Book Review: Summoner: The Novice

by T. E. J. Johnson

Summoner: The Novice book cover

In Summoner: The Novice we join Fletcher on his adventure from the small village of Pelt to the capital of Hominuim, from blacksmith to battlemage novice.

Fletcher is a great hero and smart as they come. He stays a few steps ahead of the reader managing (just) to make up for the odds stacked against him with some excellent strategic thinking always using things we read in the past leading to some great ‘I wish I had thought of that!’ moments. He is the type of character you love to root for and can’t wait to see be put to the test.

Fletcher is a Summoner, meaning he (somewhat accidentally) summoned the sweetest pet and sidekick ever into our realm. Ladies and gentlemen meet Ignatius. Imagine a dog-cat-iguana that can breath fire. Or… a really small dragon with no wings and that purrs when you stroke it. Ignatius and his fellow academy demons are such a fun addition to the book; these bugs, birds and cat-like monsters all come with their own demon-ranking, personalities and grant their owners some awesome abilities. There are gameification possibilities here and I think the mana and demon level (“my demon could beat your demon”) metrics will appeal to many. Before you mentally imagine yourself petting Ignatius just remember that due to the psychic link that’s like petting that person too, add in some hard-to-resist furry friends and it leads quickly to awkward teen hilarity. Enough of this though – the demons are a serious thing, a fighting man’s weapon. Ignatius can literally burn through human skin and bone which is good as he and Fletcher have to fight for their lives on more than a few occasions. I’m looking forward to more demons and monster action in book two – we get a glimpse of a Minotaur demon at the end of Summoner, a seven-foot beast barely able to keep its anger in check and we know there is a lot more to come!

Fletcher doesn’t have it easy. There are forces at work that have no interest in this talented commoner being at the academy. More importantly however are Fletcher’s best friends – Sylva is an elf emissary sent to build relationships with key human nobles and Othello is the first dwarf allowed in the academy. The dwarves are a disenfranchised race and the elves are almost an enemy race so this is a big deal. As well as learning to become battlemages they must bear this added pressure and carry political aims larger than their own. So we get this neat double story line – Fletcher trying to survive school, deal with the nobles that want him, well, deadish, and also try to support the dwarf and elf who carry the hopes of their entire race on their backs. Pull this together with the academy tournament for the very best commissions in the military looming and you start to get the feeling of what this means – yes. Total. Page. Turner.

Summoner is an absolute-must-read. A rip-roaring fantasy set on the backdrop of war, filled with best-friends, big fights, political schemes and an array of fascinating demons. The stakes are high and Matharu paints a big backdrop, a huge world that deserves the exploration of the next two books in the series. Our favourite characters must manage this rich history of Hominium complete with political schemes, war, orcs, elves and complex inter-species dynamics. It makes the novel an engrossing and rewarding read. The ending sets up something very, very cool which I can’t give away but I can say I am so damn excited to explore what this means in book two!

All in all a great book and I can’t wait for the second one.

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