually hear Ignatius talk, instead of just getting his general emotions from Fletcher. Then I would be even more attached to the creature.
Overall, I’d encourage you to give this story a try. Yes, there are many obvious similarities to Tolkien’s world, and the Golden Compass. But once you said that judgment aside, you’ll find an enjoyable read, full of action and political scheming.