Magyk (Septimus Heap Series #1) by Angie Sage, illustrations by Mark Zug, 564pp RL 4
Like Cornelia Funke's Inkworld Trilogy, Angie Sage's Septimus Heap Series, the first in which is Magyk, creates a medieval fairy tale world, complete with talking rats, shape-shifters, ExtraOrdinary Wizards and Ordinary Wizards who's eyes turn green when their magyk kicks in, ghosts, boggarts, dragons, the Wendron Witches and a few Egyptian words and symbols here and there. Unlike Cornelia Funke's trilogy, which has more mature themes, the world of the Castle, its surroundings and inhabitants are not nearly as menacing, brutal or dark. There is never a question that the story will end well for the hero and heroine. This is the perfect series for young children who are advanced readers and looking for well written fantasy that is of a more gentle nature but still suspenseful and rich with creative, magical details. Mark Zug's softly beautiful pencil drawings that head up each chapter and bring the characters to life are perfectly suited to Sage's writing.
The story begins with the birth of a boy and a girl on a cold, dark night. Offstage, the Queen, who has just borne a daughter, and the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, Alther Mella have been murdered. Marcia Overcross, assistant to Alther and now that he is dead, ExtraOrdinary Wizard, secrets the infant to safety and ensures that she will be raised in a loving family. The Heap family, having just experienced the loss of their newborn seventh son, gladly takes her in. When, ten years later the Supreme Custodian's spy locates the Princess and sends The Assassin to finally end the royal line, the story, as well as the Heaps, Marcia Overcross and Boy 412, a near frozen sentry from the Young Army, a rag-tag group of orphan boys, takes off. Burning taverns, boat chases, swamps, Quake Ooze Brownies, magyk and reverse Darke Magyk follow the group as they are pursed by DomDaniel, the (presumed dead) ExtraOrdinary Wizard Alther was apprenticed to in his youth. DomDaniel, in his quest for power and the throne, is killing off the royal family and has kidnapped a boy who he believes is the seventh son of a seventh son and therefore in possession of great magical power, in an effort to achieve this.
As with Funke's Inkworld Trilogy, Sage's books are over 500 pages and, in my opinion could be a couple of hundred shorter and still be great books. However, I completely understand falling in love with a fantasy world and wanting to stay there as long as possible and this series definitely lends itself to that whim. I highly recommend this series for all fantasy lovers, especially the youngest ones. Also, be sure to check out the super website created for this series. It is full of games, maps and great information.
Castle Corona by Sharon Creech
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Beauty by Robin McKinley
And, while this series is set in the contemporary and not medieval world, I highly recommend Michael Buckley's Sisters Grimm Series for all lovers of fairy tales.
Like Funke and her Ghosthunters series, Angie Sage has also written a series of books at a slightly lower reading level (and page count...) Araminta Spookie, who gives the series it's name, is a young girl living in an old Victorian house with her Aunt Tabby and Uncle Drac.