Submitted Date 06/26/2020

JK Rowling was not the first author to imagine witches and wizards, but she's the best selling one. Long after the height of the Harry Potter craze, you can still find back covers of books that claim to be "the next Harry Potter." Most of them don't deliver on that promise, but if I read every wizarding-school-themed book to come out in the past thirteen years (since The Deathly Hallows was released), it would take me another thirteen years. That's not to say none of them aren't worth reading. I suspect the book cover claims are largely the idea of the publishers instead of the authors. Case in point: the words, "Heads up, Harry, there's a new young wizard on his way up." appear on the cover of Magyk by Angie Sage. But Septimus Heap - the protagonist in this series of books - is no Harry Potter. In fact, I think it's hardly fair to compare the two. I am very much a Harry Potter fan, but that's not why I say the two aren't comparable. Septimus and the world that Sage has created are entirely their own. They bear no resemblance to Rowling's books. They're apples and oranges.

In this first book in the Septimus Heap series - there are seven books, and a spinoff series of three - we are introduced to a family of wizards in a world where Magyk is perfectly normal. In fact, the kingdom is run not just by a queen, but by an ExtraOrdinary Wizard who lives in a high tower at the center of the kingdom. Marcia, the new ExtraOrdinary Wizard, has her hands full since the queen was murdered and the infant princess vanished. A family of wizards who live in a crowded, shabby part of town called The Ramblings have just welcomed their seventh child, a son, to the world. The Heaps, headed by Silas and Sarah Heap, unexpectedly welcome an eighth child to their family that same night; a girl, discovered by the roadside. As Silas brings the small bundle home, wondering how he'll convince Sarah to care for the stranger, he's nearly bowled over by the midwife, leaving his house in a rush. His new son has been proclaimed dead.

Such is the start of the story. The pages that follow include an interesting cast of characters, ghosts, a boggart, a dragon boat, a Message Rat, and a fair bit of Darknesse. We aren't properly introduced to the series' namesake until near the end of the book, but it's not difficult to see that part coming. A lot of this book is relatively easy to predict, probably because it's aimed at a younger audience, but there are still plenty of surprises. The system of Magyk is an interesting one. Wizards are born wizards, but then must learn their spells. Instead of a school, they acquire apprenticeships, and becoming an apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard is a high accomplishment indeed. Magyk is, of course, found in books where one can also find Charms and potions recipes.

At first, I expected Silas Heap to be the book's main protagonist, but he turns out to be an ordinary Ordinary Wizard. He's a little clueless, to be honest. Sarah doesn't play a major role either. Marcia has a large part to play, but she's hardly the most agreeable woman. It took a while for her to grow on me. In fact, for most of the book, I didn't care much for any of the characters aside from Stanley, the Message Rat and he doesn't come in until the book is half over. Why, then, did I keep reading? Well, I hardly ever give up on a book. Just like a movie, once I start it, I feel committed to seeing it through before I pass judgment. Magyk was a quick read. Despite being 608 pages long, the story flew by like a book half as long. When I was finished, I set the book down feeling meh about it. But then, in the days and weeks that followed, I kept going back to the story mentally. It surprised me. I kept expecting things to happen one way, prematurely disappointed by the novel's predictability, only to find that the plot lead in another direction.

After a few weeks, I found myself ordering the second in the series, Flyte. That's what I'm reading now. These books are like potato chips; not literature at its most nourishing, but almost too easy to devour.

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