Magyk by Angie Sage This is LB’s current favorite series – alas, poor Magic Tree House! Magyk is the first book in the Septimus Heap series, which immediately makes the listener (or reader) somewhat suspicious, as Septimus Heap, the seventh son of a seventh son, dies in the introduction. His father is Silas Heap, an Ordinary Wizard in the castle, and as Septimus is born, the Queen and the ExtraOrdinary Wizard are both assassinated. As Silas is wandering in the woods looking for the herbs that the midwife has said that his wife Sarah needs to help with the childbirth, he finds a baby, wrapped in a blanket under a tree. And as the midwife rushes away with their Septimus, Silas and Sarah adopt the new baby, Jenna, and raise her as their own. All this (much simplified on my part), from the introduction. Fast forward ten years, to Jenna’s tenth birthday. The current ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand, as well as the kindly ghost of the former ExtraOrdinary Wizard, come to tell Jenna that she is in fact the Princess. Her hiding place has been discovered (helped by her being a violet-eyed, dark-eyed girl in a house full of green-eyed blonds.) The Supreme Custodian, who arranged for Jenna’s mother to be dispatched, is sending the Hunter for Jenna. Now, Jenna, next-oldest Nicko, father Silas, Marcia Overstrand, and a refugee from the Young Army, Boy 412, along with the Heap family dog, are on the run. Will Jenna escape? And who is Boy 412?
The book is set in a fantasy world that oddly combines the modern and the medieval. The city is the Castle, and the royal residence within the Castle is the Palace – this feels more authentically medieval than many fantasy books. Everyone dresses in tunics, often color-coded by job, also medieval-feeling. The Heap family lives in the neighborhood of small apartments known as the Rambling, which feels more modern, as does the school that the children attend. The language is also quite modern, and later books travel back in time to a period that feels more medieval yet. One of the things that I’m loving about the series is the number of minor characters and details that show up as color in one book and then later turn out to be significant. Not surprisingly for a book about the magic of a seventh son of a seventh son, the series is projected to have seven books, though as of this writing, only five have been published. Each book seems to have its own goal, however, without the overarching plot that one comes to expect of fantasy series, especially those that start out by announcing the number of books in the series. That’s not necessarily bad – it certainly makes for less pressure when listening to the series with a six-year-old, as I am. And I could be wrong – Sage could be pulling something stealthy on me. There is some death (though most of the dead come back as ghosts), and some fairly scary villains. No worse than early Harry Potter, though, and nothing that has bothered the boy. At any rate, this is proving satisfying listening for both parent and child. A question for another day is why I’m choosing to start LB on modern fantasy like this and Inkheart rather than the fantasy classics I was raised on.