SandRider, by Angie Sage (HarperCollins, Oct. 2015), is the second book in the Todhunter Moon series, a spin off of the Septimus Heap books. If you loved spending pages of lovely rich time with Septimus, you will love these two newer books. And there's no reason not to start with Septimus, so the question of whether Sandrider can stand alone is somewhat moot.
Sandrider is the story about the good guys, Septimus, and Tod (she prefers "Tod" to her given name of "Alice"), and associated friends and family, racing to find out where a magical dragon egg, kidnapped by a bad magician, is being hidden so that they can keep the bad magician from bonding to the dragon when it hatches. It is a story of deserts, and sled rides through snow woods, people trying to find home and trying to be comfy in the homes they have, and friends and family and all sorts of Magyks.
As a fan of both series-es, I loved reading it...I trust Angie Sage to bring me through safely to the other side of the tense bits, and I am so fond of all the characters, old and new, that is a treat to spend time with them. There are lots of descriptions of magic, and magical places and people, and a huge cast of characters, and I can see how it wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea--it is a bit like eating nutella straight from the jar. Which I like to do from time to time, so there you are.
So if you are looking for really tight plots with no little paths down the arcs of characters you aren't sure you remember, or if you are looking for deeply powerful emotional punches (as opposed to emotional friendly slaps on the back), this won't be quite what you want. But it works nicely for me. And I find the books themselves, with their comforting heft, attractive covers, and pleasing pencil illustrations, add to the friendliness of it all. And oh goody! The third Todhunter book, StarCatcher, is finished and will be out next October.
Short answer: if you are shopping for a nine or ten year old, boy or girl, who loves fantasy, get them the first Septimus book, Magyk. There is some scarinesss, and some violence, but it rarely comes to any sort of bloody final conclusion. And then they will be set for a nice long while as they work through the series....
disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher for Cybils Award consideration.