Magyk is written by Angie Sage. It was published in 2005 by Katherine Tegen Books. It is the first book in the Septimus Heap series. Sage’s website can be found here and the Septimus Heap fansite can be found here.
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
“The seventh son of the seventh son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a newborn girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?
“Marcia left the breakfast things to wash themselves up and strode briskly out of the heavy purple door that led to her rooms. The door closed with a soft, respectful clunk behind her as Marcia jumped onto the silver spiral staircase.
“Down,” she told the staircase. It began to turn like a giant corkscrew, taking her slowly down through the tall Tower, past seemingly endless floors and various doors that all led into rooms occupied by an amazing assortment of Wizards. From the rooms came the sounds of spells being practiced, chanted incantations, and general Wizard chitchat over breakfast. The smells of toast and bacon and porridge mixed strangely with the wafts of incense that floated up from the Hall below, and as the spiral stairs came gently to a halt, Marcia stepped off feeling slightly queasy and looking forward to getting out into the fresh air. She walked briskly through the Hall to the massive, solid silver doors that guarded the entrance to the Wizard Tower. Marcia spoke the password, the doors silently swung open for her, and in a moment she was through the silver archway and outside into the bitter cold of a snowy midwinter morning.”
“Boy 412 gazed at the ring in delight, seeing his find for the first time. It was like no ring he had ever seen before. Curled around his finger was a gold dragon, its tail clasped in its mouth. Its emerald-green eyes glinted at him, and Boy 412 had the strangest feeling of being looked at by the dragon itself. Excited, he stood up, holding his right hand out in front of him with his very own ring, his dragon ring, now glowing as brightly as if it were a lantern.”
Recommended Age Range: 10+
What I Liked:
Despite the fact that this book is more middle-grade than YA, I really enjoyed it. It was funny, inventive, and charming. The magic system is generally nothing new, but it has new qualities to it, new ways of thinking and of exacting the magic. The villain, while being a comic villain, can be quite villainous.
I also liked the fact that, although this is only Book One, it can read as a stand-alone novel. It doesn’t end with a cliffhanger, there are no visible, gaping plot threads to be wrapped up, and there are no immediate questions to be answered. Instead, what’s left is more excitement, anticipation, and eagerness to read the second book, instead of the sometimes frustration and annoyance that can accompany a cliffhanger ending, etc.
It’s also extremely obvious what happened to Septimus, although Sage does throw in a red herring. The moment we are first introduced to him I knew who he really was. It may keep younger readers in the dark, but definitely not older ones.
What I Didn’t Like:
Nothing. It is for a younger audience than the books that I usually read, but I still had fun reading it and I am of the crowd that believes that some books are timeless.
Magyk is a good middle grade fantasy that has enticing characters, an interesting setting, and a magic system that is just really fun to read about (helped by the bold type every time it’s mentioned: Magyk, Thunderflash, One-Minute Dry Cleaning Spell). It lacks the plot intricacies of other fantasy novels, but it has charm and is overall quite magykal.
Coming Up Next: The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine