by Jerry Wright
Author: Angie Sage
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
A Division of HarperCollins Publishers
Hardcover: 564 pages
Shades of Harry Potter and Dianna Wynn Jones... This improbably sized book (it is about the height and width of a standard mass-market paperback, but thick... Thick. 564 pages thick) has on the cover SEPTIMUS HEAP BOOK ONE and of course titled Magyk
Of course, the only similarity to the Potter books is that it is written for a younger audience, and it is a fantasy about wizards. No wizarding school here, however. Well, there used to be, but it was shut down by an evil wizard. Who killed the Queen. And the ExtraOrdinary Wizard.
But let us start at the beginning, with midwife running out with newborn Septimus Heap (seventh son of a seventh son) crying "Dead! Dead!" And Silas, the baby's father, finding a baby girl in the snow as he's coming home, and handing her to his distraught wife. And shortly finding out that the Queen has been killed by the evil DomDaniel, and the "Queenling" baby is missing.
Of course, the baby Jenna, who grows to girlhood in the Heap family, is the missing Queen. And the evil wizard DomDaniel actually had the midwife kidnap Septimus to be HIS apprentice. But questions aplenty appear. Who is this frozen child-soldier "Boy 412" that stumbles into the care of the Heap family? Why does Aunt Zelda stay out in marshes, a pretty unpleasant place? Will they be able to rescue DomDaniel's Apprentice, and will they want him after they do? And of course, what happens when DomDaniel discovers that the young queen is still alive?
Angie Sage has written several children's books before she wrote Magyk and it shows. The story staggers along for the first few chapters. But after Sage finds her voice, the story takes off at a headlong pace. The multitude of characters are well drawn, and the point of view for the reader jumps between many characters. Perhaps the weakest point of this book is that there is really no primary character. Yes, it says that it is about "Septimus Heap", which makes it interesting since as far as the Heap family is concerned, he died at the beginning of the book.
This little problem however is just one for the first book, and only because Angie Sage is being tricksy. I imagine in the second book, we'll see the POV from Septimus primarily, and secondarily from Queen Jenna. I imagine.
It is a fun story, and not one to give children nightmares, even when the evil guys get their comeuppance. There are enough secrets, hidden identities, and problems that the average reader will have a good time. Some things I found curious. The various spells and such were printed in a different font than the rest of the book. Fine. But why when they talked about DomDaniel the author used the term "The Necromancer" in the weird "magyk" font. Is he a spell? Oh well.
All in all, a very nice read from Angie Sage, and excellent illustrations from Mark Zug.
Copyright © 2005 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories