Wednesday 3 June 2015

THE NOVICE by Taran Matharu

Fletcher was nothing more than a humble blacksmith's apprentice, when a chance encounter leads to the discovery that he has the ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, he must travel with his demon to the Vocans Academy, where the gifted are trained in the art of summoning.

The academy will put Fletcher through a gauntlet of gruelling lessons, training him as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire's war against the savage orcs. Rubbing shoulders with the children of the most powerful nobles in the land, Fletcher must tread carefully. The power hungry Forsyth twins lurk in the shadows, plotting to further their family's interests. Then there is Sylva, an elf who will do anything she can to forge an alliance between her people and Hominum, even if it means betraying her friends. Othello is the first ever dwarf at the academy, and his people have long been oppressed by Hominum's rulers, which provokes tension amongst those he studies alongside.

Fletcher will find himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with nothing but his demon Ignatius to help him. As the pieces on the board manoeuvre for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands...
Before I talk about anything else, I just want to mention how much I LOVE the cover of this book. It's gorgeous, features an adorable demon and a very kick-ass summoner. It seriously rocks.
Now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get started. 
I received this book from Hachette Children's Books--thanks so much!--the same day that I noticed the cover online, and decided this was definitely a book I was interested in reading. I didn't know much about it, but as soon as I read the words demons and summoner, I was sold on the idea. :) 
Fletcher is an orphan who lives in a village called Pelt. He's also a blacksmith's apprentice. His master, Berdon, is the man who found Fletcher when he was abandoned in the snow. He lives a good enough life, helping Berdon with his business, and hunting on the side. Only problem is he doesn't get along with the local bully, who also happens to be a guardsman and has a powerful father. Didric makes his life miserable.
The day Fletcher meets an old soldier who has many stories to tell about the ongoing war with the Orcs and happens to have a very interesting summoning book, his life changes. While reading the book, Fletcher finds a scroll and summons an actual demon. A cute Salamander who helps get him out of trouble when Didric tries to kill him and Fletcher fights back. But as a result of his horrid encounter, he has to run and ends up as far away as he can, in Corcillum.
Here he catches the eye of several thieves, but luckily for him he also captures the attention of a battlemage who sponsors him so that he can attend the Vocans Academy. This is a school where battlemages are made, and it entails a lot of hours of study as well as gruelling physical activity. Here the students learn how to control their demons and use them to their advantage, as well as using other spells that will help them on the frontline.
This academy has some very tough students--though the noble twins are the worst because they have been practicing for years. They also have a hidden agenda that includes destroying the commoners, and stirring a whole lot of trouble. That's if they don't kill Fletcher and Ignatius first.
Now Fletcher finds himself in the middle of everything because he's managed to make friends with a dwarf and an elf. Both races have an uneasy truce with the humans and one mistake will make the war worse than it is, or even start a new one. So it's crucial that one of them wins the tournament instead of the noble twins...
Wow. This book sure took me by surprise!
I didn't know what to expect but I was totally hooked into this dangerous world of intricate politics and magic that can open portals into a demon world. I thought Fletcher was such a likeable character, so friendly and willing to help no matter what. Being pushed around and belittled so much might have made another kid an angry, selfish antisocial person, but it did the opposite to Fletcher. He's got a strong will and a stubborn streak, not to mention that he's a magnet for trouble.
Then there's Ignatius. OMG. I need a Salamander demon, like right now. He's so cute and powerful, I have no doubt we will find out much more about this awesome character in the future. I also loved Othello and Solomon, as well as Sylva and Sariel. Not to mention that I was fascinated with Acturus and Lovett, so I hope we get to see much more of them in other books!
The Novice is an amazing thrill ride that hooks you into the life of a young orphan and ends up taking you to a foreign place where danger lurks at every corner. This world is filled with wonderful, brave characters that will make you smile and cheer for them. And awful, corrupt individuals that will make your blood boil. The demonic concept is intriguing, and the way the story unfolds keeps the reader captivated from start to finish. By the time you reach The End, you'll be wishing the book was longer.
This truly is a wonderful story, and I can't wait to read the next one...
But in the meantime, check these out:


I found them at Books with Bite, and they're awesome!
The Novice, May 2015, ISBN 9781444926644, Gollancz

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