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We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting [magazine] (https://store.focusonthefamily.com/singleitem/checkout/donation/item/goaa-thriving "magazine"). It is the first book in the "Summoner” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Fletcher is an orphan who was abandoned as a baby just outside the town of Pelt. He was found and raised by Berdon, the local blacksmith. Fletcher is now a 15-year-old and works as Berdon’s apprentice.

On trading day, an old soldier named Rotherham comes to town with many stories and relics of Hominum’s long and bloody war with the orcs in the south and the ongoing tension at the northern border with the elves. One of the most fascinating artifacts Rotherham has for sale is a summoner’s handbook. He found the book on the body of dead summoner after a battle with orcs.

Fletcher is very interested in the handbook, but Fletcher’s nemesis, Didric, the son of a wealthy moneylender, bullies Rotherham and demands he sell the book for less than it’s worth. Rotherham doesn’t agree, but Didric insists that he will return for the book.

Rotherham befriends Fletcher, and later, they go out for drinks at the local tavern. Didric and another boy, Jakov, go to the tavern and pick a fight with Fletcher and Rotherham. Didrick and Jokov lose. Rotherham quickly leaves town and gives the handbook to Fletcher as a gift.

The next night, Fletcher goes to the graveyard for privacy and speaks the words from the handbook, not believing anything will happen. Only those of noble birth, and a small number of commoners, have the ability to summon demons: animals from another dimension with special abilities, who bond with their summoner and fight alongside them. To Fletcher’s shock, a small, wine colored demon, with the ability to breath fire and about the size of a ferret, appears.

The summoning weakens Fletcher, but he soon hears other people in the graveyard. The demon, which Fletcher later names Ignatius, wraps himself around Fletcher’s neck like a scarf, and they hide. Didric, who wants revenge after being embarrassed in the tavern, and two of his friends have followed Fletcher to the graveyard and are searching for him.

The three confront Fletcher with the intent to kill him. When they attack, Fletcher tries to fight them off but can’t. When Ignatius senses Fletcher’s panic, he breathes fire into Didric’s face. Fletcher runs home and tells Berdon what happened. Berdon packs food, money and weapons for Fletcher, and Fletcher must flee the town.

Fletcher hides in the woods and evades hunting parties searching for him. Ignatius keeps Fletcher warm by wrapping himself around the boy’s neck. The two form a close bond.

Fletcher eventually makes his way to Hominum’s capital, Corcillum, where Vocans Academy is located. Robbers attack Fletcher, but Arcturus, a battlemage in Hominum’s military and an instructor at Vocans, saves him. Arcturus sees Ignatius and decides to be Fletcher’s sponsor at Vocans, where summoners train to be battlemages.

At the academy, Fletcher meets other first year students, some who want to be friends and others who are determined to be enemies. The two students from noble families who treat commoners most poorly are Tarquin Forsyth and his sister Isadora Forsyth. Fletcher befriends Sylva, an aristocratic elven girl, and Othello, a dwarven summoner.

Both Sylva and Othello are the first of their race to attend Vocans, and other students shun them. Humans and elves are on the brink of war, and Sylva, a chieftain’s daughter, is a diplomat at Vocans. Her enrollment was a first step toward peace.

When they get a break from classes, Fletcher and Othello go into town. The local police harass them. Hominum society treats dwarves as lesser people, and police officers often harass male dwarfs when they see them in the street. After getting away from the police, Fletcher visits Othello’s home and meets his family, including Othello’s angry and rebellious identical twin brother, Atilla.

On the way back to school, Fletcher and Othello see an angry mob holding Sylva, getting ready to beat her to death. Sylva went into town with Tarquin and Isadora, who Sylva thought were her friends. The siblings abandoned her when angry locals approached them. They didn’t use their demons to defend her. Later, Sylva learns that the siblings, at the direction of their father, Lord Forsyth, planned her capture. Lord Forsyth wants to incite a war with the elves for his own financial gain. Fletcher and Othello use their demons to rescue Sylva, and the three students form a stronger friendship before returning to Vocans.

Arcturus meets with Fletcher and explains the rules the school must follow to recruit summoners to Vocans. Years ago, a nobleman, Lord Faversham, fathered several illegitimate children with mistresses and prostitutes. Many of the babies were left in orphanages. Arcturus was one of those children.

When Lady Faversham bore Lord Faversham a son, the boy was sent to Vocans when he came of age. On his way there, Arcturus, who was poor and starving, robbed him of his scroll and inadvertently summoned a demon that immediately bonded with Arcturus. When Lady Faversham found out about Arcturus’ parentage, her husband’s many infidelities and his illegitimate children, she petitioned the king to no longer allow recruitment from the orphanages, to avoid their family any further embarrassment.

Arcturus knows Fletcher is an orphan and believes him to be his brother and the illegitimate son of Lord Faversham. Fletcher is upset to find out who his father may be and the reason his mother may have so callously abandoned him naked in the snow when he was a newborn.

When a teacher is badly injured during a demonstration, another instructor, Rook, takes her place. After learning that Fletcher is an orphan, Rook accuses Arcturus of continuing the search for more orphan summoners. Rook develops a deep hatred of Fletcher and starts a rumor that Fletcher is claiming to be Lord Faversham’s son, which earns Fletcher the hatred of the Faversham family as well.

