First things first I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hodder Children’s Books, who accepted my request to read The Girls I’ve Been via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Tess Sharpe’s Far From You is one of my favourite …
Tag: four star review
As I mentioned during my review of Tinsel of Sibéal Pounder, I spent the last week of December reading a bunch of Christmas middle grades which included the complete series of Christmas books by Matt Haig! I have already talked about them a little bit in my December wrap up over on my Booktube channel, but I enjoyed these stories so much that I also wanted to write a post recommending them.
My thoughts on all three books are quite similar, so I’m going to write a brief synopsis of each book (as spoiler-free as I can make them!) and then share my thoughts on the series as a whole at the bottom of this post.
A Boy Called Christmas
The first book in the Christmas series introduces a young boy called Nikolas, who lives with his father in a cottage in the Finnish woods. Nikolas’s father goes away on a quest to try to find Elfhelm, hoping that the discovery will bring him riches so that he will finally be able to give Nikolas the Christmas that he deserves.
However, Nikolas’s father leaves him in the care of his cruel Aunt Carlotta. Carlotta bullies Nikolas, trying to force him to grow up, so Nikolas decides to run away from home to try and help his father find Elfhelm.
Unfortunately, when Nikolas catches up with his father he discovers that sometimes adults aren’t really who you think they are…
The Girl Who Saved Christmas
In the second book in the Christmas series, we follow a girl called Amelia. Towards the end of the first book, Nikolas becomes Father Christmas (in a chain of events which are far too spoilery to expand on!), creates Christmas and is preparing to embark on his first adventure around the world, and the first child that he visits is Amelia.
Unfortunately, Amelia has a terrible year, and she ends up losing all of her hope. Due to the loss of such an intense source of hope, Christmas looks as though it might be impossible this year… Until Father Christmas decides that he’s going to track Amelia down and discover why she’s lost so much hope this year.
Father Christmas and Me
The third book in the series also follows Amelia, who is having trouble fitting in. An outcast who doesn’t seem to have any natural talent, Amelia struggles to stay positive. She’s worried that she’ll end up being a burden to Father Christmas, who has become a surrogate father of sorts, so she tries to run away. Unfortunately, we already know what happens when Amelia begins to lose hope…
I enjoyed Matt Haig’s take on the Christmas story, but unfortunately I didn’t quite love it.
The main reason for this is that there are a few little inconsistencies between the stories. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if we didn’t read them so close together – and I don’t think that they would be memorable or hamper the enjoyment of a younger audience – but it threw me out of the story enough that I didn’t feel as though I was able to award them five stars.
However, this series is perfect for the younger audience that it is written for. There are enough hilariously absurd antics going on to keep younger readers turning the pages late into the night, so you will want to make sure you don’t read these as bedtime stories, but there are also strong morals throughout.
Matt Haig makes these stories magical yet bittersweet, injecting a sense of realism into this series. In that respect they remind me of Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans, which are extremely funny stories with some sad moments that brought a tear to my eye. The focus on keeping hope even in your darkest days is an inspiring one – perfect for reading in these awful times – and I loved the way that he explored the huge impact that even one individual can have.
The illustrations by Chris Mould are mildly unsettling at times, but also laugh-out-loud hilarious, meaning that these books are perfect for readers who enjoy Tim Burton’s creepy illustration style in A Nightmare Before Christmas or Frankenweenie.
Each of the stories feels very different – the first is a polar adventure in the depths of Finland, the second is primarily set in Victorian London while the third has an utterly magical setting – so you would be able to pick any of these up and still enjoy it, but I would recommend reading them in order to experience the full impact of the series as it unfolds.
Matt Haig has also written two other books in this universe – The Truth Pixie and The Truth Pixie Goes to School – which unfortunately I haven’t been able to get hold of yet, but the Truth Pixie is a standout character in this cast (a pixie with an irresistible urge to spout the truth, even if it gets her into a lot of trouble!) so I will be picking those up at some point in the future too.
