Every Thursday, Nathan over at Fantasy Review Barn hosts a weekly party where blogs get to follow along with Diana Wynne Jones’ hilarious book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland: The Essential Guide to Fantasy Travel listing their favorite books with a particular fantasy trope. So sit back and enjoy the fun.
6th November, 2014 – NOVICES
Novice is a term in frequent use. There are not only Novice Priests and Priestesses and nuns: you will also encounter novice healers and bards, and sometimes also novice mages…Novices are always young, frequently skinny and undernourished, and clad in robes.
Okay, is there an easier list to make in fantasy literature than this one?
There has to be hundreds of coming-of-age stories with “Novices” in it, right?
Well, let us see what I could find in my voluminous reading list.
1. SCOURGE OF THE BETRAYER (BLOODSOUNDER’S ARC) by JEFF SALYARDS
In this epic fantasy tale, Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, takes a job as the chronicler for a band of Syldoon soldiers even though these warriors are known throughout the lands as baby eating savages, more likely to cut your throat than say a kind word to you. Arki, however, suspects that his employer’s reputation is surely exagerrated, and he choices to ignore it and view his new life as a grand adventure.
While Arki might not be a robed novice of traditional fantasy tales, he is definitely young, undernourished and something just as important: naive! A character flaw that his new employers are going to cure him of.
Buy Scourge of the Betrayer (Bloodsounder’s Arc Book 1) at Amazon.
Why pick just one novice when you can have three for the price of one?
And that is exactly what you get in this first book of Mr. Brett’s demon epic, because here the story shifts from one novice to another. Each distinct story focusing on the lives of one of our three, young survivors; their names being Arlen, Leesha, and Rojer. Each of these youths finds himself or herself cast adrift in this demon infested world due to circumstances, and each gravitates toward a particular occupation that they are skilled at, ultimately attaching themselves to masters and learning from the ground up as novices.
Buy The Warded Man: Book One of The Demon Cycle at Amazon.
3. THE HIGH DRUID’S BLADE (THE DEFENDERS OF SHANNARA #1) by TERRY BROOKS
Now, I know, I could have just as easily picked other Shannara novels for this List of Novices, but to me, this particular story is directly on point. Well, sort of.
Here young Paxon Leah, the descendant of more famous ancestors, is living an average life, minding his own business when suddenly WHAM! drama strikes his family, and along the way to trying to fix things, he discovers he has an unknown gift. A gift that takes him to meet with the Druids of Shannara.
Once among these mysterious mystics, Paxon is given a choice to leave behind his nice secure life and study as a novice to become something greater.
Buy The High Druid’s Blade: The Defenders of Shannara at Amazon.
Roland Deschain is on a quest to discover the Dark Tower. He is also the last gunslinger from his world — a world that has moved on. But those things do not keep Roland from gathering up novices to train as future gunslingers.
For those of you who haven’t read the series, I won’t spoil the fun by mentioning who these people are, but do allow me to say that throughout the first few books Stephen King introduces some unusual novices for Roland the Gunslinger. People who not only go on to become Deschain’s ka-tet and family but also grow into some of the most memorable characters anywhere in fantasy fiction.
A young teenager who enters into a strange world where he is trained and groomed to exhibit certain skills and abilities. Surrounding him while he does this is other teenager his own age, whom he competes with to attain certain status in their training camp until they are competent enough to go out into the world and perform specific tasks.
Damn, that sounds exactly like novices to me. What do you think?
You agree. Well that is good, because Percy is on my list.
Buy The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Book 1) at Amazon.
Poor Fitz is the bastard son of the noble Prince Chivalry. Usually, our young man could expect a fairly uneventful life as a commoner, who just happens to have a “royal” father, but Fitz has been blessed (or cursed, based upon your perspective) with the gift of magic. A gift that at least one persons sees as an asset that must not be squandered by the kingdom. Thus, Fitz winds up being trained as a future assassin. His bad luck.
Can’t say I loved this book when I read it years ago, but Fitz was definitely a different type of novice to follow along behind.
Buy Assassin’s Apprentice: The Farseer Trilogy Book 1 at Amazon.
In a world ruled by the Lords of Order, the dark-haired bastard boy Tarod grows up. An outcast to friends and family alike he ultimately winds up at The Star Peninisula, an ancient land magically cut off from the rest of the continent. Once there Tarod is tested, taken in as an Initiate by a group acolytes devoted to the Order god called Aeoris and known only as The Circle, and begins his training in the magical arts.
Yeap, Tarod is a novice. Don’t let the fancy term “initiate” fool you. He is a young nobody who is being trained up in the right way to do things. Of course, things don’t exactly turn out the way the Circle think they will with Tarod, but you’ll just have to read the book to find out how they do turn out.
Buy The Initiate (Time Master Trilogy, Book 1) at Amazon.
Funny, but this book begins with Mara (the main character) being a novice in a temple. However, due to the political machinations of a rival house in Kelewan, she is called home after the death of her father and brother. This leaves young Mara as the Ruling Lady of the Acoma, tasked with saving her house from total destruction!
To me, there are all kinds of novices, and Mara is a great example of the young novice ruler, thrust into the role without any chance to be taught the job and having to learn her skills as she goes. And for those reasons (plus it is just a great story) Mara has to be on any novice list.
The young, scrawny kid who no one wants to pick for their team. The boy who all the girls basically ignore, because he isn’t tall, muscular, and athletic like his friends. But this kid has a secret talent that will one day make him the most powerful person in . . . another world.
That description fits our hero Pug to a tee, and his journey from forgotten nerd to all-powerful sorcerer is what this book is ultimately portraying. But ever wizard starts out as a novice, and so does Pug in this classic fantasy tale.
Buy Magician (Riftwar Saga) at Amazon.
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