A young orphan makes friends (and enemies) at a magic school in this solid series opener.
Fifteen-year-old Fletcher assists blacksmith Berdon, haggles with the town guards, and dodges bullies daily. The Hominum Empire is at war with elves in the north and orcs in the south, but Fletcher can do little to help...until he releases a demon bound to an orc scroll and proves himself a summoner. Fleeing a criminal sentence, Fletcher lands in cultural center Corcillum and, after another fortuitous intervention, arrives at Vocans Academy. Previously closed to females, commoners, and members of other species, Vocans now grudgingly accepts all adepts, to Fletcher’s delight and the noble students’ horror. In between rescuing friends from mobs and entangling himself in the dwarves’ rebellion, Fletcher attends class and trains his adorable but deadly Salamander demon. Plot, dialogue, and characters recall other school-set fantasies, but Fletcher is appealing precisely because of his Everyman qualities: he is not the smartest or the strongest, but he is a loyal friend and a fierce fighter against injustice. The detailed setting is a hodgepodge of arrows and ammunition, medieval and industrial, but the few anomalies do not impede the action. Debut author Matharu tackles class inequalities and racism (in the form of speciesism), mixes humor with violence, and plays with fantasy conventions, with varying success.
Fantasy readers should enjoy this entertaining, comfortably familiar-feeling adventure featuring an earnest soldier-schoolboy and his demonic sidekick. (Fantasy. 12-18)