The release of Fyre, the seventh and final book of the Septimus Heap series last Tuesday, means that now is the perfect time to introduce any young readers of fantasy in your life to what I think is just about the most satisfying series of the past decade (right up there with Harry Potter and Percy Jackson).
Magyk, the first in the series (HarperCollins, 2005). Here's how I sold it to him--boy with magical abilities finds dragon egg. Here's what I didn't say--the boy doesn't know it's a dragon egg, and it doesn't hatch till book 2. But I was pretty confident that once he got started, he'd be hooked.
Indeed, he was. He read with an all-consuming emotional commitment, and I wish Angie Sage could have stopped by our house to hear the stream of exclamations, questions, excited comments, predictions, gasps, etc. coming from the comfy chair in our living room. In all sincerity, I truly do not think any author could ask for a better reaction to their book.
Less than a week later, he has almost finished the fourth book (the fact that is was spring break helped). Listening to his questions and remarks (he wanted me to stay in the same room, so as to facilitate this social aspect of his reading enjoyment) made it clear to me that my memory of the early books has gotten fuzzy, so I've started a re-read of the series myself in anticipation of Fyre.
Magyk is, in a nutshell, the story of how brave kids, with the help of useful adults, defeat a dark wizard. As the story begins, young Septimus Heap, seventh son of seventh son, born to a happy, though not wealthy, family of magic users living in the shadow of a magic filled castle. Septimus is pronounced dead by the midwife...but that very day his father finds a baby girl left outside in the snow, and little Jenna becomes the Heap families daughter. Fast forward ten years. An evil wizard, thought to be dead, but clearly not, returns to try to reclaim the castle. Jenna and the Heap family flee with the help of Marcia, the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. A boy, Boy 412, from the sinister Young Army (sort of a Soviet Youth training horror) finds himself reluctantly fleeing with them (he doesn't yet grasp that he is being saved).
Moving right along in a bald summary that doesn't do justice to the story--bad wizard wants Jenna (she is the missing princess), and sends sinister forces against the refugees. The boy from the Young Army turns out to have great magical gifts. The adults do what they can, but things go wrong. Jenna, Boy 412, and the next oldest Heap son save the day with the help of an ancient, living, dragon boat.
That's the plot in a nutshell, but what makes this book so very fun to read is the zest with which Angie Sage has packed it with Magyk (highlighted thus in the text). Magical creatures abound, there are lots of charms and potions and just plain old fun with magic. And it is packed with characters too--although Sage wisely moves a whole chunk of Heap brothers off-stage, there are more than enough people busily engaged in fending off danger to keep things humming.
I really enjoyed it this second time through. As for my son, he thinks these books are just about the best he has ever read, and plans to book-talk them up a storm to his wide circle of reading friends on Monday. For the younger reader in particular, who still reads with the wide-eyed wonder of the not-yet-cynical, this is great stuff.