If you’re yet to read any of Matt Haig’s novels, start here. His middle grade is easily digestible, but it still has the same heart and soul that you’ll find in his novels for adults. If you love these ones and you are an older reader, you’ll definitely love The Midnight Library, which was one of the best books I read last year.
I borrowed this entire series from the library, but I’ll definitely be purchasing copies to read with my little ones when they are a bit older. These will bring the Christmas magic to life and make it even more exciting when Father Christmas visits on Christmas day!
I hope you enjoyed this review. See you soon with another one,
I decided to spend the last week of December reading a stack of magically Christmassy middle grade novels, and I did not regret it. Tinsel is the first of this stack that I’ll be reviewing (check back on Thursday when I’ll be discussing my thoughts …
For today’s Blogtober post, I’ve decided to challenge myself to another round of #10in20. In this challenge, you write 10 books in 20 minutes, meaning you have only two minutes to write as much as you can about each book you review. This was a …
In September I did things a little bit differently because it was Bookoplathon (hosted by Becca and the Books). I pulled five books out of my TBR jar as normal, but ended up pulling another two books out of the jar throughout the month when I landed on the ‘randomize your TBR’ prompt.
Rather than giving those two books their own post, I thought I’d combine them all together in here (particularly because I failed to read both The Legend of the Light Keeper by Kelly Hall and The Words That Fly Between Us by Sarah Carroll, both of which I’m hoping to get read in October, so this post would have been quite short if it had only featured three book reviews!).
So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the five books I pulled out of my TBR jar and actually managed to get read in September.
The Dark Light by Julia Bell – 1 star
I was planning on reading The Dark Light in a couple of months as part of a ‘reading the ten lowest books on my TBR’ challenge, but alas, I pulled it out of the jar and had no choice but to read it in September.
The Dark Light is a dual perspective story following Alex and Rebekah. Alex is a rebellious girl who is in trouble with the police after setting fire to the home of a girl who had been bullying her. Alex’s foster parents agree that she needs to be rehabilitated, so they send her to a religious community on an island, where Alex meets Rebekah, who has lived on the island for her entire life. Rebekah soon finds herself developing feelings for Alex, and she begins to wonder if there’s more to life than the little community she is a part of.
When the leader of the group starts claiming that the rapture is coming soon both girls become desperate to escape and to live their lives to the fullest before moving on to Heaven, but things don’t go smoothly.
I was apprehensive about reading The Dark Light after reading Julia Bell’s other novel, Massive. I ranted about it at length and pretty much decided I’d never read another one of her books, completely forgetting that I had The Dark Light on my NetGalley already. Oops.
Somehow, this book is even worse than Bell’s debut.
The main problem with it is its length. Coming in at under 300 pages, it’s impossible to emotionally connect to the characters because they are severely underdeveloped. If the story had only been told from one of their viewpoints it may have been more impactful, but the dual narrative was wholly unnecessary.
All of the events are rushed, even from the first page. Alex committing arson takes place in the space of a couple of paragraphs, and what could have been a really powerful opening is instead totally confusing (and not in an intriguing, unputdownable kind of way…). The same thing happens at the end of the novel: all of the dramatic, cataclysmic events happen in one or two chapters, and it leaves you feeling completely unsatisfied.
On top of the rushing, the character development is unrealistic. Rebekah has lived her entire life surrounded by this community, believing that the rapture is real and its coming will be the best day of her life, so for her to abandon all of her beliefs for a girl she has literally just met makes no sense.
The relationship between Rebekah and Alex is also very frustrating: they develop feelings for each other as soon as they meet, despite the fact that they’ve hardly spoken, and their feelings cause them both to morph into entirely different people which couldn’t happen that quickly. The events of The Dark Light only seemed to take a week at most, but opening your mind to religious ideas when you’ve always been an atheist – or turning your back on the beliefs that you’ve had ingrained in you since the day you were born – just would not happen that fast.
