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by Angie Sage
Series: Septimus Heap #6
Sixth in the Septimus Heap series for middle-grade readers and revolving around Septimus Heap, the seventh son of a seventh son. The primary focus is actually on Beetle followed by Septimus and then Simon.
I absolutely adore how well Sage enters into a child’s mindset with their attitude, thoughts, and behaviors. I recognize myself as a child as well as the adult who’s watching the kids mess up. AND, to be fair, the kids are doing a pretty good job of life.
It’s really Beetle who’s the hero in Darke. And Simon achieves his wildest dream, lol. Meanwhile, Septimus is obsessed with his own upcoming trials, and in my opinion, his narrow focus left it open for that Darke Domaine.
It is a story of tidying up what with Banishing that nasty old Tertius (oops), catching up with Merrian, discovering Wolf Boy’s origins, rescuing the Manuscriptorium (and appointing much better management!), rescuing and yet more rescuing.
Dang, these Darke Magyk Things could be lawyers! Oops, I think maybe our lawyers are Darke Magyk lawyers!! Eeek. Sage has the Things slipping and sliding around words like nobody’s business.
Poor Simon. He is working so hard to gain forgiveness from everyone he’s wronged. It really is impressive, and still, I can’t blame some of his victims for not trusting him. There’s another lesson in here besides atonement. This one is about the consequences of not thinking.
Part of the theme in Darke is about growing up. There’s more responsibility, a sense of being adrift and cut off. That desire to retreat back into a childhood where Mum and Dad took care of the bad things. It’s also about adults having to come to terms with those under them becoming more responsible, having to share their time with others. And somehow finding forgiveness for wicked deeds.
Sage using the other wizards (and the floor!) to amp up the tension about Septimus’ upcoming Darke Week was effective. I was cruising, er, reading along, and being quite complacent about Septimus getting through this. How hard can it be? Look at how much he’s accomplished already!
The gross factor is amped up in this one. Just reading about Mrs. Gringe’s stews are enough to make ya gag…urgghhh…bathroom…gotta get to the bathroom…make way…! And it gets worse when you read of the Port Coven’s meal…urkkkk… Then Lucy encounters her mother’s attitude. Oh. Boy. I know the real reason Lucy ran off! I’m surprised her dad hasn’t made a run for it!
Larry’s new, oily personality will crack you up. I hope shopkeepers don’t read this one. Don’t want to give them ideas! The “ladies” staffing the Tally Hut in the market already have some odd ideas about dealing with customers. Enough so, that I’d be making a run for it.
“He wouldn’t be spending any time in this dump, he thought, but it would suit the Things nicely. It would keep them out of his way too, and he could hang out wherever he wanted. And do whatever he liked. So there.”
I loved that scene at the Manuscriptorium’s Pending Cupboard when all the scribes gather ’round and divert Jillie Djinn. She is such a pill. I sure enjoyed Beetle getting a bit of a comeuppance with her as Marcia’s Emissary, lol. I also loved how well Jenna thought on her feet at the Doom Dump. Phew.
A couple of niggles… I am curious as to why someone has to be entombed in the Hermetic Chamber. Then there’s Jenna’s and Sarah’s stubbornness. They are both so irritating in this. I wanted to smack ’em both around. For Jenna, it is a part of that maturity thing, sigh. I don’t know what Sarah’s excuse is.
There’s a very definite feel to Darke of Sage slowly winding the Septimus Heap series down. It’s nicely done, and I’ll miss him once I read the last in the series, Fyre.
Simon and Princess Jenna will be celebrating their fourteenth birthdays at the Palace this year. It’s an age when children are acknowledged as independent, responsible enough to make their own decisions. Yep, shake in fear, Mom and Dad!
Marring the festivities… Okay, layering a deep gloom over our heroes’ anticipation of the fun, is Marcia having Banished Tertius (yay!), but also Banishing Alther. They have to get him back out of the Darke Places. A place so Darke that the adventurer’s return is most unlikely.
Worse, Magyk is all wonky, and Marcia is desperate for Septimus to put off the start of his Darke Week. But not going would leave Alther trapped forever…and allow the Darke Domaine to spread throughout their world.
Septimus Heap, a.k.a., Sum, is now a Senior ExtraOrdinary Apprentice to Marcia. Spit Fyre is Septimus’ very tricky dragon (Flyte, 2).
The Heaps are…
…a family of regular people and wizards. Mum, Sarah, gave up her Magyk and now keeps house at the Palace for Jenna, the daughter she and Silas, an Ordinary Wizard, raised. Simon is the oldest son and did a lot of bad things in his efforts to learn Magyk quickly. The obstreperous Lucy Gringe is the daughter of the gatekeeper, and she ran off with Simon. Thunder is Simon’s horse who’s come in search of Simon. Benjamin Heap was Silas’ father. Niko Heap, another son, has been jumping through time with Snorri Snorrelssen.
Alfrún Snorrelssen is Snorri’s mother and a Spirit-Seer who sees ghosts. Snorri and her mother will be testing the Alfrún for seaworthiness; Olaf Snorrelssen is a ghost and Snorri’s father who’ll drift out with them.
The Wizard Tower is…
…where the wizards all live. Marcia Fusspot Overstrand is the ExtraOrdinary Wizard, the one in charge and a little too concerned about her place in history…hmmm. She’s also mistress to her ExtraOrdinary Apprentice, Septimus. Jim Knee, the jinnee from Syren, 5, is hibernating in Marcia’s sitting room. Alther Mella is the ghost of the last ExtraOrdinary Wizard. He and Alice Nettles, another ghost, have finally begun that longed-for relationship.
