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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Orcs, elves, dwarves, humans, and their demons interact in this fantasy world. Straightforward learning involves comparing the lore about each species in other books, such as Lord of the Rings, with the world created here. For some outside-the-box thinking, The Novice explores racial tension through the ages-old conflict among these groups. How does it relate to the racial tension in our humans-only world? Some talk of the transition in weaponry from swords and arrows to guns and what that means in terms of battle tactics.
Class struggles and racial tension are shown in their complexity, with hope about how friendship and trust can help bridge the divide.
Positive Role Models
Fletcher goes out of his way to make friends with other races -- elves and dwarves -- despite the stigma that goes with it. He fights against injustice and sacrifices his own safety to help others.
Violence & Scariness
Some abrupt, bloody deaths of enemies in skirmishes with swords, guns, arrows, javelins. Describing someone as being stabbed through the skull and gushing blood is about as graphic as it gets. Fletcher's demon claws and sets fire to enemies. Main characters suffer police brutality, broken bones, whipping, a near beheading. Talk of skinning elves alive, orcs killing whole families and taking bodies as trophies.
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Versions of "damn" and "goddamn" come up often. Plus "bastard," "hell," and "bloody hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Fletcher -- age 15 -- drinks heavily in a bar (which seems legal for him to be in) and throws up the next day. Another scene in a bar with drinking ends in a brawl.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Novice is the first book in the Summoner series featuring a world of demons, humans, orcs, elves, and dwarves. There's much tension between the races here -- the main character, Fletcher, seems to be the only one helping bridge the divide -- and there's constant talk of preparation for war against the orcs. The main characters don't make it to the front lines just yet but still kill off a few bad guys in smaller skirmishes involving swords, guns, arrows, and javelins. Describing someone as being stabbed through the skull and gushing blood is about as graphic as it gets. Fletcher's demon claws and sets fire to enemies. Main characters suffer police brutality, broken bones, a whipping, and a near beheading. Fletcher, 15, drinks heavily in a bar and pays for it by throwing up the next day. Strong language sticks to many uses of "damn," and Fletcher, an orphan, is called a bastard to his face.
Is It Any Good?
If you like Cassandra Clare's demons without the relationship drama, plus Tolkien's world of orcs, dwarves, and elves, this series may be your new favorite. Especially if you wish Hogwarts were less herbology and charms and more dueling and battle strategy, and instead of an owl that delivers your mail, your animal would claw out eyes and set fire to people.
THE NOVICE warms readers up to this battle-ready Summoner series quite well, though once the hero Fletcher finds his way into Vocans Academy and the lessons begin, readers will get a bit lost in the details. They're all interesting, but it's easy to lose sight of the main story when you're caught up in power numbers for demons like it's a video game. Both the budding relationships between Fletcher and his elf and dwarf allies, and even his mentor Arcturus, could have used more steady emphasis as well. The relationships don't build evenly, and the tension leading up to the final test isn't there -- you turn the page and suddenly it's test day. Now that this cool, complex world is established, here's hoping promising novice author Taran Matharu can work more diligently on clear storytelling. All the pieces are here for a great series.
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