“A warrior’s greatest enemy can also be his greatest teacher.”
― Taran Matharu, “The Novice”
“The Novice” is one of those books that I bought on impulse. I didn’t go to the bookstore planning to walk out with it. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of it until I saw the book cover for myself, which I must say is a huge factor in what led me to read the book. They say to not judge a book by its cover, and I’m guilty for doing so. I love the book cover, and I love this book.
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if a world like Middle-Earth had a school of magic like Hogwarts, or if you’re simply a fan of either “The Lord of the Rings” or “Harry Potter,” I highly recommend reading this book.
Taran Matharu’s debut novel is about a boy named Fletcher who flees the village he calls home after an incident that can land him in prison — or worse — get him killed, but really it was self-defense. With what happens, he discovers that he has the ability to summon demons as familiars and eventually lands up in Vocans Academy by choice, a school specialized in training future battlemages for the centuries long war against the orcs.
But that’s not all.
Matharu does a spectacular job at world-building. He delves into issues regarding race and the oppression of the lower class, both of which reflect on today’s society. People always disregard fantasy as pleasure reading, forgetting that you can enjoy a book and also learn something from it. Fantasy provides a breadth of space to tackle all sorts of issues, particularly to provide social commentary, and I believe Matharu does a great job in presenting the potentials that fantasy has.
The world-building doesn’t stop there though. It’s woven into the vivid and descriptive writing. You can visualize the story in your mind with ease by how much description he provides. What I also liked about the book was its sense of continuity. It flows from one event to the next, one challenge to another more pressing one. In other words, the plot develops nicely as you keep reading.
The only thing I had a problem with was the sudden leap near the end. There’s a tournament that happens, but the chapter before it takes place several months beforehand. I thought there could have been maybe a chapter or two to ease it in, but it’s not that big of a deal.
Aside from the plot, Matharu’s novel reminded me of why I chose to be a writer and prompted me to get back and finish my own manuscript. About twenty pages into the book I stopped reading, not because I didn’t like it, but because I thought the writing was so good that I had to somehow improve my own. Once I satisfied myself with a few hours of writing I went right back to reading. Now that I’m done with the novel I can’t wait for the sequel!