Magyk by Angie Sage (2005)

Jenna Heap has only known life inside her cramped one-room apartment she shares with her mother, father, and six older brothers. Her whole family has the blond curly hair that runs in the Heap family, Magykl powers, and the well-known deep green eyes of anyone who is Magykl–expect Jenna who has straight, dark hair and deep violet eyes. Jenna has been assured her whole life that, as with what happens to all young wizards and witches, her eyes will grow more green as she gets older and her Magykl powers will be revealed. Yet Jenna has her doubts; something within her tells her that she is different from the rest of her family.

On the morning of her tenth birthday, Jenna and her family are gathered around the dining table to celebrate and open presents. Just then the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Marcia Overstrand, bursts into the tiny home stating that Jenna needs immediate protection as an assassin is on their way to kill her. Marcia reveals to Jenna that she is the princess who went missing years ten years ago, a fact that both her father Silas and mother Sarah confirm for her for the first time right there.

Jenna is whisked away with the ExtraOrdinary Wizard for protection in the Wizard’s Tower in the castle. She isn’t safe for long as the assassin soon learns of her whereabouts. Jenna along with Marcia, Silas, her older brother Nicko, and her dog Maxie escape through the rubbish chute. They seek solace at Silas’ sister Zelda’s house is the Morram Marshes but the Supreme Custodian will stop at nothing to find and kill Jenna.

What I liked: This book is a semi-complicated book with many interweaving plot lines that reminded me of a younger Lord of the Rings or Eragon series. The chapters do not follow just Jenna’s adventure, but rather follow a variety of characters ranging from a message rat, the ghost of the last ExtraOrdinary wizard, and the hunter and assassin sent to kill Jenna. It’s been quite some time since I have read a book like this, and it was treat that I enjoyed.

At first I was really annoyed with the level of description in this book–it seemed to be way over the top. As I got further into Magyk, I came to appreciate all of the description and seemingly random information Sage provided. The pieces tied together nicely and sometimes in surprising ways.

What I didn’t like: As mentioned above, I found the level of description to be off-putting at the beginning through the first quarter of this book. I had even seriously considered abandoning this book for that very reason. It felt like it took me too long to get into the book because so much time was spent describing the characters, setting, and history of the world that it seemed nothing was happening. What finally made me appreciate the level of description was when seemingly random bits from several chapters ago started reappearing and serving a distinct purpose in the plot.

One of the big questions that follows throughout this book is What really happened to Silas and Sarah’s seventh son Septimus? From the beginning we’re led to believe he died on the night of his birth but then clues start popping up that show that may not be the case. I realize that I am much older than the targeted audience, but it was quite obvious to me as to what happened to Septimus, and I could not wait for “the big reveal” just to get it out of the way.

I read the Kindle edition of this book so I’m not sure if it existed in the paper copy, but I would have loved to have a map to reference. Sage spends so much time describing the various locations that I would have really liked to see how things were laid-out in her mind.

My opinion in summary: Readers who love thick books with slightly complicated plots and can appreciate when a book is not always fast-paced action will really like Magyk. The pacing and writing does take some getting used-to but it does pay-off in the end. This book is one where you really get to know the characters, and the world is complicated enough that it’s evident why this series is so long, both in terms of pages and volumes.

Overall rating: 7.5 out of 10

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