Don’t even get me started on the ending. Man, it had me raging. If I’d been reading a physical copy of the book I would have thrown it across the room, no question. I’d definitely recommend skipping this one.
Awake by Natasha Preston – 1 star
Awake was very similar to The Dark Light, in all the worst ways. Featuring a girl who is kidnapped and taken to a cult to be the sacrifice which will allow all of the other members to go to Heaven – the same cult she was stolen from to save her life when she was a child – it looks like September was the month for me to read awful books about unhinged religious communities.
I had so many problems with Awake that I can’t even be bothered to write a proper review, so here are some bullet points:
- the two perspectives are written identically, and it’s impossible to tell whether you’re reading from Scarlett or Noah’s viewpoint if you take a break halfway through a chapter
- how old is Scarlett? She’s been missing her memories for a decade, but she’s only forgotten everything before her 4th birthday, so she should be 14… But she’s referred to as both 15 and 16 as well. Huh???
- why didn’t Scarlett’s parents change their names when they escaped from the Eternal Light in the first place? It can’t be that hard to find two people called Jonathan and Marissa with their children, Scarlett and Jeremy. They’ve been moving around the country to escape the Eternal Light, so why the hell didn’t they change their names at least once?!
- who can actually remember anything before they were 4? I sure as hell can’t. Does that mean I was supposed to be a sacrifice for a cult and my parents aren’t actually my parents? The premise is just so painfully flimsy
- UGH THE INSTALOVE
- I mean it’s awful
- HONESTLY SO BAD
- Noah is new to the school and UTTERLY CREEPY and Scarlett falls head over heels in love with him, tells him her tragic backstory within a couple of hours of knowing him, starts fantasizing about what it’ll be like when they’re married and living together, all within the first couple of weeks of knowing him. Cringe.
- the writing is horrible. I can’t remember reading such a bland, boring book before. The main character is about to get sacrificed and I’m here yawning and just wanting it to be over. It’s impossible to emotionally connect to anything that’s going on. It’s also far too long – the events in the last half of the novel could have been far more interesting if they’d been compressed to 25%, and then the lead up to the kidnapping could have been properly fleshed out so that it was possible to care about the characters
To summarise: 1 star read and a strong contender for worst book I’ve read this year (which is impressive because I have read some corkers in 2020!).
The Boy From the Woods by Jen Minkman – 3 stars
When I pulled The Boy From the Woods out of my TBR jar, I thought it was going to be awful.
Let’s be honest, the cover is more than a little bit cringe, and the description did not do it for me at all.
So, imagine my surprise when I ended up thoroughly enjoying this book, so much so that I ended up reading it in one sitting!
Retelling a traditional Austrian folktale, The Boy From the Woods is perfect if you’re a huge fan of retellings but are getting tired by all of the new takes on Beauty and the Beast or the Arthurian tales.
In The Boy From the Woods we follow a girl called Julia who has finally bagged the boy of her dreams. Julia has been in love with Michael from a distance for years, but it isn’t until prom that he finally notices her. However, their romance is the definition of a ‘whirlwind’: Michael takes her out once, sleeps with her and then doesn’t call her when he says he will. Awks.
Things go from bad to worse for Julia when she stumbles across the scene of a motorbike crash in the woods, and the victim is none other than – you guessed it! – Michael himself. Instead of being able to avoid the boy who has humped and dumped her, Julia is instead forced to get him help, leaving her wondering why his amnesia was so strong that he couldn’t remember anything apart from her name. Did she mean more to him after all?
It’s always great to read a book set in a different country, and I found myself getting The Summer of Us vibes throughout The Boy From the Woods because the European setting is very well-crafted. It’s also helped by the fact that the characters take a trip to London towards the end of the novel and stay in a hostel, which is what the gang of friends get up to in The Summer of Us! I loved learning the fact that shops in Austria close for lunch! That’s certainly a fact about the country that I’ll never forget, because it’s so jarring compared to my experience living and working in the UK.
