Daily Archives: October 22, 2009

Two Reviews: Magyk and The Merchant of Death

  • Magyk (Septimus Heap, #1) by Angie Sage
  • The Merchant of Death (Pendragon, #1) by D.J. MacHale

I’m grouping these two books because I had similar issues with both of them, issues that influenced my post about expectations for books for younger readers.

As I said in that post, I’m not going to rate books aimed younger than a YA level. Although in the end I enjoyed both books, I was also disappointed in each of them.

I listened to the audio version of both of these books. I think this was a mistake for me. I think I would have enjoyed both of them much more if I could have picked up the pace– I’m a fast reader, and I would have read each of these in much less time than it took to listen, and I think I would have enjoyed them more if I’d spent less time with them.

Magyk by Angie Sage


The seventh son of the seventh son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas

Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a new born girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?

As I listened to this book, I kept thinking about what a mish-mash of common magical elements and bits and pieces of other books it was– yet it came together into something quite original.

It was unclear to me whether the big secret of the book was supposed to be a secret to the reader, particularly the target audience of young readers, or if it was only supposed to be a mystery for the other characters in the book. From the time the relevant characters were introduced, I knew where the story was heading. That may have been deliberate, but I wasn’t sure.

The characters were fun and the world was interesting, but the language was a little too simple and the action a little too slow to really work as an audiobook for me.

The Merchant of Death by D.J. MacHale

Merchant of Death

Bobby Pendragon is a seemingly normal fourteen-year-old boy. He has a family, a home, and even Marley, his beloved dog. But there is something very special about Bobby.

He is going to save the world.

And not just Earth as we know it. Bobby is slowly starting to realize that life in the cosmos isn’t quite what he thought it was. And before he can object, he is swept off to an alternate dimension known as Denduron, a territory inhabited by strange beings, ruled by a magical tyrant, and plagued by dangerous revolution.

If Bobby wants to see his family again, he’s going to have to accept his role as savior, and accept it wholeheartedly. Because, as he is about to discover, Denduron is only the beginning….

I didn’t get into this one at all until the second half.  I’d actually abandoned it after the first part, but several people encouraged me to continue with it.

My biggest problem was that Bobby was an all too realistic 14 year old.  He was self-centered and whiny, and the narrator did whiny all too well.  I liked the secondary characters better than I liked Bobby, although we never saw much depth to any of them.

On the plus side, the universe of this book is an interesting one.  I like the linked territories, and am interested in finding out more about those that travel between them.

The book also was able to bring up some questions of ethics in war in a manner accessible to the younger target audience.

Other than the issue I had with Bobby, my main problem with the book was that it kept reminding us about what had happened– sort of an “If you missed the last episode” recap that came up every once in a while.  This got repetitive.

I think I’ll put the next book of each of these series on my list of books to read someday, but on paper rather than audio. Unless I’m listening with my family (like on a road trip) or I have a specific recommendation, I’ll avoid audio aimed at this age group if I’m reading for my pleasure.

Magyk was a library download through Netlibrary. The Merchant of Death was a free book from


Posted by on October 22, 2009 in books, reviews


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