Rose is the new sick bay Apprentice Wizard working the night duty. Syrah Syara is being held in the Disenchantment Chamber, and everyone is hoping she comes through the process safely (Syren). Hildegarde Pigeon is an Ordinary sub-wizard who recovered from her Thing possession in Queste, 4; Pascalle and Thomasinn Thyme are sisters who perform escort duty for Beetle; and, Bertie Bott is left to guard the Cordon.
Marcellus Pye is an ancient Castle Alchemist (and Queen Etheldredda‘s son) who took Septimus as an Alchemie Apprentice 500 years ago.
The Palace is…
…where Princess Jenna lives with Ullr, the shifting Spirit-Seer kitty/panther she had been watching for Snorri. Maxie is Silas’ ancient wolfhound, and Ethel is a waistcoat-wearing duck. An assortment of ghosts work at the Palace including Sir Hereward, a ghost who guards the princess’ bedroom doors; Godric; and, Gudrun the Great who guards the Palace Gate. The late Queen Cerys was Jenna’s birth mother; she died fourteen years ago. Milo Banda is Jenna’s birth father.
Barney Pot also works at the Palace. His uncle, Billy Pot, is the Dragon Keeper by Appointment. The Bringer of the Book is bringing Marcia’s doom to Jenna and forcing Jenna to accept that it is her Day of Recognition.
…the town where everyone lives and most of the action takes place. Maureen owns the Harbor and Dock Pie Shop. And I really want an egg pie. I have no idea what it is, but it sounds so tasty! Sally Mullin runs a Tea and Ale House with her name on it. It’s located just above the New Quay where her new boat, the Annie, is moored. Mr. Gringe is Lucy’s father and Mrs. Gringe‘s long-suffering husband. Well, once you read about her cooking, you’ll feel as if you’re suffering too! Rupert Gringe is Lucy’s brother who is apprenticed to Jannit Maarten, a boatbuilder. Rupert is walking out with Maggie, the Port barge skipper. Dolly Bingle works in the fish shop down at the New Quay. The Gothyk Grotto is a junk shop where Marcus and Matt Marwick, twin brothers, work for Mr. Igor. Ma Custard’s Cake Shop. Terry Tarsal has a shoe shop.
Beetle Beetle has taken a job with Larry who runs Larry’s Dead Languages Translation Service. Beetle’s in love with Jenna and would do anything for her, although you’ll begin to wonder at the end of the story. Maizie Smalls lights the torches in Wizard Way and struck a deal to light the Palace’s candles. Binkie is her cat.
Stanley is a Message Rat who re-instituted the Message Rat Service. He has high hopes for his ratlets: Flo, Mo, Bo, and Jo, a.k.a., Florence, Morris, Robert, and Josephine. (In Syren, they were named Sydney, Lydia, Faith, and Edward *shakes her head wonderingly*)
The Magykal Manuscriptorium and Spell Checkers Incorporated is…
…where Beetle Beetle used to work. Now, Merrin Meredith (he raised the Things in Queste, 4, and then journeyed to Port to wreak havoc) works as the chief clerk and is squatting in the Palace. Well, okay, “works” is a very flexible concept for Merrin. He is achieving his goals of havoc in the Manuscriptorium, especially with Jillie Djinn, the OCD Chief Hermetic Scribe. Ephaniah Grebe, a half-man, half-rat, is the Conservation, Preservation, and Protection Scribe. Foxy is the new Chief Charm Scribe (his dad used to be the Chief Hermetic Scribe before Jillie). The rest of the twenty-one scribes include Romilly Badger and Barnaby Ewe who are quick-thinkers and Partridge.
The Northern Traders’ Market is a fair where one can find gifts for anyone for the MidWinter Feast. Makers’ Mile is a new section of the market where locals can sell. The Tally Hut is a jewelry stall run by Sophie Barley. Supposed to be, anyway.
The Port Coven is…
…a group of really nasty Darke witches including Pamela the Witch Mother, Linda is Pamela’s wicked, vicious protégé, Dorinda, Veronica, Daphne, and the traitorous Marissa Lane who are living in the Doom Dump. Nursie works for them and is the landlady of The Doll House.
Dungeon Number One is…
…the center of Marcia’s horrible nightmares. Tertius Fume was a very bad ghost (the latest evil was in Syren). Well, he’s been a mean, nasty ghost for a long time. Things are a kind of mean, nasty human figure that most people can’t see. DomDaniel was a really wicked Darke Magyk wizard who wore the insidious Darke Two-Faced Ring. A Darke Domaine is a foggy pool of Darke that grows and lures people in with false promises. The Darke Disguise will hide your true nature.
Storm Wizards keep an eye on the weather. Fetching forces the Fetched to keep moving until he reaches the place to which he is Fetched. Darke Week is the time when an ExtraOrdinary Apprentice must experience Darke and find a balance between Darke and Magyk. A Call Out is an emergency measure when danger threatens the Palace or the Wizard’s Tower. The Longest Night sounds like Christmas with its feasting and lights and gifts. It seems to be part of the MidWinter Feast. Synchronicity is when dragon and Imprintor become One, a very rare occurrence. A P-I-W is a Princess-in-Waiting. And doesn’t Marcia just hate that!
The Cover and Title
The cover is a background of grayish browns, itself the cover of an embossed book, Darke Index, the ultimate book on Darke Magyk. Darke is in a deep copper foil with the series information at the top in gold with the author’s name at the bottom, also in gold. The book is held closed by an old and battered length of lilac satin ribbon atop of which is a battered tin box in green and cocoa brown with a pivoting, shaped brass handle.
The title is the focus, the Darke Magyk that is overwhelming the Palace and Port.