The Novice, by Taran Matharu
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
He was going to make a new life, one that Berdon would be proud of. He was going to make it to Corcillum.
Well, good for you, because I couldn’t even make it through this stupid book.
DNF 31%. It’s time for me to be honest: I’m seventeen years old. I have been writing for six years, and I have produced some shit in that time. I’m not some literary mastermind that is capable of determining what is good and what is not.
But I have been around the online writing scene. I’ve read and critiqued work, good and bad, and sometimes I publish some stuff myself. In those years, I have discovered that much of the writing online is…mediocre. You have to really dig to find a story that was written by someone who knows their trade.
The Novice was originally published on Wattpad. For an online story to be turned into a published book is a phenomenal achievement. However, the thing about The Novice is that it still feels like an online story.
The writing is just not that good. It doesn’t feel like an editor even glanced at it. Not only are there punctuation problems—things like commas in places where there should be periods. I mean, come on, that’s elementary—but there is also so much telling. We are immediately told how a character is feeling and why. If someone is nervous, they bite their lip, they wring their hands, they fidget, and they sweat. Matharu doesn’t use these hints; he just says that a character is nervous. This doesn’t leave anything for the reader to figure out themselves.
Plus, there’s too much dialogue where there should be movement. The scenes feel clipped into pieces because there isn’t a balance of both. The dialogue is also way too wordy, with characters babbling things that don’t sound natural at all.
“[My name is] Fletcher. No harm done, I’d have far worse than a bruised neck if it wasn’t for you. The way in which I received my demon is rather a complex one, which is why I was confused by your question. I’ll explain it all to you tonight if you’ll let me,” Fletcher replied, wincing as he rubbed his throat.
Also, Fletcher is an idiot. When he summons a demon, he isn’t even shocked that he’s a summoner—who are supposed to be growing sparse. After only a short time, he isn’t afraid of the demon he summoned—Ignatius—even though for all he knows, it could slash his neck in his sleep. Then, when he arrives at Vocans, a girl named Genevieve tells him that second-years eat later than the first-years.
Ten minutes later:
“Is it just you two? Where are the second-years?” Fletcher asked, confused.
“We eat before they do, thank heavens!” Atlas mumbled, abandoning his spoon to slurp the porridge up from the edge of the bowl.
*Slow clap.* Wow. You’re a wizard, Harry.
Lastly, The Novice has a problem that a lot of YA fantasy published in the last few years seem to be having: a complete, utter lack of world-building. Fletcher lives in Pelt, which is in the Hominum Empire, which is god knows where. There’s mentioning of war with the orcs and an elven front, some previous wars, but I have absolutely no idea where they are. At least a map would’ve been helpful, so I would know where everything is.
The Novice had promise—I love stories with elves, demons, and all sorts of magical creatures and monsters—but it needed some major revision before it was published. Sadly, it didn’t work for me.