I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
is a hardcover edition that was published by Katherine Tegen Books on April 8, 2008 and has 596 pages.
Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.
(This post contains affiliate links you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.)
Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Syren, Darke, Fyre
Fourth in the Septimus Heap fantasy series for middle-grade readers and revolving around the Heap family. The focus is on Beetle.
It takes almost 200 pages before we start to get to the purpose of the story, and thoughout, it’s an odd combination of Roald Dahl, Harry Potter, and Disney with that fun sense of gross that Dahl brings to a story — I mean, a banana-bacon chew?? ewww — the supportive camaraderie of Harry Potter and his friends, and the cartoon craziness of Disney.
This is a story that you should read as soon as you can after the first three. That four years since I last read a Septimus Heap has left me very confused as to who, what, how, or why.
A nice lesson in here from Simon: he no longer wants to become a wizard the easy way, through the Darke. He wants Lucy to be proud of him.
It’s a silly story with lots of action, drama, and laughs. Children will adore it, and adults may well get a laugh as memories of fanciful childhood dreams surface.
It’s Jillie’s fault. Putting that ad up. Just anyone can apply and Jillie will take him! And that anyone just happens to be Merrin, er, Daniel Hunter.
It’s that bargain Merrin makes with Old Tertius who will send Septimus on a Queste from which he will never return. But he won’t go alone, for Beetle, Princess Jenna, and Ullr will go on Queste with him. If they can escape the Witch Mother. And the Thing.
Beetle Beetle, a.k.a., Cockroach, is the Front Office and Inspection Clerk at the Magykal Manuscriptorium and Spell Checkers Incorporated where he inspects the Seals in the ice tunnels. His mother, Pamela Beetle-Gurney, lost her husband, Brian, shortly after young Beetle’s birth. Jillie Djinn is the Chief Hermetic Scribe and Beetle’s boss. Foxy is one of the more highly strung scribes. Partridge is another of the scribes. Ephaniah Grebe is the half-rat, half-human Conservation, Preservation, and Protection Scribe who lives and works in the basement.
Marcellus Pye is the 500-year-old Last Alchemist with whom Snorri and Nicko have been staying. He’s also the one who kidnapped Septimus through the Glass and for whom Septimus was Pye’s Alchemie Apprentice.
The Heaps are…
…a scattered family with some living in the Castle and others in the forest. In the Castle is Sarah Willow Heap, Sep’s mother who was trained as a healer and gave up Magyk; Silas, her wizard husband; Maxie, their wolfhound; and, Jenna, their daughter (well, Milo is her real father) and the Princess and heir to the Castle. Jenna’s pets include Ethel, the crocheted-waistcoat-wearing duck. Ullr is a Transforming cat Jenna is watching. DayUllr is a regular mottled orange house cat; NightUllr is a panther. Silas’ father, Benjamin Heap, was a Shape-Shifting wizard who now lives as a western red cedar somewhere in the Forest. Demelza Heap is an ancestress who used to sell fine glass apparatus until she disappeared.
The Wizard Tower is where…
…that lying young Septimus is stuck with Marcia Fusspot Overstrand, the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. Boris Catchpole is a night porter (demoted from failed wizard); he had been a Deputy Hunter back in the Young Army. Spit Fyre is Septimus’ dragon. He’s a challenge to keep fed and be a good little dragon.
The four sons living in the forest with a coven of witches include Sam, Edd, Erik, and Jo-Jo.
There aren’t many servants in the castle, only Cook, Cleaner, the WashingUp Boy, and the Housekeeper. The Castle is, however, stuffed with ghosts, including Sir Hereward, a ghost guard. The unhappy Billy Pot is in charge of mowing the lawn and collecting Spit Fyre’s dung. He’s about to become the Dragon-Watcher. Hildegarde Pigeon is a sub-Wizard on door duty at the Palace.
