16 April, 2016

#BookReview :: The Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu

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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The Novice is the story of Fletcher, our protagonist, who is an orphan. He was adopted by a blacksmith. Fletcher is used to being bullied and harassed until he accidentally discovers he has the ability to summon demons from the Ether. Though he has to soon flee leaving behind everything familiar, he finds the turning point of his life when his ability lets him attend the school for Summoners. But getting to the school is only the first step in the direction of a new path. Where will it lead Fletcher to? And what is awaiting him at the end of it?

Fletcher’s character is well fleshed out. I liked the way the author gave us bit of his background towards the very beginning and let him grow through the pages. His relationship with his adoptive father is really heartwarming. At the same time, it was good to see that even though he was prejudiced against while growing up, he had no prejudice in his heart for others – well, at least for the people who didn’t earn it through their own actions! Seeing him bond with Othello was interesting. The best thing about Fletcher is that he is open-minded. He doesn’t assume anything automatically on the basis of ‘just because’ or ‘that’s the way it is’. There are a bunch of additional characters – the friends, the classmates, the teachers and the antagonists – and each play an important role in steering the plot.

The world building is done steadily with just the right amount of information trickling through. There are humans, dwarves, elves, orcs and demons – enough elements to keep a reader indulged. Their dynamics in this world is interesting to read about along with the bureaucracies it brought with it. Even among the humans there is existence of classes and while it gave a primitive feeling, we all know that it still exists in the modern world. The author has done a tremendous job with the narration. While the detailed settings help the reader to imagine it easily, the language is kept simple enough for even middle grade readers. I am however a bit confused about the timeline the world is set in. There is mention of how the dwarves invented guns and those guns/muskets are being used in the war. However, the conversational language and the dialogue delivery made me feel as if the characters are of our generation. And while I am on the subject, dwarves, elves and humans speak in the same manner. Shouldn’t there be some difference in their dialect even if they all speak English?

Harry Potter & Lord of the Rings have set our expectations really high. If I didn’t already know of those two series, I would probably be impressed by this one. But things being as it is, there were certain elements that were not new and certain points that felt bit flat. However, this is a perfect book for younger readers who are looking to experience a fantastical world.

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