Book Review: Angie Sage’s Syren

Posted September 15, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Middle-Grade readers

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.

Book Review: Angie Sage’s Syren



Angie Sage

fantasy that was published by HarperCollins on December 8, 2010 and has 628 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Queste, Darke, Fyre

Fifth in the Septimus Heap fantasy series for young middle-grade readers and revolving around Septimus, a young magykal Apprentice.

My Take

Syren is a whimsical fantasy sure to appeal to children (and adults, ahem, *she said with a grin*) complete with the gross and the responsible that will make you laugh and worry. I do love a children’s story that places children in adult-like positions in which they make decisions, realize truths, help each other, and save the day…*grin*…

“…possibly not much more intelligent than the average Port fish crate — indeed, there were some Port fish crates that might have successfully disputed that.”

It’s not all roses for that wicked Merrin. For every evil deed, he gets a fright of one sort or another. I keep hoping he gets his! Then there’s that nasty, little Linda who scares the pants off me! Now, Jim Knee, he is a crack-up. A jinnee with an annoyed-child attitude who snarks off in his mind and to the Great One, lol.

“…in fact it was down to Spit Fyre’s innate ExtraOrdinary Wizard-ignoring skills.”

There are multiple sub plots in Syren that find Tertius Fume at the center of them all. And Sage is tying together all sorts of loose ends that involve Septimus’ time-traveling past as well as why Jenna’s father was missing for so much of her life.

That Milo is an obnoxious, bragging man with a need for power and control. It’s part of why I had to laugh when Spit Fyre started inhaling their fancy dinner with Milo pulling fiercely on the other end of the tablecloth!

There are some scenes which are confusing, and on second look, stay confusing, yet Syren is fun to read with great visuals from Sage. It’s a child’s view of life with all the bravery, scariness, and treats a child imagines.

It’s freedom, a badly injured dragon, a deserted island that turns out not to be so deserted after all, and the most humongous betrayal. I cannot wait to read Darke, 6, and find out what happens next!

The Story

Septimus ends up on a captivatingly beautiful island, one of seven set in a sparkling sea. He’s stranded there with his badly injured dragon, Spit Fyre, along with Jenna and Beetle. There are some strange things about the island, including a Magykal girl named Syrah, a cat-shaped lighthouse that has lost its Light, and an eerie presence that sings to Septimus — can he escape the persistent call?

Trouble is also brewing for Lucy and Wolf Boy, who have become entangled with some nefarious sailors at sea, and for Milo Banda, Jenna’s father, who is harboring a mysterious treasure chest in his ship’s hold.

The Characters

Port is…

the town where the Heaps and Princess Jenna live and is the home of the Wizard’s Tower, the Manuscriptorium, and the Ramblings. Barney Pot has joined the Castle Cubs, a type of Boy Scouts. Uncle Billy Pot tends Spit Fyre. Alther Mella and Alice Nettles are ghosts who live in the striped tent on the Palace grounds.

Septimus Heap, once known as 412 in the Young Army, is the seventh son of a seventh son and an ExtraOrdinary Apprentice under Marcia. House Mouse serves Septimus. Spit Fyre is the dragon he Imprinted in Flyte, 2.

Nicko Heap and Snorri have been hopping through time on their adventures. He’s gone from a carefree boy to a sober one who thinks before he speaks. Simon Heap is Septimu’s wicked brother who wanted to learn Darke Magyk. Lucy Gringe is his girlfriend who’s gone missing (Queste, 4). Sleuth is his Tracker Ball that Marcia appropriated. Maureen runs the Harbor and Dock Pie Shop. Mistress Sarah Heap is the mother who raised Jenna and the other little Heaps, and she is now in charge of the Palace. Silas Heap is their wizard father, and his arthritic wolfhound is named Maxie.

Princess Jenna and her panther/kitty, Ullr, usually live in the Palace. Domino is her horse. Good Queen Cerys was Jenna’s birth mother, murdered some twelve-and-a-half years ago, who now guards the Queen’s Room. The bragging Milo Banda is Jenna’s birth father, a roguish merchant with a ship, Cerys. Jem is a deckhand with some experience in Physicking and the Darke.

The Wizard’s Tower is…
…where the wizards live. Marcia Fusspot Overstrand is the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. Hildegarde Pigeon had been possessed by a Thing in Queste, 4.

