by Angie Sage
Book Four of the Septimus Heap series finds Princess Jenna, wizard's apprentice Septimus, and family patriarch Silas Heap all torn up about the disappearance of Sep's brother Nicko through a portal in time. Silas has resolved to go out searching for Nicko, and not to return until he is found. Sep, meanwhile, enlists the aid of a centuries-old alchemist, a rat-man who restores and preserves documents, and a friendly manuscriptorium clerk in the hope that a long-forgotten map will lead them to Nicko.
Meanwhile, an old enemy has recruited a Darke Thing in a bid to darken Sep's destiny. An evil ghost joins the plot to force Septimus to go on the Queste that has claimed the lives of twenty apprentices before him. Originally meant as a reward, the Queste has become a curse as every apprentice who has gone on it was lost forever. And now, even though Sep is only in the third of his seven years of study, he is supposed to face a peril that has befallen fully-trained wizards until now.
Septimus takes the better part of valor, running away with Jenna and his friend Beetle. He has a quest of his own, after all: a quest for the House of Foryx, a place where All Times Do Meet. For only there can they hope to bring Nicko and his friend Snorri back from their exile in the distant past. But this quest and the deadly Queste converge into a single adventure filled with magic, betrayal, and danger.
Here is another opportunity to bring more young fantasy fans into Septimus Heap's remarkable world. It is a world of wizards, witches, dragons, ghosts, and shape-changing cats. A world where a single doorway can lead from one forest near the Castle to another one thousands of miles away. A world where a fortress surrounded by a bottomless pit has its door answered by a hunchback who talks with a lisp, where a family's heartbreak over their ne'er-do-well eldest son (Simon Heap) seems to have no remedy, and where the apprentice to the 776th Extra-Ordinary Wizard gets to hold a conversation with the very first one.
I'm not sure where the overall shape of this series is leading. Sometimes I have doubts about its author's sense of structure - particularly at the end of each book, where she attaches a series of vignettes that unfortunately didn't work their way into the main body of the book. It's sort of like a "deleted scenes" reel at the end of a movie, except that in a book it seems more like a hasty regathering of dropped threads than a hint of what might have been. Still and all, I liked the camaraderie of the main characters, the swift pacing of the story, the complex interweaving of quirky fantasy concepts, the warmth and humor that glowed throughout. So I do plan to read the upcoming fifth book in the series, titled Syren.
St. Louis, USA
Recommended Age: 12+
If you would like to contact Robbie, you may do so here.