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Book Review

Book Cover

Book One - The Novice (Hardback)

Author: Taran Matharu
Publisher: Hodder
RRP: £12.99
ISBN: 978 1 444 92397 1
Publication Date: 07 May 2015

When Fletcher has a chance encounter with a travelling soldier he comes into possession of a dead summoner’s book. Educated enough to read, Fletcher tries out a spell and conjures up his own personal demon. After a run in with the law he is forced to flee his home and head towards the Hominum Empires capital city, where another chance encounter gains him access to the Battlemages academy...

Summoner Book 1: The Novice (2015. 390 pages) is the first fantasy novel by Taran Matharu, who had previously published work online.

The Hominum Empire is in a transitional phase passing out of a medieval setting to an age of industrial revolution. For the most part, the book's setting is the usual faux medieval one, although this interpretation is more realistic and grittier than is the norm in fantasy books. It does contain an unusual combination of tropes, you have the normal mix of elves, dwarves, humans and orcs, but the technology has progressed to muskets. The law enforcement are named Pinkertons, which is what a particular type of private detective was called in nineteenth century America.

Overall, the world building is good. We get to understand how the hierarchical society works, the divide between the commoners and nobility as well as the casual racism the human population displays towards the elves, with whom the Empire is conducting something like a cold war and the Dwarves, a rebellious part of the Empire due to the restrictions that are made to live under.

Racism is nothing new in fantasy novels or in real life unfortunately, and the animosity between the elves and dwarves is covered even in Tolkien’s books. While this was casual easy racism, Matharu uses the character of Fletcher allowing the audience to view the injustice which this causes. In some aspects it is a little too literal and feels a bit heavy handed, the dwarf women veil their faces and we are given the explanation why. But for the most part it only forms one layer of the story remaining passively in the foreground.

The story follows the usual Campbell monomyth expounded in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, being the heroes journey from humble beginning who through the mediation of another comes into great power, whilst at the same time discovering that they were not humble at all.

This, being only part of a series, functions as the first act. We meet the various characters, learn about their world and the hero gets some progression. In the case of Fletcher he finds himself in the Vocans Academy, a kind of Hogwarts with demons. Much of the book is taken up with his time there and contains the usual young adult themes, of making both friends and enemies.

Ok, so there is little here that is revolutionary and more than a little that is cliché, but it is a very well written novel and augers well for the writer’s further progression. As a first novel it remains impressive.


Charles Packer

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