Taran Matharu is one of the Wattpad-turned-published authors. His book, Summoner, amassed millions of reads on Wattpad before being published. I never got to read the Wattpad version, but at the start of 2018, I did pick up a copy at the library and read it through.
Contains spoilers, duh.
Fletcher was a typical YA high fantasy hero, unhappy with his life, had great expectations, is nothing more than a blacksmith’s apprentice, and discovers he had great powers. He easily gained my sympathy when I saw how the status quo of Pelt was and how complete arseholes his peers were. Although Fletcher’s personality was rather uninteresting (he seems to lack fire or sass), I certainly rooted for him out of pity and because he was cast in the overused role as the underdog.
The language makes it clear it’s aimed more at MG than YA: simplistic and flows well, making it an easy read.
The characters are a bit hard to grasp. Too many and not well fleshed-out, to the point where a lot of them blur together and, even when they share scenes, I can’t distinctly tell them apart.
When Fletcher visited the dwarfen quarters, the quick flurry of high emotions and new side characters made it hard to follow who was speaking and feeling what. Othello’s sister and mother were talking and his twin literally breezed in, shouted abuse at Fletcher, and breezed back out. Later his dad storms over and accuses Fletcher of ulterior motives of trying to steal dwarfen big secrets of guns and immediately does an emotional 180 when Fletcher apologises. The sudden change in treatment threw me out of the story. The speech sometimes don’t sound like they come from the character speaking it. It’s occasionally too formal even in everyday language, let alone young mages-in-training, and flips back to conversational again.
Seraph, Rory, Atlas and Genevieve, Fletcher’s friends at school, were forgettable and interchangeable, and seemed to contribute nothing to the plot and could easily merge with Sylva or Othello. They were so forgettable that when some of them sided with the nobles against Fletcher, Sylva and Othello and betrayed their secrets, I didn’t feel anything. They were strangers to me, even if Fletcher was hurt.
The antagonists are written quite one-dimensionally, although also infuriatingly. Rich people intent on maintaining the status quo, bullying and looking down on commoners, skewing things in their favour despite privilege. We are never shown another side to them beyond as antagonists, evil for the sake of evil, which I find quite disappointing but not unexpected for a children’s book, to portray villains as black and white evil. It just meant the villains seemed to only serve to impede Fletcher’s journey and act as a hurdle, rather than have an aim of their own and seeing their comeuppance gives me petty satisfaction that is quickly forgotten.
The Lore and the World
The explanation of the lineage behind inheriting summoning powers is… odd. It’s a guaranteed adept if the child is firstborn to at least one parent so it means a man can father endless adepts with multiple women as long as each child is the woman’s firstborn and vice versa. How would the man’s sperm magically know this woman had born him a child before or not? What if it’s twins? How does the ‘magic-ness’ seep out of twin 2 when twin 1 comes first, given during development it’s not guaranteed which twin will come out first, come delivery time? Or does the magic actually manifest the moment the baby pops out of Mum? And what does that mean for previous miscarriages or stillbirths?
I didn’t find the world immersive. Whilst I enjoyed the lore — summoning and infusing, scrying, capturing and so on — I didn’t see much of the world, especially not through Fletcher’s eyes. Caves are “dark”, buildings are “tall”… I appreciate it’s children’s fiction, but even children have imaginations. Sometimes the book reads like nonfiction, given how bland the description is.
The plot is predictable. There are no twists and it progresses onwards. Mystery nightwalker goes to a secret meeting where they will be discovered. The foiled attempt at assassinating the dwarves triggered no consequences and is never mentioned again. I was hoping Fletcher would win on a technicality (e.g. if Tarquil cheated or his own arrogance causes his downfall) considering the skewed favouritism against Fletcher, but he won in a predictably boring straightforward manner.
Overall it was an easy read and I did enjoy reading the book. At no point was I tempted to DNF, but at the same time I didn’t feel any great satisfaction or thrill from reading it. It’s a very stereotypical The Chosen One, Underdog Becomes Powerful, Overcomes Evil, Saves the World tropey children’s book like Harry Potter. There’s really nothing that sets it apart from what’s already published.
Verdict: 3 stars. I’ll check out the sequel, but this book was nothing special.