Taran Matharu’s The Novice is a YA fantasy that skews more to middle school readers.

Taran Matharu’s The Novice is a YA fantasy that skews more to middle school readers.

The Novice is getting rave reviews on Goodreads.  Seriously.  Fifty  percent of readers left five stars.  I think I’m just not the target audience for this one.  I gave it a three star rating and passed it to my ten year old, who enjoyed it. Essentially, this is a story you’ve read before, with characters you’ve read before, with personal demons you’ve read about before.  It is Pokemon with a cooler cover, and that may be exactly what you are looking for, but I wanted something more complex.  I’m leaving you a link to the reading of the first chapter HERE so you can make up your own mind.  

Fletcher, an orphaned commoner, learns he has the ability to summon a personal demon. When others learn he has potential as a summoner, he finds himself in the academy and in the middle of fierce competition. There are demons and summoners who are quite like the pairings in the Pokemon world. There is the timeless battle between good and evil. There is a clear perspective about seeing beyond prejudices to the person inside. However, more mature readers are likely to be disappointed by the limited plot and character development. We have seen this predictable plot before — poor kid gets into magic academy and is awesome, so the privileged kids want to take him down, but he has a core set of good friends who help him overcome! It plodded on and on, and offered very few surprises. As much as this book attempted to forward a positive message about acceptance, it got in its own way by making all the high born people horrible, greedy, and remorseless and casting the poor people as kind, pure, and trustworthy. The characters are all very flat — they are either good or bad and they don’t really grow as anything but practitioners of magic. The hero is an angelic snooze-fest who came preprogrammed with morals and self control. The nuances and flaws that bring characters alive are missing entirely from this story. Again, this is a perfectly adequate high fantasy for the folks who can watch a Pokemon movie, but if you wanted something with more depth, this is a pass. 

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


About queenbook

When the final bell rings, I stash those messy piles of essays and analysis assignments in a desk drawer and I head home to a pile of good books. My kids and dog eat too many chicken nuggets and the house could be neater, but as long as I get my daily read, I guess we are doing all right. When I was twelve and fifteen and eighteen and twenty, I believed I needed to get out there and do those things I had just been reading about, which ended in disaster, tears, a tattoo that scares me every time I catch a glimpse of it in the mirror, and the realization that some of us are meant for action, and some of us are meant to critique the pace of action in a book. I read primarily YA fiction as I have a rather hulking classroom library and a hundred high school readers to engage daily. Nothing makes me happier than coming to school and finding an impatient teenager waiting by my door to turn in a book and get another one just like it. I adore a good zombie, a medieval princess, or girl assassin (I would like them all in one book if you are a writer looking for some inspiration). I add historical mystery to my wish list a year in advance, and you should get out of my way when the next Outlander book comes out. I have an embarrassing fondness for rock star books, but only if they don’t get too trashy and embarrass me. My favorite book of all time is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. My book boyfriends include Gilbert Blythe, Alonzo Wilder, and Jamie Fraser. They are mine and you can’t have them.

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