Monday, May 28, 2018

Review: The Novice by Taran Matharu

The Novice
(Summoner #1)
Publication Date: May 5, 2015
Hardcover, 355 pages, Feiwel & Friends
Genres: YA, Fantasy

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.

My Review

If you’re missing Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, or Hiccup and Toothless, Taran Matharu’s The Novice, might be a good next read for you. It has a unique, bullied protagonist, a fantasy school, and mythical creatures. It’s everything 11–13-year-olds like to read about in one book.

Fletcher is our picked-on main character, who, through a series of unfortunate events, gets the chance to attend a school for summoning demons. Which apparently isn’t as evil as it sounds. Fletcher makes unlikely friends and gets into a lot of mischief (a la Harry Potter style). But other than his unique situation and friends, there’s really nothing all that extraordinary about Fletcher’s voice, which could be a good or bad thing depending on your reading preferences. If you like when the underdog wins, go into this one full throttle (not that the underdog necessarily wins).

As for the plot of the book, it was interesting. The school idea was fun, and I never really knew where the plot was going, as there were many surprising twists and turns. I just didn’t expect this book to be so politically based. (And no, I don’t mean it touches on current politics.) The antagonists are very politically and economically motivated, whereas I was expecting more action and adventure for our protagonist to respond to.  It’s part of the reason I knocked the book down a star rating.

The other reason I knocked it down involves the dialogue. It was very tell and less show. I often wondered why certain characters would just spill their life stories and secrets out to Fletcher. It was a little odd, and often made for some long-winded paragraphs. But, despite my two main critiques, this book did provide a fun, entertaining read. (Plus, I recently finished reading the sequel, and the two main issues I have with this book are not as much of an issue in books two and three.)

Like I said, this book is definitely for fans of Harry Potter, How to Train Your Dragon, and Percy Jackson. It’s got all of the same key elements with some fun twists of its own along the way.

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