Flyte: Despite some weaknesses, still a nice little read

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As the sequel to Angie Sage’s first novel Magyk, a pre-teen wizarding fantasy heavily influenced by the HARRY POTTER series, Flyte picks up a year after the events of the first story, in which the magical Heap family discovered several amazing secrets about their past. Namely, that their adopted daughter Jenna was in fact a princess and that a young nameless boy they picked up in their adventures was their long-lost son Septimus, the highly gifted seventh son of a seventh son. Together, the two siblings found a beautiful Dragon Boat, defeated the evil wizard DomDaniel, and rescued the ExtraOrdinary Wizard — with Septimus becoming Marcia Overstrand’s Apprentice in the process.

It seems everything was looking up for the Heap family, but one of their members is not quite as delighted with Septimus’s appointment as the future ExtraOrdinary Wizard as everyone else. Simon Heap, the eldest son, had his own ambitions for the future, now destroyed by the unexpected heritage of his newfound brother and younger sister. Raising up the skeleton of DomDaniel, Simon makes a bargain with the dead necromancer — to restore him to life, if he’s taken on as the next Apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. And you thought Percy Weasley was bad!

Simon Heap returns to the castle and kidnaps Jenna from right under everyone’s nose, leading a suspicious Septimus to enlist his brother Nicko’s help in getting her back. With Marcia distracted by a Darke Shadow that’s been haunting her and his parents convinced that Simon can mean his little sister no harm, Septimus and Nicko head off on their own to fetch her back, whilst Jenna calls upon her own resources to escape Simon’s clutches. However, this plot-thread by no means takes up the length of the entire book — there are other adventures to be had, including some nice reappearances from the previous book (in particular the Heap’s grandfather and the beautiful Dragon Boat).

No one can doubt that the book is fast-paced, filled with invention, humour and sparkling characterization (although the sheer amount of characters makes it difficult to keep track of everyone). However, the plot itself is rather haphazard, with characters wandering at length through the countryside without clear ideas on where they’re going or why, and a climatic confrontation that’s actually set about three-quarters of the way through the book, leading to a lengthy wrap-up of the story (there are seven chapters after DomDaniel’s reappearance!) Likewise, there are some irritating plot holes in the story, the most glaring being Simon’s motivation and intentions. As it turns out, he’s been ordered by DomDaniel to kill Jenna — so then why does he go to the great length of kidnapping her, carrying her miles to his home in the Badlands, locking her in a cell… and then conveniently falling asleep so that she can make her escape? He’s fallen into the typical bad-guy mistake of not killing his enemies straight-away. Just as odd was the Heap parents’ complete lack of action when it became apparent that their daughter had been kidnapped.

Sage has an interesting grasp of the rules and regulations of magic-making in her invented world (though it was a bad idea to print every single magical ingredient, artifact and incantation in bold-type — it felt like the book was yelling at me) and some cute plot twists along the way. Septimus and Jenna are bright, good-natured and compassionate protagonists, backed up by an interesting (though vast) cast of supporting characters. Another interesting feature is the final chapter of the book, titled “What Happened Before…” which gives brief summaries of many of the periphery characters’ back-stories. The previous installment, Magyk, was concerned with what happened to certain characters after the conclusion of the book (something I wish J.K. Rowling had used at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) and it’s a fun way to end the story.

Despite some weaknesses, it’s still a nice little read.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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