Today’s post marks the beginning of my playing catch-up with book reviews. As I mentioned yesterday, I finished three books over the holidays. All page turners, mind you, and I clocked a LOT of time at airports and on planes (including a 16-hour stint from my friend’s Manhattan apartment to JFK to LAX to home, whew!), so don’t be too impressed. For those of you who know me, however, I’m guessing “flabbergasted” is a more appropriate term. Prior to this whole reading/writing endeavor inspired by Mom, I hadn’t really read a book since college a few years ago.
Septimus Heap: Magyk
Author: Angie Sage
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Review: Ordinary Wizard Silas Heap and his wife Sarah are crushed when their seventh son is pronounced dead at birth, but the sudden, unexpected arrival of a newborn baby girl (whom the Heaps name Jenna) provides a new addition to their family to help fill the void. The arrival of Jenna's tenth birthday, however, brings with it the beginning of an epic story that sheds light on the Heap daughter's mysterious origin, sees a kingdom overtaken by an evil Necromancer, and reveals what really happened to Silas and Sarah’s last son.
From its opening sentences, Magyk is immediately recognizable as a book written for young readers. The language leans towards the conversational, and the terms and titles are simplified for an audience less familiar with fantasy jargon or English vocabulary that is too advanced or vague. The most powerful wizard, for example, has the title of “ExtraOrdinary Wizard.” Other official titles given to various characters are Hunter, Assassin, and Apprentice.
This is not to say that the book is particularly boring or lazy in its execution. The book is still a fun, flowing, lighthearted read, and the characters are endearing, if a bit lacking in real depth of personality. Of course, if Angie Sage is targeting the prepubescent crowd, she doesn’t necessarily need to employ a cast of characters who must come to grips with their own personal demons and moral ambivalence.
Still, I think weaving a bit more complexity into the plot and characters would have helped the book appeal to a wider (i.e., more mature) audience. I would have liked, in particular, to see more done on the part of foreshadowing and explaining certain aspects of Sage’s world and history. At times, she suddenly breaks into long expository sections to illuminate the background of an event or character, but some of that explanation could probably have been introduced earlier in the story to hint at things to come. (One very large example towards the end of the book comes to mind, but I will refrain from going into further detail. I have a “no spoilers” policy here.)
Overall, Magyk accomplishes its goal of engaging a young audience in an enchanting, yet accessible adventure, but from an adult’s perspective, the book lacks additional coloring that would appeal to the older crowd. As one of those "old fogies" by comparison, I doubt I will continue the series (5 books so far, at the time of this post) anytime soon.