Rook shows great favor to the students of aristocratic blood and disdain toward commoners, dwarves and elves. He tests the students to see how powerful they are and then declares that only nobles will be allowed to catch new demons, giving those students a distinct advantage in an end-of-the-year tournament.

One night, Fletcher and Sylva see Othello sneaking out of school, and they follow him into the forest where they find a group of dwarves meeting in a cave to discuss launching a rebellion against the king. At first, Fletcher thinks Othello is a part of the rebellion. But Othello speaks out against such a plan, much to the disgust of his brother, Atilla. Fletcher also sees men in the forest and knows that the dwarves are about to be ambushed.

Lord Forsyth learned of the meeting and set a trap for the dwarves. If the dwarves are found in a group discussing rebellion, they will all be put to death. Fletcher warns the dwarves, and they escape, but Fletcher and Atilla are pursued and almost caught. Atilla is badly hurt and would have died without Fletcher’s help. Atilla grudgingly admits that not all humans are bad.

Since the school announced that students will compete in a tournament at the end of their first year instead of their second, as is customary, Fletcher and the other commoners must work very hard at skills the nobles have already perfected. Success in the tournament means better military commissions after graduation, and the winner gets a seat on the king’s council: a position with far reaching political and military influence.

Rook plans the tournament in a way that gives the nobles the advantage. Despite Rook’s scheming, Fletcher fights diligently and uses creativity and intelligence to get to the final round. Othello and Sylva perform very well too, winning their tournaments until close to the final round. Eventually, Fletcher and Tarquin are the last two contestants, and Fletcher wins the tournament.

Afterward, Fletcher, Othello and Sylva are badly injured but are still jubilant at their achievement. Before they get a chance to receive their commissions, Rook arrives with the police to arrest Fletcher. Out of hatred and spite, Rook has been investigating Fletcher and found out where he was from. Rook arrests Fletcher for the attempted murder of Didric and takes Fletcher back to Pelt.

Christian Beliefs

None

Other Belief Systems

The dwarves hold very different views on religion from the humans. If a dwarf male cuts his hair, it’s a sin; all dwarf adults must carry a weapon for protection; and all dwarf women must wear veils. Fletcher sees a vision of an ancient orc religious ceremony. Summoners and battlemages use pentacles to summon demons.

Authority Roles

Fletcher harbors a deep hatred for his unknown mother who abandoned him as a newborn baby and left him naked in the snow. Berdon is a loving adoptive father who is very supportive of Fletcher. At the Vocans Academy, Arcturus believes he is Fletcher’s older brother and gives him advice and support when he can. Arcturus is the illegitimate son of Lord Faversham, a nobleman, and a prostitute. His mother left him in an orphanage, and he grew up poor with no parents. Arcturus tells Fletcher that he believes they are brothers, with the same aristocratic, absent and uncaring father, who fathered several illegitimate children and cared for none of them. Tarquin and Isadora’s father, Lord Forsyth, is dishonest, cunning and calculating, and he encourages his children to behave in the same way. When a teacher is badly injured during a demonstration, another instructor, Rook, takes her place. Rook shows great favor to the students of aristocratic blood and disdain toward commoners, dwarves and elves.

Profanity/Violence

Profanity includes h--- and d--n. God’s name is used with d--n, knows and thank. Name-calling includes b—tard, race traitor, git and half-man (a derogatory word for dwarves).

Fletcher kills a deer in the woods and saws the antlers off with a knife. Didric and Jakov attack Fletcher and Rotherham in a tavern. Didric and his friends try to kill Fletcher, causing Ignatius to panic and spew fire into Didric’s face. Fletcher flees before knowing if Didric survives the burning. Men try to rob and kill Fletcher, but Arcturus and his demon, a large, dog-like creature, save him and kill the men.

Fletcher has a dream of the past. He sees an orc shaman conducting a religious ceremony. An elf is lashed to a crosspiece, beaten and bloodied with a large square of skin cut out of his back. The skin is used to make a summoning scroll. A united elven and human army attacks, and a bloody fight ensues.

Fletcher and Othello are manhandled by police officers, resulting in a cracked rib for Othello. Fletcher and Othello see Sylva bound, blindfolded and held by an angry mob. She is about to be bludgeoned to death. Using their demons, the boys fight through the crowd to rescue her. All three of them are injured during the fight. Fletcher and Sylva help dwarves escape an ambush by killing and maiming several men. Atilla is badly hurt in the fight.

The first round of the tournament involves demons, with the help of their summoners, battling each other. Several demons get hurt. Subsequent rounds have summoners fighting each other, and several are badly hurt. The Forsyths and the Favershams are tasked to put a protective spell around Fletcher so he can’t be physically harmed during a sword fight, but they only pretend to work the spell. Fletcher is cut several times. Sylva is carried out of the arena on a stretcher after her last fight. Fletcher loses consciousness after he beats Tarquin in the final battle. Blood and gore are depicted.

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Lord Faversham fathered several illegitimate children with mistresses and prostitutes. Dwarves marry for love, not lust, and the women remain veiled to their husbands until their wedding night.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Fletcher goes to a tavern, drinks alcohol and gets drunk.

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

15 and up

Genre

Fantasy

Author

Taran Matharu

Cast

Director

Distributor

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

Feiwel and Friends, a division of Macmillan

Released

On Video

Year Published

2015

Awards

Unknown

Reviewer

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

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