I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.The Novice by Taran Matharu
Series: Summoner #1
Published by Macmillan on May 5, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
The Novice takes cues from many books that are fantasy staples and combines them to create a story where class, money, and even some political intrigue build an interesting world. Fletcher’s beginnings are both mysterious and humble. The mythology of The Orphan with hidden powers is strong in this book and while his path to the military academy is a little convenient, the school is where the story really begins. There is definitely a Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings vibe to The Novice. There is a division between the nobility and commoners at the school, but they all have the shared goal of defeating the orcs. (The idea of orcs existed long before Tolkien wrote about them). There is some interesting conflict regarding race (think elves and dwarfs), but the school setting, and many things that happened there, really didn’t feel very original.
I think what held me back from really being engaged with this book was that it was heavier on telling me than showing me. The factually heavy writing left much to be desired in the way of character development. I wanted to know more about Fletcher’s adoptive father and about his life before the academy. There was a lot of potential for some great storytelling but it somehow never really came to fruition. I think my issue with this book was more a problem with my personal preferences than the book itself. It was not poorly written, I just like a different type of story and I didn’t find that connection with the characters. I think die-hard fantasy fans will enjoy The Novice. It makes for a great tween-to-YA crossover, which will likely make it a popular addition to many school libraries.