Review: The Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu


2 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Maybe I’ve just read so much fantasy that something has to be really unique to get my attention. Or maybe this book was just not that good.

From the very beginning, The Novice just felt like a generic fantasy novel: the protagonist a young boy who is ‘different’ from the others in his village, with unknown parentage. And then one day he discovers that he has a talent for summoning, and somehow ends up at a magical school. Yet the way in which he gets there is so coincidental, and I just had so many questions. It is mentioned so many times that new students are gifted a demon by a summoner on their arrival – but Fletcher just turns up with his. It is assumed it was gifted to him by Arcturus, the summoner who takes Fletcher to the school and who also teaches there, but no-one bothers to check whether he actually did, and neither does Arcturus correct them.

Basically, the requirements for getting into the school are never really explained – which is pretty much how it works throughout the entire book. There was a complete and utter lack of world-building: yep, it’s a fantasy world that has humans, orcs, elves and dwarves. That’s basically all I got. The four races don’t like each other, and orcs and humans are at war. Every single character was boring, flat and a stereotype – the hardy dwarves and snooty elves – and the whole thing was completely predictable, including the details of Fletcher’s heritage. And again, why are there so many fantasy worlds where women are second class citizens? There is all this fuss about how women are ‘finally’ allowed to be summoners. This is a FANTASY world. Even if you draw elements from medieval history, as many fantasy novels do, you don’t have to draw everything to make it more ‘realistic’ – especially as this is a book about magic and summoning demons. I certainly don’t remember learning about that in history class. The dialogue was stilted and awkward, and the writing boring and uninspiring. I love fantasy novels that paint a picture, authors that can summon vivid imagery of their imagined worlds with just a paragraph – but alas, The Novice is seriously lacking in any pretty prose.

Perhaps if I was younger – a LOT younger – and hadn’t read as many fantasy novels with which to compare this, I would have enjoyed it. As it is, it was a dull, predictable novel with no real heart or feeling.

yawn gif


6 thoughts on “Review: The Novice (Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu”

  1. I am not so much against ground that has been trodden before, but I agree the writing needs to then be good.

    Before reading your review, 2 things out of the blurb had me sighing. Firstly the orphan or ‘special snowflake’ unique average person trope that is trotted out time and again. It was good in the sense of Garion (Pawn of Prophecy) for being just a farm boy, but subsequently I have often been bored with this starting point – perhaps because so much power or what-have-you seems to get heaped upon them. I tend to think Eragon here (another farm boy) – loved the first book when young, but realised that so much specialness suddenly started to stack up. I guess the issue here is that do you start the story with an existing normal person who knows the ins and outs (is that more exciting?), or do you start with a blank canvas character who discovers it along the way (and thereby shows the reader as they learn), which gives that sense of wonder as you read. Those aren’t the only options, it’s a sliding scale and you could have someone who is talented in something but then learns a new facet in some way (accidental or hard work). But either way, if it isn’t written well, it is boring.

    My other issue, is that it is always schools for nobles. The old ‘commoner in a rich person’s environment’ writing ploy. This narks me as I’ve been to private schools, and while I cannot speak for all schools and everyone who attends, my experience has been generally good. The wealthier members have not been schemers and there to stomp down the ‘little person’. Yes, you can and do get this, but so many fantasy books seem to have this as the norm, and for me personally it is tedious. I know that from a historic (and fantasy has elements of the medieval) perspective, it is the wealthy who can afford schooling and other privileges, but as you make the point about women seeming to always end up as second class citizens, why does this always have to be the case in fantasy books? Turn it on it’s head! Magic for the ‘lower classes’, or so common is it taught to all or just that everyone is not a snob. Or maybe just that there might be some school behaviours but it is not one of the central points of the blurb. I’d rather hear more about the ins and outs of the magic then whether the Joneses Dynasty has a swish new demon with go faster stripes…

    Apologies for the rant πŸ™‚

    1. No, sometimes it can be nice to read something familiar. But there have to be elements that stand out too, and sadly there weren’t any here. So these tropes CAN work, but the rest of the work has to be memorable enough as well.

      Oh god, the rich people were SUCH stereotypes. Snobs, racists, just plain mean.

      Nah, thanks for your comments, Freya ❀

  2. I definitely think this is a book for fantasy newbies. From what I’ve heard, including you, the book is pretty generic. I wouldn’t be opposed to checking it out though. I’m pretty new to the fantasy genre (and also 16) so I might enjoy it more. This won’t be at the top of my list though. That’s reserved for Brandon Sanderson! πŸ˜€

    1. If you’d not read much fantasy it could definitely be enjoyable – or for much younger readers it would work well too.

      Definitely doesn’t live up to Brandon, not at all! πŸ˜‰

  3. This does sound really generic! I don’t mind certain tropes, as long as they are very well developed or there’s some sort of twist, but honestly this sounds like a bunch of other fantasy I read. I agree that an inexperienced fantasy reader would probably like this! Like I probably would have loved this as a 13 year old, before I read Brandon Sanderson.

    Awesome review Rinn! Also Lucky Star gif!

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