Monday, 24 October 2011
Review: Darke - Angie Sage
Extent: 656 pages
Pub Date: 3rd October 2011
Angie Sage's Magykal series continues in frantic, high-spirited fashion in this latest number. To save the Castle and the Wizard Tower from certain destruction, Septimus Heap wades into the Darke to battle evil; but he isn't alone: Jenna, Marcellus Pye, Alther Mella, Marcia Overstrand, and even Septimus' problematic brother Simon assist in the fray. A nice mix of action and wit.
The Septimus Heap books have to be one of my favourite children’s series and definitely go a long way towards filling my Harry Potter hole. I never buy hardback editions of books – I can’t afford to spend over £10 on one book! – but for Angie Sage’s books I make an exception because each tome is just such a beautiful item and the pages deserve to be thick and crisp. Each chapter has a beautiful pencil drawing on the first page which gives me huge green eyes of jealousy that I can’t draw like that but really add a magical, tangible dynamic to the story.
I have to specify when and where you need to read a Septimus Heap book: on a chilly winter’s evening, preferably with a howling wind outside, when there’s no on else at home and you can curl up in the comfy chair by the fire complete with duvet. OK, that setting is not essential but that is definitely where you can feel the full benefit of the wonderful warming sensation you get from reading Angie Sage. It’s like reading a big mug of hot chocolate with a generous serving of whipped cream and marshmallows. Darke is especially in need of a duvet because Septimus and in fact the entire Castle find themselves swallowed up by a terrifying Darke Domaine. This is what I love about Angie Sage, she always manages to conjure up something completely different for each book, putting her characters in new situations so they are always developing in new ways. That, in my opinion, is the true skill of a great series writer. Septimus’ world is just so stuffed full now with engaging settings, fascinating mythology and colourful characters, it really feels like you are stepping into Angie’s world every time you open a new book. It’s always a thrill to meet with old characters again and discover some new ones. In Darke, you actually get to know a lot better many of the other characters apart from Septimus as the story divides between several character groups. Sep’s sister Jenna blossoms into a courageous leader, selfless Beetle takes heroism to a new height while the wayward Simon redeems himself.
I think the strongest message in the Septimus Heap books is definitely that of family which is perfect for the middle grade/young teen age group it’s aimed at. Very often Angie Sage introduces a lost soul character who struggles through the book but in the end is either rewarded or redeemed by finding his lost family. Quite a few characters end this way in Darke, which is actually a nice resolution at the end of the Darkest book in the series. Angie Sage has really struck a great balance between the looming threat of the situation and lighter moments. She pushes her characters to the edge but always reins in the tension with characteristically witty moments, making the characters more flawed and endearing – even the baddies!
I cannot urge you enough to explore this series, even if you don’t usually read books geared more towards younger teens. It’s definitely one of those Harry Potter moments where anyone can read them to enjoy a brilliant story and a big grin session. They are not overly “young” to read and have a decent level of complexity both in the world Angie Sage has created and in her stories to make them engaging whatever age you are. I’m in my mid-twenties and I just love them – and I can’t wait for more!