Being self-published, I wasn’t expecting the writing to be all that impressive (I’ve had some bad experiences with self-published novels in the past, okay?!) but I was thoroughly impressed throughout The Boy From the Woods. Jen Minkman writes some brilliant one liners, and her dialogue is very realistic, giving each of the characters a very strong voice and making me care about all of them.
I did enjoy the story a lot, although I could see where it was going from a mile away so the dramatic ending didn’t have a huge impact on me. However, if you can’t predict what’s going to happen I have a feeling some tears could be shed at the end of this one, because it’s a bittersweet ending. I applaud Jen Minkman’s bravery for taking the story in the direction she did, and for not leaving the story open-ended or writing a sequel; sometimes it’s nice to have a book with a sad ending, because not all stories have happy endings in real life.
I’m really interested in reading more of Jen Minkman’s work in the future, as her writing hugely impressed me, and I’m so glad that I gave The Boy From the Woods a chance.
Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne – 3 stars
The more time passes since I finished Brightly Burning the less kindly I feel towards it, so I thought I’d better get this review written sooner rather than later.
Brightly Burning was marketed as a Jane Eyre-retelling in space, and it does what it says on the tin.
Stella is a governess who is hired to work on the private ship the Rochester, and she is dismayed when she arrives and there are some freaky things going on. Instead of staying with the rest of the fleet – who are orbiting the Earth in the hopes that it will one day become inhabitable again, á la The 100 by Kass Morgan – the Rochester has decided to strike out from the pack and orbit the Moon instead, meaning Stella is far from home, all alone and desperate to get to the bottom of why strange things keep happening on this allegedly haunted ship…
If you know anything about Jane Eyre you’ll be able to guess what’s going on, but Alexa Donne does add a YA twist to things by making Hugo Fairfax a younger captain with a slightly less scandalous hidden past. I was a bit peeved that she didn’t manage to shoehorn in the famous “Reader, I married him” line – what’s more quintessential Jane Eyre than that?! – but I did enjoy the world that she crafted… I just didn’t enjoy Jane Eyre at all, so of course I wasn’t going to love a Jane Eyre retelling! If I had read Jane Eyre before I requested this on NetGalley I never would have requested it, so it’s just fortuitous that I didn’t dislike it as much as Charlotte Bronte’s classic novel.
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord – 4 stars
The Names They Gave Us is a conflicting book to review, because up until the last couple of chapters I was fully prepared to give it five stars and declare it a new favourite.
Lucy’s life is flipped upside down when she discovers that her mum’s cancer has returned. Lucy – a devoutly religious pastor’s daughter – begins to question her faith, crossing boundaries she’s never even considered approaching and acting wholly out of character as she comes to terms with her mum’s diagnosis. Her change in behaviour causes her boyfriend, Lucas, to put their relationship on pause, which makes Lucy feel even more grateful that it’s only a couple of weeks until she gets to go off to church summer camp to work the days away.
However, Lucy’s mum discovers a job opportunity at Daybreak, a neighbouring camp for teens who have difficulties in their lives. Whether they’ve lost relatives, experienced bullying about their gender identity or have gotten pregnant at an early age, Daybreak has seen it all, and their supportive program is just what the doctor ordered for Lucy. She’s apprehensive – and certainly not looking for love – but her summer at Daybreak ends up changing her life for the better.
Well, until those last couple of chapters that I mentioned…
If this had focused solely on the story of Lucy working at Daybreak and falling in love with fellow camp counselor Henry, it would have been a five star read. Lucy’s inner turmoil – can I still believe in a God who would allow my mother to get cancer twice? – is very realistic, and her anguish is palpable from the first page. She is a very ordinary character which may cause some people to call her boring, but because of how plain she is I enjoyed the story that much more. It’s easy to put yourself in Lucy’s shoes and empathise with her, as I’m sure not many people would react to being in this situation in a positive way.
