The fifth book of the "Septimus Heap" series carries on the adventures of apprentice wizard Sep, princess Jenna, ex-manuscriptorium scribe Beetle, and their growing circle of sidekicks in the same wacky, wild, magically dangerous spirit as the previous four books. By now Septimus has survived his Queste, tamed his dragon, and rescued his brother Nicko from a time-travel-related exile. He has just been promoted to the rank of Senior Apprentice. Now all he has to do is fly his scaly friend Spit Fyre across the sea and bring back Jenna, Nicko, Beetle, and company. But his plans go awry when his passengers meet up with Jenna's merchant captain father first.
The party then splits up. Sep and his group fly on dragonback into a storm in which an unfortunate thunderbolt leaves them marooned on an island. Nicko, meanwhile, stays on board Milo Banda's ship, along with his girlfriend Snorri and her feline familiar. They end up lured onto a sandbar off the very same island—lured by a crew of wreckers who have evil plans for Milo's precious cargo. The wreckers' villainy includes the theft of an ancient beacon light, the attempted murder of the strangely feline fellow who guards it, a bargain with an evil ghost, a spirit whose song lures sailors to their doom, and a tunnel under the sea that could prove the fatal weakness of the Castle that Sep and his friends call home.
Meanwhile, Sep's old Young Army buddy, now known as Wolf Boy for reasons I haven't room here to explain, is on a sort of quest himself. If he completes his task, he may become the next White Witch of the Marram Marshes, succeeding Sep's quirky, cabbage-pushing Aunt Zelda. But before Wolf Boy can safely escape the den of the Port Witches' Coven with the required piece of magical ickiness, his task gets tangled up in the fate of Lucy Gringe, fiancee to Sep's ne'er-do-well brother Simon. The two of them end up having an adventure of their own, partly in an underwater craft that raises questions about exactly when and where this fantasy world is located. After all, "the Small Wet Country Across the Sea" isn't a very specific place name, is it? Hmmm.
And then, of course, there is a possessed girl from five hundred years in the past, and a self-steering sled that answers to a high-pitched whistle, and a cat that changes form every time the sun rises or sets, and a naughty wizard wannabe who intercepts a Jinn meant for someone else, and a pair of evil twins who resemble the number 10 when viewed in profile, side by side. There are spells that have to be said backward, and warriors with weapons growing out of their arms, and a ceramic gnome that magically drips water out of his spout, and an absolutely scandalous amount of FizzFroot and Banana Bears to tempt readers who have a sweet tooth. By the end of the tale, Sep and his ilk have faced down as great a danger as ever, making you wonder why some people are always having great adventures like this, and leaving behind an even larger cast of odd, weird, and funny characters whom we can expect to see in the next book. To be sure, there will always be a next book, as long as there are more words to be cunningly misspelled in the title. The next one in this series, for example, is titled Darke; a seventh book, Fyre, is due to be released in April 2013. Also, a novella called The Darke Toad, part of the Septimus Heap canon but not of the sequentially numbered series, is expected in February 2013.
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Recommended Age: 12+
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Tut, tut - hardly any of you remembered that my favorite color is lilac. I say so in Year with the Yeti.
Gilderoy Lockhard Chamber of Secrets
So many fans visit King's Cross station to take pictures of platforms 9 and 10 that the station management erected a sign that says 'Platform 9 3/4 which, in the Potter books, is invisible to Muggles but acts as a gateway for witches and wizards.