Title: The Novice
Author: Taran Matharu
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published: 2016 (UK paperback, first published May 2015)
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Acquired: Bought at my local Waterstones
Book Blurb:: Only his power to summon demons can save the Empire.
Fletcher is just an orphan training as a blacksmith’s apprentice when he discovers he has the rare ability to summon demons from another world.
Now one of the gifted few, Fletcher will be taught the lost art of summoning at the Vocans Academy.
Fletcher must endure deadly lessons to gain control of his gift and prepare for the end of year Tournament that will determine his fate in the Empire’s war against the orcs.
But sinister forces infect new friendships and rivalries grow. With no one but his demon Ignatius by his side, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of the Empire is in his hands…
This is a book I’ve been wanting to read for months, but I didn’t buy it until August this year. I always love stories about demons, and this cover was so so beautiful, it looked right up my street:
The character on the front made me want to buy this book to be honest ❤
The story follows Fletcher, an orphan training as a blacksmith’s apprentice in the village of Pelt. He enjoys his work, but his hair and appearance marks him as different as the rest of the kids his age, so he doesn’t really feel he belongs. At a market he befriends an old soldier who, upon leaving, gifts Fletcher with a summoner’s book. Summoners are special individuals who can summon and control demons (in this context they appear as familiars). There are a few ‘commoners’ who have this ability, but the majority are from the noble classes.
This doesn’t stop Fletcher reading the book, and becomes surprised when he actually summons a demon using a scroll found in the book. Certain events make Fletcher flee his village and he ends up attending Vocans: the elite academy for fellow summoners.
Here Fletcher learns to control his abilities, while making both friends and enemies. This first book in this series focuses on Fletcher’s sudden experience at the magical Vocans Academy while uncovering secret plots that determine school loyalties.
As I said before I do love a good demon story. I’m not 100% keen on having demons as familiars or pets so it did feel a little ‘child-friendly’ at times (I do like it when demons are a little more infectious or dangerous), but overall I found it a super interesting concept. The Hodder edition I have includes a small overview on demonology, including some illustrations of the demons encountered in this book, which is really nice to see!
I do like the idea of a summoner’s academy, and it really helped me understand summoning alongside Fletcher. There weren’t many classes mentioned in the book, but I can see how some people think it is similar to Harry Potter in some respects.
I felt the world was fleshed out quite nicely, but the demon details didn’t feel overly overwhelming. The story didn’t grip me as much as I would like though; it definitely felt more like a YA/teen fantasy as I felt it lacked a lot of the depth that an adult fantasy would have. I know I know, it actually IS a YA fantasy, but in a lot of books the writing doesn’t make it glaringly obvious that it is a YA book, whereas this one certainly does. That said I did enjoy the plot, the world was very rich and the ending was REALLY good- I will have to read the sequel to find out what’s going to happen next!
I did like Fletcher’s backstory, and I was pleasantly suprised at the outcome when Fletcher first meets Ignatius and has to flee Pelt. Definitely the kinda plot progression I enjoy, when main characters are in horrible situations (I’m so sadisitic). One thing I do like is that Fletcher isn’t cast as a Mary-Sue/Gary Stu. Okay yes, so he discovers this special summoning talent out of the blue and suddenly gets an elite purpose by going to the Academy, but he has his weaknesses. He has a demon who has an average strength (although it is a rare type) and he isn’t the best with his mana control. Although I would have liked him to have been a bit more adept with the magical side this does make him more human and more relatable, it was refreshing to see. But Fletcher, I have to ask: why would you do something permanent to your body as a result of a dream you had? I once dreamt I could fly, but I didn’t want to test it out when I woke up? 😛
After glancing on Goodreads I know that Matharu’s choice of characters are fairly sterotypical, an albino orc as an enemy, an elf princess, the first ever summoner dwarf etc. While it is true that they mimic a lot of fantasy tropes (particularly a well-known epic fantasy trilogy) it doesn’t reduce the story quality. It isn’t a feature that can only be used by one particular author, and it was portrayed in a different way.
I enjoyed Arcturus’ character, although I didn’t like his surprise revelation to Fletcher- I really didn’t think it was necessary! In terms of the other characters, Tarquin is just an asshole and really needs a slap, especially when acting how he did with Miss Lovett. But to be honest, without Miss Lovett this whole story would have ended very different! The hidden heroine in my opinion.
In general I did really enjoy the book. I always have a soft spot for demon books, and Fletcher was a typical character that I love. It didn’t grip me as much as I thought it was, however it was still an amazing read, with a well thought-out world and storyline. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the sequel when I can get my hands on it!
♥ Let me know in the comments if you have read this book/what do you think about it!! ♥