However, Emery Lord takes the last few chapters and tries to make the story bigger, and it does not pay off. The majority of The Names They Gave Us is intimately focused on the goings on at Daybreak, and that works brilliantly – all of the campers are given strong personalities, and I loved the weekly bonfire hangouts where the counselors gather to drink and share their best and worst moments from the week – but the sudden shift in focus comes out of nowhere. Lord suddenly begins telling an entirely different story mere pages before the book ends, and it left me feeling disappointed and frustrated. At least write a sequel or an epilogue (one of my least favourite things, so you can tell how annoyed I was by the ending if I was actually crying out for one!). I can kind of see why she made that choice – life is messy, and things don’t wrap up neatly with a bow on top – but it was very unnecessary and it took the focus off of the topics that the story had been tackling earlier on.
I’m rounding my rating for The Names They Gave Us from a 3.5 star up to a 4 because of how impressed I was by 90% of the book, but if the last few chapters didn’t exist it would have been one of the easiest 5 stars I’ve given this year which is so annoying. I’m definitely going to give Emery Lord’s other work a go, though; this is my first Lord book and I enjoyed it a lot, so I’m glad I already own a couple of her others!
That’s it for this set of TBR jar reviews. As you can see, this was a pretty mixed bag – nobody wants to read two 1 star novels in a month, let alone two which were so similar! – but at least these were all very quick reads.
Have you read any of these books? If so, do you agree or disagree with my ratings?
See you tomorrow,
Hey everyone! This is my first series review, so please bear with me as I figure out the best way to do this. I’m going to share my thoughts on each of the books in the Summoner series – including the prequel, The Outcast – while being as spoiler-free as I possibly can (but still hopefully giving you enough details to figure out what is going on in the story) and that sounds… Pretty impossible?! But I’ll do the best I can.
I was lucky enough to be accepted to read and review the entire Summoner series via NetGalley, so I’m ashamed that it took me until this year to knuckle down and finally read them. I’d already bought copies of all of the books though, because I just knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy them (and I was right, and I’m already looking forward to rereading these in the future).
The Novice – 4 stars
When The Novice begins, Fletcher is a blacksmith’s apprentice in Pelt who wants nothing more than to earn enough money on market day to buy a gorgeous cloak he’s been coveting. That’s until an elderly soldier sets out his wares on the floor opposite Fletcher, claiming to be selling the journal of a summoner.
The local bully, Didric Cavell, mocks the soldier, and after Fletcher defends him in a fight the soldier gifts him the summoner’s journal. In the back of that journal he finds a summoning scroll, and after sneaking down to the local graveyard he decides to give summoning a go. Screwing up his courage, Fletcher recites the words etched into the leather… And pop, Ignatius appears!
Unfortunately, Didric and his cronies follow Fletcher to the graveyard. He gets into a scuffle with them, and Ignatius instinctively protects Fletcher by shooting a fireball at Didric. Not knowing whether his nemesis is alive or dead, Fletcher has to flee his home.
To cut a long story short Fletcher quickly finds himself in a sticky situation and is saved by a summoner called Arcturus, who sweeps him off to Vocans Academy for his summoner training to begin.
Because we are introduced to the world of summoning at the same time as protagonist Fletcher, it is very easy to get to grips with the way that everything works. For that reason alone I’d say this is the perfect series for those who are just starting to read fantasy. I always found the genre quite intimidating when I was younger, but Taran Matharu strikes the perfect balance between explaining the mechanics of his world and not handling the reader with kid gloves. Things aren’t dumbed down, and so I did find that there were a few sections of summoner lore that I needed to reread a few times just to make sure I had my head wrapped around the concept fully, but this only occurred a couple of times towards the beginning of the first book. Once you’ve got the basics under control, the rest of the series is a breeze.
