Review

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

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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.

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