This is the fifth of a seven-book fantasy–adventure series featuring Septimus Heap by English author Angie Sage. I haven’t read any other books in the series before, and this was a chance find on the shop-soiled table in my neighbourhood bookshop. What attracted me to the book was the cover, and its somewhat different shape—it’s nearly but not quite a square. I loved the cover art—and the others in the series (one set of covers, in particular) are equally pretty.
Septimus Heap is the seventh son of a seventh son, and so as folklore tells us, he has magykal powers. He is apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand with whom he must serve an apprenticeship of seven years and seven days.
The books starts out with two parallel storylines. On the one side we have Septimus Heap who is setting out to fetch his friends Jenna and Beetle, and his brother Nicco, and Snorri (who I think is Nicco’s girlfriend, though I’m not very sure) from the trading post where they have stopped after their previous adventure. Jenna and the others have in the meantime met her father Milo Banda and his ship the Cerys, and have gone on board. Septimus sets off on his dragon Spit Fyre, and on the way back (only Jenna and Beetle have accompanied him), Spit Fyre is injured and they are forced to land on an island where everything is not quite as peaceful and calm as it seems on the surface—there is something amiss in the background. The Island belongs to the Syren, and she is luring more than one person there, though at this point it is unclear why. Meanwhile Wolf Boy is sent by Aunt Zelda to the Port Witch Coven to perform an unpleasant and dangerous task, which he doesn’t know is the first step to being her apprentice. At the Coven he finds Lucy Gringe (girlfriend of Septimus’ other brother Simon) has been captured by the Witches. He helps her escape but in getting away they end up aboard a ship, the Marauder captained by the shady Captain Frye, which is setting off on a mission to steal the light from Cattrokk Lighthouse, with a nefarious purpose. Both events end up related to a dangerous plot, and the rest of this about 630-page adventure relates how Septimus and his friends tackle the situation.
I really enjoyed this one despite the obvious drawback of reading a book from this late on in a series. This did mean that I wasn’t quite sure who was who, their backgrounds, what adventures they’d had in the past, how the magyk and such worked, among other things—and not all of those questions cleared up by the time I reached the end either. But the plot itself I thought was very well done—I liked how the author tied all the different plot threads together to create an exciting adventure. I only picked up some clues of what was going on, but didn’t entirely see how the different lines would come together, and what they were leading to. I also very enjoyed the world the author has created—there’s a map of the actual world―but I also meant the other elements—the magyk, alchemy, dragons, and jinnees—as other reviewers have said, not as dark as Harry Potter’s world but very imaginative all the same—there’s the magic of course, and also the legends, and even games (at least one in this one). And speaking of Harry Potter, while there were things one could compare, I liked that this one didn’t have its protagonists on in the Harry–Ron–Hermione as many fantasy series/books following Potter have done. Not that there’s anything wrong with that but it’s nice to see something different too. I liked many of the characters, Septimus himself, the Wolf Boy, Beetle, and Mr Miarr. But while the ExtraOrdinary Wizard may have been female, two of the girls in this, Lucy with her tendency to scream all the time, irrespective of the occasion, and Jenna who seems to rely on her emotions/heart more than her head didn’t come across too well, especially the latter. Syrah on the other hand I liked much better, and a part of her story was very well done—pretty scary when one thinks about it. I also loved Spit Fyre the dragon and Jim Knee (you’ll know who that is when you read the book).
This was a really fun read for me, and I definitely want to read more of the series. Of course, I can’t end this review without writing about the illustrations which I really liked very very much. Those of the characters of course, but my favourite was that of the ship the Cerys, which I though was really beautiful—all her sails and details stood out very well.