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.
Title: The Novice
Author: Taran Matharu
Rating: 4 Stars
This book is different than what you usually find in the high fantasy section. But before I get into that, let’s meet the cast.
Fletcher (special orphan child with no last name): Fletcher is the main character. He was found as a baby outside the walls of a small village named Pelt. He was raised by the blacksmith until he summoned a demon, attempted to kill this rich guy and ran away. From what I can tell, Fletcher is all about survival. He is an amazing fighter and quick on his feet. Fletcher is also not prejudiced against the elves and dwarves in the land of Hominum (and more on all of that later). Basically, Fletcher is your average, run of the mill, young adult novel hero with the tragic backstory and special snowflake talents. Don’t get me wrong, I still like him, but it’s hard to be impressed when I see this character every day.
Sylva (don’t kill me) Arkenia: Sylva is an elf, so naturally she’s in enemy territory in Hominum, the land of the humans. At first, she is rude to the other commoners at the academy and tries her hardest to make friends with the other nobles. This doesn’t go as planned when she almost gets killed but saved by Fletcher. She then becomes friends with him and the two obviously have sparks between them, but it’s not heavily overdone with is very refreshing in a YA. You see that Sylva is a fearless warrior when she goes out swinging in the tournament and in the very fact that she came to Hominum in the first place. I really liked her character and wished we got to see more of her.
Othello (sidekick) Thordager: Othello is a dwarf and Fletcher’s best friend. He sees it as his mission to help stop the prejudice against dwarves and have them seen as equals. That’s the whole reason he went to the training academy, and why he went to the dwarf war council to stop them from attacking the humans. He wants the dwarves to be seen as equals, not as annoying pests that need to be crushed.
Tarquin (stereotypical rich douche) Forsyth: This dude… this dude… all he did throughout the entire story was being evil. He is a noble and looked down on the other commoners, so he either barely paid any attention to them or tried to get them expelled. This guy just annoyed me to no end and I really hope that he isn’t in the second book.
Seraph (didn’t make much of an impression) Pasha: Seraph is the only other character that is supposed to be one of the big characters that made any lasting impression. In the beginning, he blended in with all of the other characters, but once Fletcher spoke to him about how his family might be in danger, he took on a bigger role. Of course, he still didn’t do much in the story, but I remembered him.
There were other characters, smaller commoners but all of them blended together. That was the one problem with this book. Matharu went to great lengths to make the world of Hominum full of life and actually seem realistic, unlike other fantasy novels which don’t seem to be as detailed as they could’ve been. The main problem was that some of the characters didn’t get much time spent on them and they faded into the background. So that moment that I’m guessing was supposed to be sad when Rory finds out that Fletcher, Sylva, Othello, and Seraph have been training behind his back to win the tournament, I didn’t feel anything. This Rory has barely shown up for the past one hundred pages. I do not give a shit that he feels betrayed right now.
And then there’s Tarquin’s sister Isadora. She barely does anything either other than following Tarquin around and say stupid comments about the commoners. I would respect her more if she would be a rich bitch going around being a bitch to everyone, but she didn’t really do anything in the story and it makes me wonder why Tarquin was given a sister in the first place.
Onto other news, it is very obvious that this world is heavily inspired by Lord of the Rings. It has the humans, elves, dwarves, and orcs. I just have one question, what’s with the orcs? We see that elves have a normal conscience and that dwarves do too, and they both have their own cultures. But not much is explained about the ways of the orcs other than they are brutes. So, can they not think like the other races, or are they just giant powerful apes that kill people? I need answers. And it doesn’t help that the story ended on a cliffhanger!
My last complaint is very simple, and it’s one that I hate a lot. I understand that when you have created your own world, you need to explain it so that the people reading can understand it as well, but there comes a time when you are no longer explaining, but dumping the information on us like an extra large load of laundry. Seriously Matharu, calm down with the exposition that takes up a whole page. We aren’t idiots, you can use smaller words.
I gave this book four stars because I did enjoy it and will buy the next one, but it still wasn’t perfect (as no story is).
I recommend it for anyone who enjoys a high fantasy thrilling read.