Magyk is the first of the Septimus Heap series, which I found through an article on the Guardian Unlimited Film site titled ‘Harry Potter meets his match in Septimus Heap.’ I did my preferred method of research, head on over to the page and try and read an extract (I also found extracts from all three of the books so far on the official site — the green stars on the left are links). Anyway, what I read was good enough for me to add it to my next order from a certain online book store.

I finished it a couple of days ago and it was very good. It’s not a replacement for Harry Potter, it takes place in a made up universe, massively different to our own and closer to medieval in age and outlook, but it’s wildly inventive, very funny and a great story. You don’t see too much of DomDaniel, the villain, but from the extracts I have read of the next books, he’ll be a recurring source of evil. There are a number of other characters and, strangely, the one for whom the series is named, is far from first on the scene, or the constant centre of attention.

Sage plays about with some of the more common notions of well-worn themes such as magic (called magyk), witches, wizards and other mythological entities like dragons and boggarts. This all makes for a nice change, and she has obviously spent a lot of time filling out her world, figuring out how it functions and how it all connects together, it’s not often you see a rubbish dump in a fantasy (or any fictional) book.

Trying not to give too much away (you may wish to skip the paragraph if you don’t want spoilers), the story centres around the death of the Queen, after childbirth. Her daughter, the new ruler of the Castle, was about to be executed too, when a quick thinking wizard and witch smuggler her out and arrange for Silas Heap to find her. She is raised in secret, as one of the Heap’s own children. Their son, Septimus, the seventh son of a seventh son, supposedly endowed with supreme magical power, who was born around the same time as the princess, dies, or appears to, but is actually given a sleeping potion by the matron and smuggled out as DomDaniel has ordered his kidnapping so he can have a powerful apprentice. The matron’s son and Septimus get switched in the Young Army orphanage and Septimus becomes a YA runt, Boy 412. After the Queen was killed the commander of the army becomes the supreme ruler, but he’s only a puppet for DomDaniel who will return to re-take the position of ExtraOrdinary Wizard, the top wizard in the land and try and kill the princess so he can gain control. There’s some good strong female characters in there, plenty of odd ones too, some novel twists on tired concepts and plenty of funny lines and situations.

(Spoilers here too, skip to next paragraph) I found some of the points a little too convenient, some of the get-outs and actions too easy, and I’m not sure if I knew who Boy 412 was before the end because I did know, or because it was pretty obvious. I didn’t find DomDaniel a particularly menacing or scary main villain, the Hunter was far worse.

Overall it was a great yarn, lots of setting up, as is needed in all first novels, but the rest of the series looks set to be good. There’s supposed to be seven books in the series (just like some other franchise I know) and Warner Bros., the people behind the HP films, have acquired the movie rights, hoping, no doubt, it’ll be as big a hit. Go read it if you’re a fan of action and fantasy.

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Reviewed: 16th August 2007

Recommended: Yes