Stanley is an ex-Message Rat and an ex-Secret Service Rat who still has his instincts. He’s thinking of starting the Message Rat Service back up. Dawnie is not his wife any longer. Humphrey was his old Message Rat Service boss who retired six months ago. When the RatStranglers had formed up.
In the town
Mrs. Gringe is the wife of the gatekeeper and Lucy’s mother. Micky Mullin is the ferryman and one of Sally Mullin’s many nephews; she runs the Sally Mullin’s Tea and Ale House. Jannit Maarten is a boatbuilder to whom young Nicko is apprenticed. Rupert Gringe is nearing the end of his Articles. The Grateful Turbot Tavern offers up beds and haunts. Olaf Snorrelssen is the ghost of a Northern Trader, and he chooses to make his first Appearance to Merrin. A mistake. Terry Tarsal is a shoemaker with a purple python. Ma Custard runs the All-Day-All-Night Sweet Shop where Merrin gets his licorice snakes, toffee termites, spider floss, and more.
The Gathering of the Ghosts are…
…ghosts of all previous ExtraOrdinary Wizards. They come together when the Apprentice draws a stone from the Questing Pot. Maurice McMohan has advice for Septimus. Julius Pike is another who lost Apprentices. Syrah Syara and Talmar Ray Bell were Apprentices lost on Queste. Marcus Overland was an Ordinary Wizard.
The Ghost of the Vaults is one of the Ancients, ghosts over 500 years old. He’s very unpleasant and refuses to tell anyone his name. Beetle has figured out that he’s the very first Chief Scribe: Tertius Fume.
Eldred and Alfred Stone are the brothers and tunnel ghosts trapped in the Emergency Freeze. Moaning Hilda is an Ice Wraith. The Toll-Man is a greedy, nasty bugger of a thief.
The Wendron Witches’ Summer Circle
Morwenna is the Witch Mother. Marissa (she’s hooked up with Jo-Jo) and Bryony are some of her witches. The Old Quarry is a cave where the witches spend the winter. Madam Agaric was Morwenna’s predecessor.
The House of Foryx is…
…the Place Where All Times Do Meet is also a Place of Waiting. You can only leave when someone arrives, and then you have to enter into their time. It’s the DoorKeeper‘s fault that they all fall in. The Guardian of the House is a nasty, vicious woman. Brat and Fowler are two of the Guards.
Nicko Heap has been gone for six months with Snorri Snorrelssen, who had a grandmother, Herdis Laursdottir, who lost a sister, Ells. Alfrún is Snorri’s mother. Snorri also has a sister named Herdis. Old Mother, a.k.a., Ells Laursdottir, is a stallholder who happens to be from the same time as Nicko and Snorri.
Hotep-Ra was the Castle’s very first ExtraOrdinary Wizard, and he set up the honor of the Queste. The Akhu Amulet is the symbol and source of the power of the ExtraOrdinary Wizards.
Alther Mella was the last ExtraOrdinary Wizard. Alice (she had been the Chief Customs Officer at the Port) was the one he had loved, but their careers had been too important. Now that she’s dead, Alther intends to change that.
The bad guys include…
…Simon Heap is the son who went bad and ran off with Lucy Gringe. Thunder is Simon’s horse. Merrin Meredith, a.k.a., Daniel Hunter and Septimus Heap, is Simon’s sulky assistant. His previous master had been the almost indestructible DomDaniel who had constantly called him stupid.
A Glass is a portal to another time from which it is near impossible to return. Things are a kind of human figure that most people can’t see. A good thing as they’re mean, miserable, and nasty.
The Cover and Title
The oxblood cover with its gilt border and gilt trim in the corners is fun with its punched out holes along the left edge and the turquoise ribbon “binding” the book together with more turquoise ribbon wrapping around a gold button to keep the book closed. The outer edge of the cover is aged, curling parchment, furthering the impression of an old ribbon-bound book. The series information, title, and author are also in a gold foil. The pebble of lapis lazuli is the Questing Stone.
The title is the journey, the Queste, upon which the quartet sets out, desperate to find Nicko and Snorri, sort of.