However, the other reason I’d highly recommend this to fantasy beginners is the wide range of sources Taran Matharu gathers his inspiration from. The demons themselves are reminiscent of Pokemon/Digimon – in fact the entire reason I didn’t finish this book pre-release was that I kept getting distracted playing Pokemon! – while Vocans draws comparisons to a certain castle in the Wizarding World. Then there are the different races of characters (dwarves, elves, orcs) which combine the lyrical aspects of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings with the brutality of World of Warcraft. Add in Fletcher’s fashion sense, rivalling those of the cast of Assassin’s Creed, and you’ve got a mixture of elements which manage to appeal to even the most hesitant reader.
There is quite a large cast of characters in this book, but all of them become relevant to the plot at some point during the series and it’s done expertly. I did struggle to connect with some of the characters at the start because we are introduced to a lot of people very quickly – Fletcher is one of the common summoners, so we are introduced to all of the other common summoners when he arrives, but there are plenty of noble summoners who are introduced too – but as the characters grow throughout the later installments I found myself getting attached to almost all of them. That’s before we begin looking at the teachers at Vocans, of which there are a few!
Because The Novice introduces us to the world of Hominum it does have the slowest pace out of all of the books in the series. If you’ve read this book and have managed to resist carrying on with the series (to which I ask: how?! That CLIFFHANGER, man!) then I highly recommend at least trying The Inquisition, as the pace picks up dramatically.
The Inquisition – 4 stars
That brings us nicely to the second novel in the Summoner series.
As I’ve just mentioned, The Novice ends on a pretty dramatic cliffhanger, so it might surprise you to learn that The Inquisition is set one year after the events of the first book. Luckily we haven’t missed much with Fletcher, though, who has spent that year in jail after getting arrested at the end of book one.
The Inquisition is two stories in one. The first half, unsurprisingly, is the titular inquisition. Fletcher is on trial for the crime for which he was arrested, and – without giving any spoilers as to the outcome of the trial – he has to face an inquisition led by some familiar nobles who hate him very much.
The second half of the story shows Fletcher being sent into orc territory to attempt a rescue mission. Is this punishment for his crime? You’ll just have to read it to find out! But I will tell you it reunites him with a lot of the characters we meet in book one, and the dynamic between them is explosive.
As I mentioned previously, The Novice took us a little while to get through because the pacing is a lot slower – understandably, as it is setting up the entire Summoner universe – but the tension in the second half of The Inquisition made me desperate to read it in as few sittings as possible.
Although I also gave The Inquisition four stars, I believe it was probably closer to a 4.5. It still wasn’t my favourite book in the series (that’s The Battlemage!) but it’s far stronger than the first book. Whereas The Novice has a huge focus on Vocans and Fletcher’s first year learning the art of the Summoner, The Inquisition takes us further afield into the land of Hominum and completely absorbs you into the world and the lore Taran Matharu has crafted.
This book also ends on a huge cliffhanger, so I was grateful that I already had book three lined up and ready to go. This is a series which screams the words binge-read, and thankfully Matharu must have predicted that his novels would end up being read that way because the recaps are woven very subtly into the start of each installment. One of my biggest pet peeves is when you pick up the next book in a series and it clunkily regurgitates the events of the previous volume, so I’m glad that wasn’t an issue here.
Not only is there an extremely dramatic cliffhanger, but there is also one hell of a reveal. I was screeching from excitement because I did not see it coming at all. Another of Matharu’s skills is the art of crafty foreshadowing.
Now, moving on to my favourite book in the Summoner series…
The Battlemage – 5 stars
I do not have anything to criticise about this book. It is flawless, and is probably the strongest series ender I have ever encountered.
Picking up right where the last book left off, The Battlemage begins with Fletcher and the gang in mortal peril. They’ve travelled far from Hominum and are in a race against time to make it home safely, attempting to evade getting captured by a group of orcs who are hunting them (while also bumping into quite a few new – and highly dangerous – demons).
One of the best things about the Summoner series is the fact that we are constantly getting introduced to new demons. A couple of them only pop up for a scene or two, while other demons are seen over and over again, and it helps you to appreciate the size of the world Matharu has created. In each of my paperback copies there were brief sections at the back describing the demons and featuring little sketches of them, so if you don’t have the best imagination it’s a great way of getting to see them in all of their glory. Some of the demons looked very different to the way I had imagined them!
