Monday, December 11, 2006

Septimus Heap: Magyk - Angie Sage

Angie Sage's Magyk is the first book of a series about a young wizard called Septimus Heap, who is born the seventh son of a seventh son and apparently died shortly after birth. The very fact that the series is named after a supposedly dead character gives away the "secret" that he's not dead, only stolen away. And it feels as if the book went downhill from there onwards. Septimus is born to a family of Wizards and there was no telling what he might have become, since his lineage as a seventh son would have made him unbelievably Magykal. On the winter night when Septimus apparently died, his father, Silas, found another newborn child in the forest. He and his wife named her Jenna, and she grew up thinking that she was the daughter of Silas and Sarah Heap, and the sister of six older brothers - Simon, Sam, Edd and Erik the twins, Nicko, and Jo-Jo. It doesn't take Sarah Heap long to realise that Jenna is really the daughter of the murdered Queen.

Over the next ten years, Darknesse comes to the Castle and the Ramblings, the area where the Heaps live. The Supreme Custodian, along with his willing servants, ban Magyk and end the happiness the Queen's people knew before her death. As the Heap family attempts to ride out this time of Darknesse, the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand, learns of a plot to kill the Princess as she is the only Major Obstacle preventing DomDaniel, a terrible Necromancer, from returning to the Castle. Jenna, Nicko, Silas, the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Maxie (the Heaps' wolfhound) and a Young Army recruit known only as Boy 412 escape to the Marram Marshes, where they hope the Heaps' Aunt Zelda, a White Witch, will be able to keep them from harm. As DomDaniel does everything within his power to track down the girl standing between him and a ruling Darknesse, the Heap family have to do everything within their means to stop him - and at the same time stay alive.

So much for the plot. What really bothered me about the book was the number of similarities between this and the Harry Potter series. The Heaps are clearly poor relations to the Weasleys (Jenna even sounds a bit like Ginny, there are seven children in the family, including twin boys). It was quite obvious at a very early stage after his introduction that Boy 412 was really Septimus Heap, despite the red herring of DomDaniel's Apprentice claiming to be Septimus. Septimus discovers that he is Magykal (he also discovers a magical ring in a dark tunnel - shades of The Hobbit !), but cannot believe or accept it initially, and he even has green eyes. I won't bore you with a complete list of the similarities, but I can't help feeling there are too many for comfort.

The premise of this book is good - Sage has an interesting set up with the Magyk and the opposing Darknesse, and some of the characters are intriguing, although others are so one dimensional as to be mere ciphers.

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