Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Magyk by Angie Sage

The very large Heap family is just about to celebrate the birth of Septimus, the seventh son of a seventh son, when Silas, the patriarch of the Heap family, must go out into to fetch some herbs for his wife Sarah. Little does he know that tonight is the night that everything will change. His old mentor and his queen are murdered and the baby princess goes missing. The kingdom is now under the dominion of the Supreme Custodian who makes life miserable for everyone. As he returns he across a baby girl with bright violet eyes. He rescues the baby only to return home to discover that his son is dead, with quick thinking Silas and Sarah replace their son with the baby girl and name her Jenna. On Jenna's eleventh birthday it is discovered that she is the missing princess, and must be protected from the horrible Supreme Custodian and his horrifically horrible boss DomDaniel. As Jenna runs for her life, and the Heaps go into hiding, they stumble upon more mysteries as the take a lowly army underling under their wing, Boy 412. Of course, nothing is as it seems and they must figure out the secrets of the past in order to save their future.

I got this on audiobook, and I have to admit that I went into this with high hopes. I had heard nothing but positive things about Angie Sage's books and I was really looking forward to the interpretation of the reader Allan Corduner. Perhaps I should not have allowed my hopes to get so high.
I'm not if I didn't like the book because of the writing or because of the Corduner's reading. Perhaps an amalgamation of the two. Perhaps I compared it too much to the Harry Potter audiobooks (which are beyond amazing if you haven't listened to them). I just ended up finding the entire experience lacking and ended labeling it the poor man's Harry Potter.

I kind of liked the world building that Angie Sage has done, but it felt that she tried to straddle the line between high fantasy and contemporary fantasy too much. She has the wonderful social system, but tends to not give it enough background to make it feel true. She had these wonderful characters but tended to make them either too predictable or caricatures (as in the adults were beyond dumb and petty). I think within the first couple of chapters you can guess that Septimus didn't really die and that he is Boy 412 and you know several steps ahead when things are going to go horribly wrong. It all seemed rather trite and flat, and that's just the book!

Corduner was not my favorite reader. He wasn't horrible, but I found his voice a bit grating and his different voices for the adults to be kind of nasally. Weird right? It looks like he's done all of the audiobooks for the Keys of the Kingdom series, so perhaps he's a better fit for that.

Eventually I figured that I was being too Debbie Downer about it all and stopped about 3/4 of the way through. I also felt like I might be too old for this series, which I kind of doubted since I love this age range of books, but I thought I would give Angie the benefit of the doubt and force one of my students to read the book. I'm glad that I did. Within a week my student Marty* came back to me and told me that he loved the series and had recommended it to two other students. They in turn cam back and read the second and third books within a few weeks and had recommended them to others. They loved the world that Angie Sage had built, the found the characters super amusing, and the plot was exciting! I was.... shocked. I told them my opinion, and then was told flat out that I was wrong. That'll teach me.

So here's my final thought. This book is not intended for readers outside of its target age range, it will seem predictable and one dimensional; following fantasy tropes instead of blazing a new trail. Lucky for anyone between the ages of nine to thirteen that makes for great reading. So well done Angie Sage, I will continue to buy your series for my libraries.

*I've changed the name of my student because he is only nine and I'd like to protect him as much as I can.

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