Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Released: May 5th 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
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... (from Goodreads)
The Novice was an interesting start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to continuing on to book two.
It did take me a while to really like Fletcher as a character. At the start we knew so little about him and his personality that I couldn’t really tell whether or not I liked him. Plus, I felt like at times the author was trying too hard to make me like him. There was constant comparison between Fletcher, a commoner, and the nobles, who were mostly all portrayed to either be evil or snobby and horrible and annoying (Didric and Tarquin and Rook being the worst, I seriously hated them). It’s like the author went out of his way to prove that Fletcher was better than that. In the first half there was a real focus on Fletcher making the effort to speak to a servant called Jeffrey - yet in the second half, that character completely disappeared! Never to be seen again. I felt like the only purpose of Jeffrey was to show how great Fletcher was and that he didn’t care about status, and then was forgotten as soon as the point was proved and Fletcher had more important things to do. It was a shame too, because I liked Jeffrey and wouldn’t have minded seeing more of his character in a different context. But it was just one thing that bothered me a little. Fletcher did grow on me though, once he joined Vocans Academy and we started to get to know him more, and I liked seeing his bond with his demon Ignatius (who was probably my favourite character and seriously guys, I want a demon like that). I also liked the fact that although he was talented in some areas, he wasn’t an overpowered super summoner who could do anything without any effort. He really struggled with some aspects and had to put real work in, which I thought was more realistic and made me empathise with him more. I was definitely interested in Fletcher’s backstory as well. He was abandoned as a baby, and had no clue who his real parents were. He was raised by Berden (who seemed like a real decent guy who genuinely loved Fletcher like a son) but had no other family connections. It was interesting to discover a little bit about him later on in the book (I’m sort of half agreeing with Arcturus’s theory at the moment) and I do hope we find out more in book two.
Othello was probably Fletcher’s best friend at Vocans, along with Sylva, and I liked them both. Sylva had a shaky start in the group because she was an elf and originally had chummed up with the two awful noble twins Isadora and Tarquin in order to build connections between their families to relieve the animosity against the elves - but she realised in the end that it was pointless and the twins had no real interest in being allies. She was pretty powerful and brave (as seen in the second half) and she was willing to risk a lot to do what she thought was necessary. Othello was a dwarf - the first ever to be admitted to the academy. The dwarves were denied rights and treated as second class citizens. Despite that, though, Othello wanted to find a way to achieve equality and find peace between all peoples without having to resort to war (which was proving difficult because the nobles were especially hostile towards him). His demon was also really cool (and one of the more powerful ones).
Out of the teachers at the academy, I definitely liked Lovett the most, followed by Arcturus. Lovett was awesome and as well as being clever in strategy and being able to control a high level demon, she also seemed to really care about her students. I really hope we see her again in the next book and that she has a bigger role to play, because I really liked her character. Arcturus was also interesting because of his past and the way he met Fletcher (as well as his possible connection to him). I absolute hated Rook though. He was so unfair, so biased towards the nobles, didn’t care who got hurt as long as he got his way. I can’t believe he was allowed to teach when he showed such obvious favouritism, it was disgusting.
Plot-wise, the book started off a bit slow but I got really engrossed once Fletcher arrived at Vocans. I would have liked to have spent more time on Fletcher’s training and learning more about all the different types of demons, but I suppose there is time for that in the next book and I enjoyed what we did learn. And while I knew Fletcher’s past would eventually catch up with him, the ending! It was just so unfair (and a massive cliffhanger). I am very intrigued to find out what happens next and how Fletcher will deal with everything.
Overall, despite a few issues, I enjoyed this book overall, and would recommend it to YA fantasy fans.