Author: Taran Matharu
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Length: 368 pages
Source: eGalley from NetGalley/Library Book
When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.
As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.
Protagonist: Fletcher grew up as an orphan in a small town, becoming the ward and eventual apprentice of the town's blacksmith. When he learns that he possesses the rare power to summon demons that ends disastrously he flees his home and finds his way to an academy that trains young summoners to fight in the war. The tagline on the inside of the dust jacket for this book reads: He can summon demons. But can he win a war. which led me to believe that Fletcher might be a chosen one of some kind, but surprisingly that theory turns out to be false. Fletcher is just an ordinary boy with an extraordinary talent and do to some fortunes of chance he is set slightly apart from the other novices at the academy. I really liked Fletcher, he's a believable character with a good heart. He's clever and brave and those traits will take him far in this world of deceit and betrayal.
World-Building: There is so much about this world to love. The political intrigue alone sets this book apart from other YA fantasies. There is so much going on in this world and it only gets more and more complex as the story continues, though luckily it never gets confusing or convoluted. There is some definite Harry Potter inspiration to this world, although it stays well away from getting uncomfortable, mainly sticking with character tropes and minor themes. I did have one problem with this world, one which is totally based on my opinion, and that's that there are too many entitled asshole characters, one of which is a very unprofessional teacher. Now, I don't mind an entitled asshole character here and there, but the amount that's in this book makes my blood boil. I understand why the author put in so many and it does add depth to the world, it's just hard for me to deal with at times.
Predictability: I have to say that the foreshadowing in this book is done really well. While there were many times that it was easy to pick up on the foreshadowing and know what to expect out of this story, it was always done in the best way possible, a casual reference or two, maybe brought up again if the need dictated, but it was never beaten over the reader's head as if they were too stupid to pick up on the subtle nudges here and there. There were also times in which the foreshadowing was so subtle or non-existent that when the twist or surprise was revealed it made for a very exciting shock and sizzle of excitement. There never seemed like there was a time when I knew before hand something I really wasn't supposed to know, which as you'd expect made for a very enjoyable reading experience over all.
Ending: So, I have a confession to make. For some reason I thought that this series might be a companion novel one, so I wanted to vaguely skim the synopsis of book two for Fletcher's name to be sure, in doing so I had a vague idea of how this book ended. Nothing was concrete but I had a very strong idea of what to expect. That being said, the ending was still the sucker punch in the gut I'm sure it was intended to be. After a spectacular final climax full of action and deception, the reader is treated to a very short cooldown period before the uncharacteristic (at least for the first book in a series) cliffhanger was presented. I have to just say, this ending id pure evil genius.
So, going into this book I head some mixed opinions on it, nothing specific, but I ended up loving this book. My only qualm is the abundance of the aforementioned "entitled asshole characters" which is totally based on my opinion on that character trope in general. If you're a fan of fantasy this book is a must read!