Queste is the fourth book in the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage. The lighthearted fantasy series began in 2005 with Magyk, which I loved. The characters in the story immediately came to life for me, and the humor Sage threaded into their adventures often made me laugh out loud while reading. I read the next two books—Flyte and Physik—and enjoyed them too, although Magyk remained my favorite. (This is a pattern with me. I always like the first book in a series the best.)
When Queste came out in 2008, I started it, but then I put it down. I tried it again in 2009 and still only made it a couple of chapters before abandoning it once more. I wanted to read it and even had the next book in the series, Syren, ready to go, but for some reason I kept putting it off. This year, I checked the audio version of Queste out of the library and finally made it all the way through the book. (It was a little difficult, after my six year hiatus from the series, to remember who the characters were and what predicaments they were facing, but most of it came back to me as I listened to the story unfold.)
Queste wasn’t a bad book, but it was definitely my least favorite so far. It’s hard to pinpoint why it didn’t hold my attention. I think it just includes too much detail. The story is still good, but some scenes seem to drag on. And there are so many characters that there’s a lot for my brain to juggle. My husband is reading the Game of Thrones series and sometimes complains about needing a character guide to help him keep track of everyone. That’s sort of how I felt with Queste, which is unusual for a middle grade novel. I still want to finish the series, but taking on three more books (plus the extra novellas she’s written in between) feels like a somewhat daunting task. I think audio books is definitely the way to go in this case.
But wait! There’s more!
Even though Queste was not my favorite, even though the writing dragged in places, even if you have no interest in taking on this seven(+) book series, you still need to check Queste out of the library or pick up a used copy. Why? Because Chapter 3 alone is good enough to justify the money spent at Half Price Books or the time it takes to drive to the library, and it can be enjoyed without reading any more of the series.
The seventeen pages of Chapter 3 of Queste include, hands down, some of the best young adult horror ever written. Horror? Yes, horror. But also humor. This chapter, which in my opinion would make an excellent campfire tale or bedtime story for someone who you don’t exactly wish a restful night’s sleep, describes the book’s antagonist as he casts a “Darke” spell and summons a “Thing” to do his bidding. Only, things (no pun intended) don’t go exactly as planned, and the result, both gruesome and gory, is also devilishly delightful.
If you haven’t experienced any of Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series, I suggest you read Magyk. It’s a good book, and you can decide from there if you want to continue the series or not. If you’ve read some of the series, but (like me) lost your motivation to continue, try the audio books. Queste was read by Gerald Doyle and was very well done. And if you’re not interested in this series at all, but you do enjoy a good spine-tingle now and then, pick up Queste just long enough to read Chapter 3 by candlelight. You won’t be disappointed.