TITLE: The Novice
AUTHOR: Taran Matharu
SERIES: Summoner (#1)
PUBLISHER: Hodder Children's Books
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure
RATING: 2.5/5 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 gruelling 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 manoeuvre 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.
What I Liked:
- Yes, let's start with the good. I thought that this book started fairly well! Not amazingly but definitely enough to make me go 'yeah, I'm liking this'. It had a good setting, characters were likeable and I was intrigued by the lore. I also thought that (after a dip in the middle) the book ended pretty well too. There were definitely some interesting fight scenes that I've not read before, especially between the creatures/imps/demons/whatever they are called. It rounded off nicely with the perfect 'amount' of cliffhanger.
What I Disliked:
- So, the previously mentioned pop culture references that the synopsis refers to? I can definitely see them. Sometimes, just a little too much. The middle part of this book (my least favourite bit) felt like pretty much a replica of Rowling's characters and vision for the 'Harry Potter' series, except poorly executed. I could see Harry in Fletcher, definitely Malfoy in Tarquin and Isadora and certainly Othello and Sylva made for a convincing Ron & Hermione. The similarities were a little too much at times. Let's not get started on the Pokémon references. The demons themselves were interesting but I couldn't stand that they were referred to as being a particular 'level' or that summoners could go and 'catch' more. And of course, what fantasy world would be complete without the tropey Tolkien lore to make up a vague attempt at world-building.
- All of the above wouldn't have been so bad if it hadn't have been for the mediocre writing. Plenty of novels borrow inspiration from other sources, and some do it better, but this was not the case here. The dialogue between characters felt forced, the language was basic and a little unedited, the descriptions unnecessary and the whole story filled with so much info-dumping. I honestly found myself skimming chunks to get back to the story.
I really thought that this gave a pretty strong start. It's problem was comparing itself to famous pop culture because with that in mind, the copying was kind of obvious. I would have liked to have seen a little more originality in this series taking only inspiration from those things. There's definitely potential here though, and the end was actually pretty good! If the next book shows off a stronger writing technique and delves into it's own plot a little more then I'll definitely enjoy this series but if it is equally as unimpressive as this one then I won't be continuing.