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Magyk: Septimus Heap, Book One    by Angie Sage order for
by Angie Sage
Order:  USA  Can
Katherine Tegen, 2005 (2005)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Septimus Heap is that powerfully magical combination, the seventh son of a seventh son. Unfortunately, when Silas Heap returns home with an infant he's found in the forest, his wife Sarah tells him 'Septimus is dead, and she's taken him away', she being a Matron Midwife. The Heaps live in the Ramblings, along the riverside of a (somewhat medieval) Castle town, run by Magyk. Silas Heap is an 'Ordinary Wizard' with six sons and, now, an adopted baby daughter, Jenna, whom purple-pointed-snakeskin-shoed ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia exhorts him to pretend is his own. You see, it seems that the Queen was assassinated (right after her baby's birth). The Castle was taken over by nasty Custodian Guards ruled by the Supreme Custodian. He's taking orders from banished Wizard DomDaniel, who turned to the Darkenesse.

On Jenna's tenth birthday, spies discover that she doesn't resemble the other Heaps, and suspect she's the Queenling. An Assassin is dispatched. Luckily, the Heaps have allies - both ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia and the previous holder of the title, Alther Mella, who was killed with the Queen, and is now a very busy ghost (though limited to places he visited during his life). He wakes Marcia, who heads to the Ramblings, tells Jenna that she's the Princess and flees with her to the Wizard Tower, picking up along the way a frozen Young Army sentry, Boy 412. They're joined by Silas, his son Nicko, and wolf-hound Maxie, an Assassin close on their heels. There's a thrilling (but rather sticky) ride down a smelly rubbish chute. They escape by boat, pursued by the evil Hunter and his cohorts, including DomDaniel's remarkably un-Magykal Apprentice.

Helped by a Boggart, they take refuge with Aunt Zelda in Keeper's cottage on an island deep in the Marram Marshes. In a tunnel, Boy 412 finds a magical gold dragon ring, but keeps it secret, and slowly begins to trust his captors. There's a remarkable talking Message Rat, who brings word from Sarah Heap. DomDaniel sets a trap and discovers where the Princess is. Keeper's cottage is soon under siege, but those inside it are resourceful, and it has hidden surprises of its own, linked to the dragon ring. With ghostly help, Jenna, Nicko and Boy 412 are involved in a crescendo of action as a magical storm rages. As the story ends, Marcia has a new Apprentice and finds out what the Matron Midwife did with the bundle that was Septimus Heap ten years before.

Although the inevitable comparisons with Harry Potter have been made, I found the whimsical style of Septimus Heap much closer to Terry Pratchett's (younger) Discworld stories. Like them, the delight is in the details (such as Marcia's purple python shoes and the Hunter's fate in Fishhead and Durdle's Travelling Circus and Menagerie), which have appeal for both young and old. This first episode, Magyk, whose chapters are introduced by charming black and white sketches, entranced me and I can't wait for Book Two.

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