Title: The Novice
Author: Taran Matharu
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Series: Summoner, book one
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I won this book in a giveaway by the lovely folks at Book Riot--thank you so much, guys!
I won this book in a Book Riot giveaway a few months ago, and my husband came to me, looking for something to read. (And of course he does, because I'm bomb at that, lol.) He wanted something with magic and adventure, and I thought about it for a while. I suggested The Novice, and he devoured it in the space of a few days. Naturally, after he was finished with it, he asked that I read it, while he read the sequel. The Novice is a fantasy allegory that talks of important issues through a magical, dangerous new lens. It kind of rang a bit like The Lord of the Rings, for a younger audience. What a series debut! (And after reading the sequel just a little bit ago, I'm so excited for what happens in the final book, Battlemage!)
Fletcher lives in the village of Pelt, a young commoner living in a complex, brutal caste system. He is a normal boy, an orphan with no worth or origins, as far as the world itself is concerned. But that all changes when the boy accidentally summons a demon; he is soon whisked off to the prestigious Vocans Academy to learn the art of summoning for real. He is soon drawn into a war that could topple the entire world as he and his friends know it, and he must decide what is worth fighting for...
I loved this book. First of all, my husband really enjoyed it. That alone made me happy, but the experience of reading it together made it a different, more exciting way of reading. I really liked the allegory angle; normally, if it is too heavy-handed, I'm immediately turned off. But I really enjoyed the way Matharu talked about important issues through a fictional lens, like sexism and racism. It wasn't just that, though: the worldbuilding was excellent, and there was a great variety of characters that ranged the gamut from love to hate. The political intrigue really sold it for me, though: I'm such a sucker for an author that can do that well. This book has become the debut of one of my new favorite fantasy series--what a fun, brand new talent! I can't wait to see what's in store in the final book! The bottom line: A hard-hitting and promising fantasy series debut, The Novice was a fantastic book--Taran Matharu is now one of my new favorite authors! Next on deck: Camp So and So by Mary McCoy!