Here I review the fifth book in Angie Sage’s wonderful Septimus Heap series of fantasy books…
Written by: Angie Sage
Septimus is stranded on a remote island with his badly injured dragon, Spit Fyre, along with Jenna and Beetle. The island is captivatingly beautiful, but there is also something strange about it… not least the cat-shaped lighthouse and an eerie presence that sings to Septimus… Trouble is also brewing for Lucy and Wolf Boy, who have become entangled with some nefarious sailors.
Syren is the fifth book in the ‘Septimus Heap’ series by the wonderful Angie Sage, and it definitely does not ruin the reputation of the first four!
I key part of writing fantasy – as I’ve found from my own efforts at writing in that genre – is originality. There are hoards of drooling critics out there just waiting to tell you how similar you are to the big guys like JRR Tolkien or George RR Martin. Sure, who wouldn’t want to be compared to them? But in terms of storylines, originality is crucial. It’s your ‘Unique Selling Point’ – don’t worry, I’ll never bring business into this again – that is meant to grab your readers’ attention. If you wrote a book called The Lord of the Swings about a small guy called Hobo who finds a magical swing that –when swung on, of course – turns you invisible, then…ok, ok, that was over the top, but you see my point. If you don’t, then you’ve come to the wrong place – go read a review written by a normal person.
Anyway, Angie Sage has got that originality spark. The imaginative world she creates inside her books is completely different from any other fantasy author you’re likely to cross. It’s full to the brim with magykal creatures, ludicrous characters and deliberate spelling mystakes (ok, not that last one). I highly recommend you read the first four books (Magyk, Flyte, Physik and Queste) before reading Syren, but this review can be taken as a staple for the whole series really.
I think the main part of the fifth book that distances it from the first four is that we see more of Septimus Heap’s world. We travel across the sea to a far off land with foreign customs and strange people, and
then to the beautifully-described Isles of Syren, which is such a perfectly crafted location. These new settings really bring to life the enormity of the world the characters live in, and stop the stories from getting samey-samey. There are also several elements of this book that link back to the third and fourth books, and it resolves some mysteries left unsolved at the end of book four.
Another key success of this book is – as always in Sage’s books – its characters. The Septimus Heap books are a great example of how a story is based around the characters involved, rather than the characters have to run to keep up with the story. You really have to pay attention, as every single character in these books has a function. As Mark Twain once said: “The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.” Syren introduces several new, colourful characters that were not heard of in the first four, but we do see the return of an old villain (not saying which one!) and, although it can seem a bit confusing and cluttered at times, all these characters come together to form one intricately-designed plot that I think lives up to and might just surpass that of the first four books.
The good thing about having so many fantastic characters is that the readers can really relate to them, and almost care for them. In this book we see some changes occur as the characters get older and relationships are therefore also changed. This keeps the series moving and gives us a sense of having lived with these characters, rather than just seeing them on a page.
I mentioned earlier that the plot may surpass that of the first four books, and this is my final point. This book doesn’t just flow, it unravels. It seems much like a mystery story at one point, especially near the end. At the beginning, it can often seem a little disorganised but, if you stick with it, everything soon comes together and it’s a great feeling to read it when it does. I literally couldn’t put the book down for the last hundred pages.
So, to conclude, this is a great book. It’s definitely worth reading if you want a bit of light-hearted fantasy with a genuinely unique story. I will definitely be sticking with it to read the final two books in the series!
If you’re new to Angie Sage, I recommend you check out her work! Find some info on the series as a whole here: http://www.septimusheap.com/