The Magykal Manuscriptorium and Spell Checkers Incorporated is…
…where Beetle Beetle used to be the Front Office Clerk until he was fired by Jillie Djinn, the idiotic Chief Hermetic Scribe. Ephaniah Grebe is half-human and half-rat and does restorations, when he’s not recovering from events in Queste. Romilly Badger is the new Inspection Clerk. Partridge is one of the other scribes. Merrin Meredith, a.k.a., Septimus Heap and Daniel Hunter, is now the very nasty chief scribe who’s rarely at work. He had been Simon Heap’s apprentice and still has a too-greedy desire for Darke Magyk.

Tertius Fume is a plus-500 years old mean old ghost, one of the Ancients, the former first Chief Scribe, and a seven-day ExtraOrdinary Wizard back in the time of Hotep-Ra, his best friend. Well, former best friend. Tertius was the assassin who tried to kill Hotep-Ra who Banished him. Tertius is also the Ghost of the Vaults.

Aunt Zelda lives in her patchwork dress and the Keeper’s Cottage in Marram Marshes outside Port. Wolf Boy has been her Apprentice, her Intended Keeper, really, and Aunt Zelda has sent him off on the Task. Until Wolf Boy, a.k.a. 409, fell off a bridge, he had been Septimus’ friend in the Young Army. The Boggart will guide Wolf Boy out of the Marshes.

Jim Knee is the jinnee with his hat of ever-shrinking yellow donuts in the SafeCharm. He’s been looking forward to his release from the bottle, but expected a LOT more from Septimus. Before he became a jinnee, he was a turtle trader’s fourth wife.

The Ramblings is…
…a neighborhood in Port. Larry owns Larry’s Dead Languages where he does translations. Stanley is a Message Rat who has restarted the service and has hopes of the four rescued ratlets: the quiet Sydney, the snuffly Lydia, the confident Faith, and the boisterously silly Edward. Dawnie is Stanley’s ex-wife, and he doesn’t seem to want her back anymore.

The Marauder is skippered by Theodophilus Fortitude Fry, the former Joe Grub of a family of wreckers, hates women. He was Deakin Lee‘s first mate on his pirate ship. Jakey Fry is the skipper’s much nicer son. Thin Crowe is Fry’s other seaman, another nasty and stupid man. His twin, Fat Crowe, is just like him.

Una Brakket is an agent of some sort. Not the good sort, though.

The Port Coven is…
…a group of nasty Darke witches that includes Pamela the Witch Mother, Linda is Pamela’s protégé, Dorinda, Veronica, and Daphne. Their cats are bloodsuckers.

Star Island

CattRokk Lighthouse has been…
…manned by Guardians of the Light, a.k.a., the Watchers or Keepers, which, um, somehow bred with cats at some point. The lighthouse is one of four Living Lights lit by an ancient Sphere of Light set to indicate the range of the Syren’s Call. Miarr Catt is the last Watcher. His cousin, Mirano, the last of his family, has disappeared. The unlovely Fat Crowe is his co-Watcher.

Syrah Syara is an Apprentice who never returned from a Queste. Julius Pike had been her ExtraOrdinary Wizard. She becomes Syren when she must return to the Peepe, the Dwelling Place of this possessive spirit on Star Island.

The Trading Post is…

…a town for Traders. Harbor Twelve is one of the wealthier ones. Harbor One is one of the poorer. The Pigeon Post Office is quite efficient. Mr. Higgs, the bosun on a ship some 500 years ago, has (had?) a net loft in the Trading Post. The House of Foryx is the Place Where All Times Do Meet in Trading Post territory, the truth of which was revealed in Queste.

An ExtraOrdinary Wizard is the head wizard. There are two types of SafeCharm: regular and alive. The Task involves the Port Coven and the need to be the GrimFeeder. The Grim is a gruesome Darke creature with tentacles who lives in the drains. A ghoul’s fool is also known as a phantom’s bantam, a specter protector, but the real name is a Spirit’s Bondsman, someone who has sold his soul to a ghost. A Possession Wraith is like a ghost but does not keep its shape when it moves.

In today’s Port, the Harbor Master is constantly quarreling with the encroaching Honest Joe, a chandler. The Twenty-One Gang is a group of mostly ex-Army boys. A FlashBoard is a magykal skateboard.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a gorgeous tea-stained blue teal background with lots of gilt for the debossed series name, the title, the author’s name, and most of the icons including the squiggles and the pitchforks. The metallic corner “reinforcements” are copper aged with verdigris. The object is what saves the day, a gold carved flask with a spiral metal handle and a stopper topped with strange writing sealed with red wax.

The title is but one of the great evils, the Syren, who betrays all.