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Everything Alyce: 'Origins' (The Summoner #0.5) by Taran Matharu - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

'Origins' (The Summoner #0.5) by Taran Matharu - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

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I received the first book in the Summoner series, 'The Novice', from NetGalley, so when I found out that there was a prequel novella available free on the Kindle store, I thought it would be worth dabbling a little before diving into the main novel. 
We follow Arcturus, a orphaned stableboy who decides to run away from the abusive innkeeper who he works for. After gathering together all of his life savings, Arcturus decides to go through the saddlebags of one of the nobles staying in the hotel, hoping to find some jewels or weapons that he can sell on to help him survive on his own. In the bottom of the bag is a scroll wrapped up in some leather, which intrigues Arcturus, and he reads the scroll aloud to himself. The next moment there's a flash of light and a dreadful noise, before something crawls out of the darkness of the stable and... Licks his face? 
It turns out that Arcturus is a summoner - able to summon demons, which shouldn't be possible as this trait is passed down through the noble families and their first born children. The noble whose demon he just stole isn't the happiest about this development, and after Arcturus has been locked up for a few days and interrogated, it's determined that it's time for him to join the Vocans Military Academy, where they will teach him to capture and summon demons and to use the mana that flows through his demon, Sacharissa's, body. 
I'm going to admit that for the majority of this novella I was imagining it as a blended combination of Pokemon and Harry Potter - the cute Canid image on the front cover, with the fact that you get different levels of demons, and you're learning about it all in a magic school. These were not negative aspects, oh no. If there were a school that taught you Pokemon, I would be there. It just meant that 'Origins' didn't seem like the most unique idea to me, more like a fantastic mixture of two ideas I already really enjoyed.
There were some issues with this story. The characters aren't described at all, or at least if they are they're described scantly and are rather forgettable. Other than the image on the front cover, I couldn't really get a fixed picture of Arcturus, which left me feeling unattached to him. I know that he smelt a lot, because of the repeated mentions of him needing a bath (and did he ever get one?) but other than that I couldn't describe him at all. The same can be said of the other characters around him - Charles, the noble whose demon he stole, had a very strong personality, but other than him the other characters weren't really fleshed out. I know that this can sometimes be an issue in a novella, because of how few pages there are to fit everything in, but I think it could have been done better.
It also seemed quite strange that, towards the end of the book, Arcturus could just access Sacharissa's mana without thinking about it. There's a scene where a Wendigo is in the school's summoning room, and Arcturus starts using magic without a second thought, whereas the only other time he used it he was finding it rather difficult. Wyrdlights - the little blue glowy orb next to his hand on the front cover - seem to take a lot of his concentration the first few times he makes them, but in a throwaway comment he describes the wyrdlights as shooting from his hands, which seems a little bit impossible.
However, ignoring those aspects this was a solid attempt at a novella, and it's definitely gotten me more interested in 'The Novice'. I hadn't heard much about the novel, but after seeing inside the ether where the demons originate, and learning a bit about the type of magic that can be used, I'm definitely intrigued. 'Origins' has helped me feel like I already know the world of Hominum, and I feel at home in the Vocans Academy, and I just can't wait to see what happens with the main character of the series and how things change and develop from the novella. It would be great to see Arcturus crop up in trilogy, but if he doesn't it's not that great of a loss. 

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