The Battlemage is another book which splits quite neatly into two parts. The race against time takes up the first half of the book, but the second half focuses intensely on the war between the people of Hominum and the orcs – a war which is bubbling in the background throughout the first two books, but boils over explosively towards the end of book three. I’m still trying my hardest not to give spoilers, so I won’t tell you which of our main characters makes it back to Hominum in one piece, but I will tell you that you’ll be trying hard not to shed tears by the end of The Battlemage. There are always casualties in war, and Taran Matharu isn’t afraid to kill off characters which have been loved since the first book in the trilogy.
There were a lot of things which I expected to happen in The Battlemage that didn’t happen, and I loved the fact that there were so many red herrings sprinkled throughout the series (some which went as far back as book one!). I’m not going to give anything away because I want you to be as surprised as I was, but just know that this is not a predictable series at all. Too many YA fantasy novels recycle the same tropes over and over again, but the ones which Matharu uses are given fresh spins and the majority of them are hinted towards and then dismissed which really keeps you on your toes.
Although Taran Matharu doesn’t seem to have plans to write any more Summoner books at the moment, the world is rich with potential and I’m hoping that he might change his mind at some point in the future. This is a series which I’m definitely going to be rereading, and I can’t wait to recommend them to my children when they’re old enough. If these books had been released when I was a little bit younger I think I would have been an avid fantasy reader much earlier in my life!
The Battlemage is the end of the Summoner trilogy, but I’m also going to share my thoughts on the prequel novel.
The Outcast – 4 stars
It might seem counter-intuitive to review the prequel novel at the end of this series review, but Taran Matharu himself recommends reading it after you read the main series.
I actually found myself wishing I had rebelled against his advice, because after the breakneck pacing maintained throughout The Battlemage, The Outcast feels as though it bumbles along a little bit. That’s not a bad thing, but I did find my attention drifting a little bit at points because I just didn’t connect with Arcturus’s story as well as I did with Fletcher’s.
This might be because I had already read Origins – a free eBook which was offered on Amazon prior to the publication of The Novice – and loved it, not realising that The Outcast is an extended version of Origins (the short story is the first third of the novel, so I ended up skipping the first 100 or so pages and just diving in where Origins finishes).
The Outcast tells the story of Arcturus, the first common Summoner who attends Vocans Academy. His story is quite similar to that of Fletcher’s so there are bits and pieces that feel quite repetitive, but I thought getting to know the nobles who also attended Vocans during Arcturus’s time there was invaluable. A lot of these nobles become relevant to Fletcher’s story, so getting to see their teenage years made it much easier to understand their motivations.
I couldn’t think of anything that would have overtly spoilt any of the reveals or twists in the main trilogy, but there are some things which would have made it a bit easier to see some of the reveals coming so I can understand why Taran Matharu recommends reading this one last. Personally, I’d recommend reading it first to see if you’re interested in the Summoner series, and if you are try and wait a few months before you pick up the main trilogy so that you can hopefully still experience the surprises as though you were reading them in the recommended order!
I’m not sure whether I would have been as interested it reading The Novice without reading Origins first, because I thought it was such a brilliant introduction to the world. It gave us a glimpse into Vocans and the way that the Summoner universe worked without giving too much away, and it made it far too tempting not to read the rest of the series.
Although I did get a bit restless at points, I still enjoyed The Outcast enough to give it four stars, and I loved the excuse to revisit the world of the Summoner so soon after finishing the trilogy.
All in all, the Summoner series gets a very strong four stars!
I hope you enjoyed my first attempt at a series review, and I’m crossing my fingers that I haven’t revealed too much about the events of the series. This is a really hard series to review without giving spoilers, because so much goes on.
Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you soon with another post,
Hello, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like. First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Meghan from Wednesday Books for reaching out and inviting me to take part in this blog …