The Novice: Book 1 of Summoner by Taran Matharu

The Blurb:

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 …

My thoughts:

I don’t know what it was about this that appealed to me, but I devoured it like a starving wolf at a butchers shop.  There were several cliched tropes here.  Orphan hero finds out he has mysterious powers to summon demons, could be the son of a nobleman, wins out against all odds.  It should have been a tired story that only mildly interested me, but by golly I loved this.  I couldn’t get enough of the hapless hero Fletcher who always seemed to rub his enemies the wrong way.  When he comes across an old scroll he reads it out only to find that he has summoned a demon.  Now in this world, demons don’t seem to be evil, they are more the extension of their summoner, so if the summoner is a douche, then they are too.  Fletcher’s little demon is Ignatious, a Salamander, and I loved the little critter.

What follows is a series of adventures where Fletcher learns the extent of his powers (not a superman thank god) and the friends he makes.  It was a lovely tale for middle schoolers and aside from a few dodgy moments there isn’t anything too horrible in here that would frighten a younger reader either.  The characters are likeable and the pacing is strong.  I would have liked a bit more originality with the other races, we have elves, dwarves, and orcs, standard fantasy fare but I couldn’t complain about it too much.  Deals with issues of racism and greed for power as well as having several bad guys to contend with.  it also would have been nice to have at least some of the nobles to be nice, it was pretty black and white commoners against nobles.  Even with all its problems, this book was captivating, and dang it, it finished on a cliffhanger, my least favourite ending!!

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