Author: Angie Sage
My rating: 5/5
My Angie Sage books occupy quite a bit of real estate on my bookshelves. I have ten in total, but they’re all hardbacks and really quite chunky books. And it is so worth having the hardback editions of both the Septimus Heap series and Sage’s newer TodHunter Moon series. Bloomsbury doesn’t publish the hardbacks in the UK (they did for the first few Septimus Heap books, but they then switched to the cheaper paperback option with, frankly, ghastly covers), so I get imported versions from the US published by Katherine Tegen Books. Thank you, America, for waving the flag for good-looking books! The hardbacks are aesthetically so satisfying to hold and read, and the aesthetic really does add to the experience of reading these books. The cover designs are made to look like old leather-bound, metal-cornered tomes that you need to brush the dust off, and the paper has a lovely tactile quality with frayed edges. It really suits the high-fantasy setting for these series and sets off the carefree, childhood-innocence indulgence of reading an Angie Sage book.
It’s been a while since I read the Septimus Heap books, and I was so well rewarded for jumping back into Angie Sage’s fantastical, magical world with PathFinder. One of the best aspects is actually just meeting all these wonderful characters again, now slightly older. Marcia with her infamous purple python shoes, Jenna the down-to-earth queen and, of course, Septimus, now the Extraordinary Wizard. And now we get a bunch of new characters to boot, and they don’t disappoint. Angie Sage has a wonderful talent for characterisation, to the extent that you know exactly who an old character is in PathFinder before their name is even mentioned. And I was squeaking with joy when the form-shifting cat Ullr made his appearance again. A ginger cat that turns into a panther at night? Yes, please!
The story of PathFinder certainly doesn’t suffer from Second Album Syndrome. It stands right alongside any of the Septimus Heap books for its originality, engagement and quirkiness. Despite the old characters, the plot is completely new, with yet another fascinating bit of Magick going on. Tod is an interesting and complex character with a engaging point of view to witness the story through. Even though she doesn’t have the Magickal skills of Septimus or Marcia, she’s loyal and courageous and an all-round marvellous new heroine. There’s a real sense of mystery in her past and, in fact, in the whole book. It really feels like this story is heading somewhere I don’t want to miss out on.
Of course, I’m not going to mention an Angie Sage book without also mentioning the incredibly talented Mark Zug, who peppers Sage’s books with delicious pencil drawings. These are not the kind of sketches you quickly skip over, even if you did just end a chapter on a cliffhanger. These are the kind of pencil drawings you ooh and aah over, and scrutinise for every detail. I wish more books had this kind of fine drawing in them; they just make the whole experience far richer, as if it has another dimension. It all adds to the visual sophistication of the book, which in turn enhances the natural sophistication of the story and its characters.
It is always a genuine treat to read an Angie Sage book, and PathFinder really delivers as the first book in the TodHunter Moon series. It’s what I would call a hot-chocolate read, the kind with whipped cream, marshmallows and a chocolate flake stuck in for good measure. I get from PathFinder, and all of Angie Sage’s books, the same sensation I get when someone places in front of me a hot chocolate with all the trimmings. Only, the books last a lot longer!