Finished Reading: The Novice
Summoner Trilogy #1
by Taran Matharu
My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA Fantasy
A young blacksmith apprentice stumbles onto a magical book that he can’t resist reading from, which summons a small demon from another world. This is an ability only certain people have, which makes Fletcher special (he can also cast spells, and just to be clear, the demon is basically an otherworldly animal). Shortly thereafter, he is forced to flee his hometown and basically stumbles upon a school for summoners. There, summoners are trained to become battlemages, so they can fight in a never-ending war against orcs.
While trying to make sure I read plenty of sci-fi and fantasy books because that is the genre I write in, it’s difficult to wade through what’s out there. I’ve not read much of either genre in the past, as mystery books were my favorite genre for most of my life. I am finding that I still don’t particularly enjoy large amounts of world-building or complicated settings. I also don’t care for dark, gritty worlds, which seems to be in abundance in speculative fiction.
After setting aside a few of the books I picked out to read for various reasons, some of which is mentioned above, The Novice was a refreshing change. It is YA, which might just lend a lot to its simpler nature, but I’ll freely admit that I have always been one to enjoy things below my age level. Still, this book had clear language and a lighter world than the others I’d been presented with recently.
By halfway through the book, I described it as Harry Potter* meets Pokemon, though I’ll say that the demon pet aspect didn’t end up being as pronounced as I expected it to be (I still wanted one of my own though). Throw in some elf/dwarf/orc stereotypes straight out of something like Lord of the Rings or even World of Warcraft, and you have this book. I personally enjoyed the way these elements came together.
Race and class warfare are a large part of what drives this book. This book of the trilogy focuses on the Fletcher learning about his newfound magic and training to compete in a tournament, the winner of which gains a coveted high officer spot in the nation’s military. But being part of a larger series, it’s clear that it’s being set up for bigger, more important things to come.
A few downsides I want to mention–some parts of the book are a bit predictable, but plenty of it was unexpected. The biggest issue I had was with some of the writing, especially the dialog tags. Even this is a small issue overall, but characters so often “growl” their dialog, and it started to become distracting to me. There was at least one other commonly used dialog action that was strange to me, though I don’t recall what it is now. Also, characters are often whispering into each others ears, even as they’re walking, and I’m imagining them hanging on each other while they’re talking. Again, a minor thing, but it did bring me out of the story at times.
I was very unhappy with the ending–not because it didn’t make sense or didn’t have every reason to happen. It does set up the 2nd book. But I didn’t like where it leaves the second book to start, so after enjoying the rest, I was disappointed by the ending. However, this is not a statement of bad writing or storytelling, just something I found myself disliking. I’m still looking forward to reading the next book (which I’ll come back to after reading a few other books).
What originally drew me to the book was the very first line of the jacket blurb, which said that the main character was a blacksmith apprentice. One of the main characters of my books starts out as a blacksmith apprentice, which is somewhat drawn from the fact that my own dad is a blacksmith. Though that turned out to be a small part of the book, I’m glad it got me into this trilogy.
Find out more about The Novice
Up next: Light from Distant Stars by Shawn Smucker
*I haven’t read or seen any Harry Potter, though it’s on my TBR list, so this is just from the understanding I have of it from second-hand knowledge.
If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!