The Novice (Summoner #1) Review

Fletcher is just an orphan training as a blacksmith’s apprentice when he discovers he has the rare ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must travel with his demon to the Vocans Academy, where the gifted few are taught the lost art of summoning. 

Only the most talented will become Battlemages and fight in the Empire’s war against the Orcs. Fletcher must endure deadly lessons to gain control of his gift and prepare for the end of the year Tournament that will determine his fate in the war.

But sinister forces infect new friendships and rivalries grow. With no one but his demon Ignatius by his side, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of the Empire in his hands…

Last weekend saw the return of YALC (Young Adult Literary Convention) at the London Film & Comic Con. I attended on the Friday with the first panel being ‘Behind the Magic: Exploring Magical Systems in Fantasy YA’. This panel consisted of  Sally Green, Taran Matharu, Melinda Salisbury and V E Schwab who all spoke at length about the magical inspiration and processes behind their books. As soon as Taran Matharu described his fantasy series as ‘Harry Potter meets Pokémon‘ I just knew I had to check it out.

Taran Matharu first published ‘The Novice’ via WattPad which reached over three million readers in less than six months. Although originally published via unconventional means, the story is a triumph and fuses all of my favourite fantasy ingredients into one, very entertaining, adventure.

In this world (The Hominium Empire), summoners are needed to help fight the Empire’s war against the Orcs, whether they be noble-born humans, dwarves or elves. The protagonist Fletcher, a commoner who was abandoned at birth, quickly learns that he has the ability to summon demons from the ether. Summoning a rare salamander demon, named Ignatius, and getting himself into a spot of trouble, Fletcher flees his village and travels to the Vocans Academy where he learns to become a true battlemage.

Many elements of Vocan’s Academy were reminiscent of Harry Potter, for example the common rooms, the dining hall, the bullies (Tarquin and Isadora) and it was clear that this was where Matharu got much of his inspiration. Not that I’m complaining; I bloody love Harry Potter and, far from being a carbon copy, Matharu’s take on a fantasy school was refreshing and engaging. A unique twist to the usual school-meets-magic story, was the fusion of ‘Pokémon-style’ demons which are collected and up-levelled through the constant use of spellcraft and regular battles with other demons. Summoners and demons share the same consciousness and can feel and influence the emotions and actions of the other.  If this doesn’t want to make you listen to the audio book whilst roaming the streets on Pokémon-GO then nothing will!

Although firmly set in the fantasy genre, the story was also quite political, making me think about our own world as well as the extraordinary realm of Hominium. This particular line really hit home at an uncertain time for all of us,

‘If even the false war we pretend to fight has created so much hate between our people, what would a real one do?’

The ending, although rushed, incorporates a monumental cliffhanger and I will certainly be rushing out to obtain the sequel. Fantasy fans will find so much to love in this series by Matharu and for Potterheads, fans of LOTR and Pokémon, this book is a must read!

Rating: 4/5

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