Friday 10 April 2015

Book Review + Interview with 'The Novice' Author Taran Matharu

Title: The Noivce
Author: Taran Matharu
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Release Date: May 5th 2015
Synopsis: When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.
As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs. 

Review: If you're looking for something fantasy based, this is a breath of Fresh air! I mean just LOOK at that cover, it shouted READ ME at me, and also made me want to go out and buy a leather jacket (but that's not for this review). I how how evocative the blue being my favorite colour, with the mana flowing out. You get a little glimpse of Ignatius and that font! Love me a cool font!

Cover Love, check. Now to the book. I really enjoyed this book basically. There was an easy and a fluidity to the writing which meant that I was flying through it, all the time wanting more and all the time wishing I didn't have to put it down. The writing is accessible, not laden with over complicatedness (such as that word is...sorry) and the story came easily from the characters and grew as the book grew. The book took me to different places I didn't expect and I liked where it went, with a nice mix of the past and the present, and a great set up for the continuation of the journey.

I liked Fletcher...or Fletch as I might call him...OK maybe I won't...anyway. I  work off vibes alot and as a character he gave me good vibes, was a loyal friend and had a fighting spirit. There are some cliches to his character and indeed some of the others ( like Sylvia and Othello), but that doesn't make him (or them) any less of a character. They had flaws too and it was nice to see the morality of each of the characters in both their training and their personal lives. Both Othello and Sylvia were very strong willed and strong minded and this really came across well, especially in the face of their adversities. There are some aww moments too especially with Fletch(er) an the whole Sylvia incident ... and I think there is a lot to grow from them as a characters in the next stages..of well, i'm not sure whats to come BECAUSE OF THE CLIFFHANGER..( shakes fist in frustration).

There  are also a bunch of characters you love to HATE, so much so that you're shouting at them through the book...ok so yes that was just me, but you will be too, and this good guy bad guy routine brings a sense of oomph to proceedings.

Ignatius is a cool demon  (I WANT ONE, I WANT ONE!!!) and as we're new to this world we get to learn about a lot of the demons and the constructions of the magic in this book and that for me is always fun and gets me really invested in this world. It was also very visual, with the pentagrams and the channeling of the magic which is great when you're reading a book and you can feel like you can see the action. Too many times I've read, and then re-read something and then settled for just how I see it in my mind.

This was a fantastic start to a new series, I'm terribly excited for whats to some, and I'm so glad that I read it. Definitely give it a read, and I can't wait to talk about it with everyone.

(!! As I type this, I've also just seen there is a eNovella I'm off to read that now...)

I also had the pleasure of interviewing the author keep on reading:

  1. Where did the inspiration for The Novice come from? 
That’s a tough one! History was a big influence, especially the 18th century with the rise of muskets and the clash of eastern and western cultures. Then there were my own experiences as a boy, especially in the themes that revolve around racism, bullying, trust and loyalty. My love for mythology, legendary creatures and cryptids definitely crept in with the different species of demon that exist in the Summoner world. Finally, I combined different tropes and elements from my favourite fantasy books, movies and videogames, while making sure to add my own twist to each. For example the multiple races in LOTR, Warhammer and Skyrim, the pet companions in Pokemon and How To Train Your Dragon and the training of mages from the Earthsea Cycle, Harry Potter and Discworld, to name but a few! Ultimately, I had this idea for a book that I desperately wanted to read, but could never find anything that included all of these elements. So I decided to write it myself! 

  1. How did you decide how you wanted your system of magic to work? 
I’ve always had a deep distrust for Deus Ex Machina style magical solutions to problems.  For me, magic should have rules, different power levels and expectations of what can and can’t be done for the reader. As such, every summoner and demon in the book has a different power level, with varying amounts of mana depending on the demon species. The way magic works in videogames was a big influence on how I designed the magic system in The Novice.  

  1. Is you could summon or capture any demon, what sort would you like? 
Although I do love the Salamander Ignatius, I think it would have to be a Griffin like Lysander. They are big, powerful creatures, while still being majestic and beautiful. Not to mention the fact they can fly! 

  1. You started off The Novice writing for NaNoWriMo, has your writing process changed now you’re not so constricted? Is this reflective of your normal writing process? 
I like to work under pressure, it keeps me honest! I think that with NaNoWriMo helped me stay more succinct in my writing and make sure the plot is constantly driven forward. It is easy for many authors, especially when writing high fantasy, to get lost in the lore you are creating and leave the plot by the wayside. I have had a lot more time to add another level of richness to the world since The Novice, such as expanding the demonology, putting together family trees and beginning to put a map together! 

  1. How does it feel to already have FanFiction about your work out there? 
It’s very cool and quite humbling to be honest. I love reading my fan fictions and already have a collection I put together, which you can see here: 
The fascinating thing is seeing what aspect of the Summoner world they write about, as often it is something that was only briefly mentioned in The Novice but will be explored in more detail in the next two books. I like to see their interpretations of it all.  

  1. What is it about fantasy that you enjoy writing? 
I think it’s how a fantasy world can be truly epic, which is something that other genres don’t always get right, though Scifi and Historical Fiction often manage it as well. I also like how fantasy can explore a variety of different themes and issues in these epic worlds, often through metaphor. Finally, it’s just cool! Creatures, ancient weaponry, magic, new cultures, what’s not to love? 

  1. Who is your favourite character to write? 
Don’t tell Fletcher but I do look forward to writing the scenes with Othello. Captain Lovett is another favourite of mine, she’s actually inspired by my mother in a lot of ways.  

  1. There are some strong, what you could say are ‘common’ themes in Fantasy included in The Novice, such as the Orcs as the great evil, and the class divide with the nobility, was this something you wanted to intentionally look at within the novel? 
The class division was more based on my own experiences at private school rather than inspired by fantasy tropes. With the Orcs, I did feel that there needed to be a common enemy to unite the dwarves, elves and humans. I also wanted to use them as a vehicle to explore some of the cruellest acts in human history, for example their enslavement of the Gremlins, barbaric executions and slaughtering of innocents. That being said, without spoiling book 2, the Orcs are victims of the culture they form a part of rather than being inherently evil themselves.  

  1. You’ve talked about the gamification elements of your writing; do you think theres a gap in the market for more books like this? 
I think so. Videogames are becoming more and more popular and I think that by adding these elements, readers find it easier to put themselves in the characters’ shoes, as they do, quite literally, in videogames. For me, the elements of levelling up, making friends and allies, exploring the world and acquiring new equipment are all things that are inherent in fantasy games and should be made more explicit in books.  

  1. What are you top 5 fantasy books?  
That is a very difficult question! If it’s okay, I would prefer to use fantasy series, as it’s so difficult to pick my favourite out of each one! They are, Discworld by Terry Pratchett, Harry Potter by J K Rowling, The Saga of Darren Shan by Darren Shan, The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques and the Edge Chronicles by Chris Riddell and Paul Stewart.  [The number of times i shouted YESSS whilst reading this last question - especially as I've found another ShanFan!!!]


Michelle Fluttering Butterflies said...

Really excited to read this now! Great review and interview!

pakistani trouser suits uk said...

I think so. Videogames are becoming more and more popular and I think that by adding these elements, readers find it easier to put themselves in the characters’ shoes, as they do, quite literally, in videogames. For me, the elements of levelling up, making friends and allies, exploring the world and acquiring new equipment are all things that are inherent in fantasy games and should be made more explicit in books.

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