Thursday, June 23, 2016

Review: The Novice by Taran Matharu

The Novice (Summoner, Book #1)
by Taran Matharu
Release Date: May 5th 2015
2015 Feiwel and Friends
Kindle Edition; 398 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250067128
Genre: Fiction / YA / Fantasy

4 / 5 Stars

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.

My Thoughts
The Novice is the first book in the Summoner Trilogy and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  While it started off a bit slowly, there was something about Fletcher and his story that really appealed to me, so I didn't mind at all.  Furthermore, the plot was rather simple and straightforward, which I liked, as I never got the feeling the author was trying to fit something in just because he could.  There was a rather nice flow between each series of actions as well as with character interactions.

First of all, Fletcher is one of those characters that we've all seen before in fantasy novels; he's an orphan, left at the door by his unknown-to-him mother who will probably be someone highborn, raised by a kind man, fighting against the bullies (usually those born in the nobility), discovers he's a mage, wrongly accused of a crime, runs away, joins a magic academy, and fights other political machinations that surround him.  Sound like a familiar theme?  Oh, yeah.  The bullying and the racism themes were big themes in this novel, kind of reflecting what is happening in the world around us, so I found it interesting to compare reality versus fantasy.  I also really liked how the story was written; Fletcher was an unassuming hero, kind, generous, but quite loyal, very interested in the world around him, which made it interesting for the reader for as the story line unfolded you learned some of the political and societal happenings due to Fletcher's interest.   I also tend to have a thing for academy books and enjoy them a lot - probably stemming back to my Magician days with Pug and company, although it probably goes even earlier than that.  My favourite character so far is Ignatius, the demon that Fletcher accidentally summoned, and I have wondered exactly how he fits into the story and what kinds of powers he actually has. 

The plot in this one was quite simple, and I enjoyed it just for that reason.  However, there was still a lot of things going on despite this simplicity and I think it could be dismissed rather easily as too simple.  I liked a lot of the training at the academy, but even more, I liked the interaction between the people as they coped with the pressure of training for a competition for which they were already disadvantaged, one against the noble children who have been training for years with their parents.  There was enough action to keep it interesting, even if the beginning was a bit slow, and I definitely have become a huge fan of the dwarves, and would like to learn more about them and their history.  I am also quite curious about Fletcher's dreams and what they mean as I am beginning to sense some evil machinations behind the Orc war.  It has just made me curious as to what is really going on.

The Novice turned out to be a great book, and I enjoyed it quite a bit, better than I expected actually.  I tend to be really picky when it comes to fantasy, but this was an entertaining, if not very in-depth, novel that I really needed at this time - something very different from Martin, Goodkind, or Weeks. It's a book meant to be lighthearted, without all that extra stuff that bogs down a book and makes it dreary, and the characters are easygoing and pretty likable.  I truly wasn't expecting the cliffhanger at the hand, although I was expecting it to come back to him at some point in the future, just not the way it happened.  I'm still not sure how I feel about cliffhanger endings though; if the book is really good, you will want to read the next one despite the cliffhanger which can really frustrate readers.  Anyhow, looking forward to reading The Inquisition, which is sitting on my shelf just waiting to be read.