I’m going to be the odd one out here and say that I prefer this series over Harry Potter.
Please, put down your pitchforks. I love Harry Potter. That’s why I can confidently say that I prefer this series. It’s a little less well-known than JK Rowling’s bespectacled wizard, and it takes place in a different time period entirely. Perhaps that’s why I like it so much; I’ve always been intrigued by the medieval period, and this puts us smack-dab in the center of it…albeit with a bit more witchery than was present in our own time period.
Magyk focuses on the story of the Heap family, who has seven sons. Unfortunately, the seventh one disappeared soon after he was born, declared dead by the midwife who assisted the birth, but Silas Heap, the father, found an abandoned baby in the forest that he brought home as a replacement. They told nobody Septimus died, pretending Jenna is their natural born daughter, because dangerous times have come to the Castle. Both the Queen and the ExtraOrdinary Wizard have been assassinated, and the newly-installed Supreme Custodian is running his dictatorship as far as he can take it.
This is a coming-of-age story, as all stories in this age group seem to be. The first Harry Potter book, for instance, tells of Harry’s rise to wizarding fame in a world he never knew about while living with the Dursleys. In a similar way, Magyk tells the tale of Jenna Heap, the secretly-adopted daughter of the Heap family, as she navigates her way through a strange and terrifying turn her life takes on her tenth birthday.
This journey takes Jenna, along with her brother Nicko, her father, the new ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia, and a recently-rescued Young Army boy soldier on a trip beyond the Castle walls to the Marram Marshes, to hide from those who are chasing them. It’s a cat-and-mouse game for quite a bit of the beginning and quite a bit of the end of the novel, with some everyday life (well, as close as it can get to “everyday” when you are trapped in a small cottage with a bunch of wizards) in-between.
All the magykal spells throughout the book are written in bold print and are spelled a bit differently, which sets the time period all the more clearly for me. (Don’t worry; all the characters still speak in modern English.)
The books have a great thickness to them, which is what I love. They’re long enough to curl up with for a day’s reading (or two days, or a week, however long it takes you to finish them!). The time period is well fleshed-out, and the characters are a hoot. There are plenty of “extras” in the back of the book as well, including correspondence from Boy 412 to Aunt Zelda, Aunt Zelda’s turnip pie recipe, a look at what happened to the characters in the book after the ending, and so on.
Best of all, this is only the first of a series of seven novels about the Heap family. You’re in for a long read-in, if you’re curious enough to pick up one of these books.
I give this book (and this series!) a strongly recommended rating of 4/5 stars. Yes, sometimes it’s a bit simple, because it’s written for middle-school students. (You shouldn’t let that be the deal-breaker, though, let me tell you. The later books are much more complicated.
There are some things that might not sit well with you, and some things happen a bit too fast for my liking, but overall, it’s a nicely-written story full of colorful and memorable characters. (Stanley the Message Rat comes to mind.) If you’re not a fan of the fantasy-magic-wizard genre, this one probably won’t change your mind, however.
Septimus Heap, the seventh son of the seventh son, disappears the night he is born, pronounced dead by the midwife. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across an abandoned child in the snow—a newborn girl with violet eyes. Who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to the Heaps’ beloved son Septimus?
The first book in this enthralling series by Angie Sage leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters and Magykal charms, potions, and spells. Magyk is the original story of lost and rediscovered identities, rich with humor and heart.
- Paperback: 608 pages
- Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
- Publication Date: March 14, 2006
- ISBN-13: 978-0060577339
Do yourself a favor and pick up Magyk (and then Flyte, Physik, Queste, etc.) today. If you’ve got an opinion on the book, please let me know. Do you agree with me, or am I way off the mark here?