The Novice, Taran Matharu

I have seen this cover around and am so excited to finally read it! Welcome to a brand-new fantasy world divided into three kingdoms; the Hominum Empire where humans live, the elven empire and the brutal orc empire. The orcs and humans have been at war for generations, the enormous orcs ripping apart humans with glee while the humans struggle to hold them back. Both sides have Battlemages, summoners that use demons and magic in battle.

Fletcher, an orphan, has been raised by Berdon the blacksmith in a small town named Pelt on the northern border. Fletcher loves his life with Berdon except for the local nobleman’s son, Didric, who regularly rubs his power and status in Fletcher’s face. When a travelling veteran comes to town and tries to sell a notebook full of research on orc magic and demon conjuring, Fletcher would never have guessed how it would change his life. When he attempts a strange spell from the book he summons Ignatius, a salamander demon, a type of small fire-breathing lizard. Fletcher travels south where he finds himself enrolling in Adept Military Academy.

Now at the Adept Academy Fletcher trains as a summoner and learns more about magic, demons and fighting techniques. There he makes friends with Sylva and Othello, the first elf and dwarf summoner students. But here at the Academy the divide between the nobles and commoners is more evident than ever and Tarquin and Isadora – the wealthiest noble students – are more than happy to show everyone who’s in charge.

This magic system was intriguing, I loved how the magic stemmed from the bond between summoner and demon. The demons in this world were very unique, unlike other stories where demons are naturally nefarious, these demons are more like magic creatures – familiars – animals that work alongside their summoner partners. The species and then breeds within it were fascinating and very well developed, the logic of them reminded me of evolution and made their world seem even more real. Besides, who wouldn’t want a super-intelligent animal to go everywhere with them? Very, very cool!

Fletcher and his demon, Ignatius, were a great pair to lead the adventure; they were tenacious, at times stubborn, loyal and determined to make a change in the world. Fletcher’s experience at being undermined and mistreated by nobles makes him frustrated but also helps to fuel his hopes for a better world where everyone human, dwarf and elf, noble and commoner can live in equality and peace. Fletcher and Ignatius bonded instantly and are at times very much like two young kids messing around with each other. It’s nice to see them put aside their worries and get to enjoy doing things together or simply just hanging out together.

Sylva and Othello were such wonderful characters, they were so different from each other and Fletcher. Othello is a down to earth character who has an unbreakable determination and strength. He is Fletcher’s best friend, the kind of friend everyone would want. Sylva seemed just as arrogant as the other nobles to start with but as we get to know her we understand why – she is here on a diplomatic mission to show the humans that elves are equal to humans and can stand beside them in this war. Othello is a similar position; he is the first ever dwarf summoner and wants to show that dwarves are not less than humans as so many people believe. These two youngsters have the hopes of all their people on their shoulders so no pressure. Plus, I loved their demons – a canid, a dog demon, and a golum – they were so interesting, I love dogs and the golum was so funny as it toddled around behind the dwarf.

The leaders of the Academy’s nobles are Tarquin and Isadora, two arrogant, entitled jerks who make high school mean-girls seem nice. They look down at everyone, especially at Fletcher, Sylva, Othello and the other commoners and hate everyone who isn’t a human from a high-born family. For two people so young they are filled with so much hate and selfishness it’s amazing. These two are great at showing the power difference between the two classes, and I couldn’t wait to have Fletcher show them that commoners and non-humans are just as good as the nobles.

This book was riddled with twists and surprises that had me breathlessly flipping through the pages, desperate to find out what happens next! I loved the final climax, it was a great end to everything the book had built up. I thought everything was solved and settled after the climax but then there was a shocking cliff hanger that had me staring at the page checking I’d read it right. I give it 5/5 and have already bought the next book and can’t wait to see how Fletcher, Ignatius and friends get out of it!

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