The Novice is the first of a new fantasy series by Taran Matharu. He started the book as a NaNoWriMo novel that he published on Wattpad as he wrote. I have been interested in this book since reading the deal announcement on Publisher’s Weekly. It sounded right up my alley. This week I finally dived in and was a very happy reader. The book has lived up to my expectations and more.
Fletcher is an assistant blacksmith for his guardian, Berdon, in the small hunting village of Pelt. Orphaned as a babe, he suffers the torments of a group of privileged village boys who constantly taunt him for his lower birth. When a military man passes through his village he befriends Fletcher and leaves him a book as a token – a book detailing how to summon demons. While hiding from his tormentors Fletcher accidentally summons a salamander demon from a spell found in the book. This event finds him on a path to be trained in the military as a summoner adept.
Treading sketchy dynamics all the way, Fletcher adjusts to life as a future battlemage; a life that may be cut short in the Empire’s war against the Orcs. Fletcher enjoys the lessons but there are perils at every turn. Fear, hatred, and bigotry cloud people’s hearts as well as Fletcher’s old enemy – classism. The children of summoners are more powerful than the commoners and they never let them forget this fact. Fletcher finds himself allying with the commoners as well as the newest additions to the academy, elves and dwarves. It isn’t long before the lines at the school are drawn despite Fletcher’s attempts to bring everyone together.
Matharu’s story is a fun, enjoyable romp that will appeal to fans of Christopher Paolini’s Eragon and Cressida Cowell’s How To Train Your Dragon books. There is also a small amount of a Pokemon feeling thrown in, just for spice. Beyond that, this book was its fun, unique brand of fantasy and I loved a lot of it.
There is a bit of (forgive the pun) novice storytelling on Matharu’s part, though. I could tell that he was a debut writer. Some of the book reads very episodic, very clunky from different plot points to the next. At times, it makes for a bit of an awkward read. I also found my attention waning in the last fifty pages of the book. I don’t think the war build-up was as successful as it should have been. That said, I loved so much about this book; the characters and the situations, the threat of war and the political dynamics. Matharu is quite ambitious with this novel. The series, and this book, show a great deal of promise from this budding writer.
I will be looking forward to the sequel with great anticipation.
4 out of 5 stars.
– Follow the Reader –