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Harry vs. Septimus

Sometimes, I like the Septimus Heap series more than the Harry Potter series.

There I said it. It’s a secret I’ve kept from all but my kids for a long time. Don’t get me wrong: I’m wild about Harry. I’ve knitted Harry Potter bookmarks (in Gryffindor colors, naturally). I’ve thrown at least two Harry Potter-themed birthday parties, complete with a sorting hat I made. I’ve stood at line overnight at Barnes and Noble waiting for the next book to come out three times. I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in one day.

But, often, I like Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap books (Magyk, Flyte, Physik, Queste, Syren, and the just published Darke) more. And I’m not entirely sure why. My current theory is that the Septimus Heap books are better written and, while also highly derivative, much more charming. The characters are human (muggles, even) and fraught with faults. Also, the Harry Potter books are, rightly so, about Harry. Everything is from Harry’s perspective. Sadly, we don’t see what happens in Hermione’s house during the summer. We didn’t get to travel along with the Weasleys on their Egyptian trip. Ron and Hermione are important characters, but they’re still secondary to Harry. In the Septimus Heap books, there are entire storylines about other characters, including Princess Jenna, Nicko, and, my favorite, O. Beetle Beetle. This may take some of the suspense out of the stories, but they also let the reader experience more of the world.

The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly is a tribute to the Harry Potter series, primarily the movies. The articles (and photos) are great fun and remind me how much I do love Harry. The filmmakers did a good job with it all. They’ve continued the magic from the books, brought it all to a wider audience, and kept Harry at the forefront of popular culture. Even now I have children coming into the library who want to start reading the Harry Potter series.

The Septimus Heap books probably won’t ever reach that kind of audience. There has been talk of movies, but nothing solid yet, except that Warner Bros. is involved and wants to hold off on doing Septimus movies until after the last Harry Potter movie is released. But I still recommend Angie Sage’s series to nearly all who like to read fantasy. Especially if they’ve read the Harry Potter series.


  1. it's the old tradeoff of "quality" kids'/YA lit vs. popular books. We used to have the same debate about R.L. Stine's series, and it even applies to Oprah's Book Club and the like: is it better that people are reading if they're reading sappy/mediocre/insert-your-book-peeve-here material?

    I think of Harry Potter as a gateway book. Kids who might not otherwise be enthusiastic about reading will latch onto the series a lot easier than other, perhaps-better-written series or standalones, but will be encouraged by both their experience with the Harry books and the recommendations of, say, a good librarian: "if you liked Harry Potter, you might like ..."

    Or even, "if you liked the Harry Potter books but found yourself rooting for Voldemort..." (a plug for the Artemis Fowl series).


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