Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Amulet of Samarkand - Jonathan Stroud

Jonathan Stroud's The Amulet of Samarkand is the first in the Bartimaeus trilogy. Bartimaeus is a fast-talking Djinni (that's pronounced "Jinnee") who is summoned from the Other Place to do the bidding of a trainee magician called Nathaniel; he sets about his given task reluctantly but with aplomb. Nathaniel is looking for revenge after being humiliated by a far more powerful magician called Simon Lovelace, his lacklustre master having failed to protect him. Nathaniel has spent all his waking hours for several years cramming knowledge of the highest magic into his head, far out-stripping what is expected of him at his age.

He charges Bartimaeus to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace's residence, which the Djinni achieves, but not without angering a few old acquaintances from the Other Place, and not without having to spend a very long night disguised as a bird. Bartimaeus, despite being bound to Nathaniel, discovers the boy's birth-name, a fact that he can use to his own advantage, but he is constantly outwitted. Then Nathaniel and Bartimaeus discover a plot to destory the whole British government (and in Stroud's alternative version of the world, magicians govern the country), so they are forced to work together.

Stroud writes is captivatingly, his story is intelligent and gripping - a real page-turner. If you're not fond of "secondary world" fantasies, preferring your fantasy set in an approximation of the real world, then you will enjoy this book. It will also appeal to fans of Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - although Stroud's book is a less dense read !

4 comments:

Kelly said...

I'm halfway through "Golem's Eye" right now, everyone's least favorite of the three. But, I'm still loving it. If there is a better character in kidslit than Bartimeus, I don't know him :)

Michele said...

I'm more than half way through Ptolemy's Gate - I've no idea where JS is going with the storyline, but it's very interesting !

And yes, Bartimaeus is quite something !

I'm just about to review The Golem's Eye...

Sheila said...

Yes, I love this series. I've finished all three and I won't spoil it for you, but it's definitely worth reading to the end. I love Bartimaeus, too. His voice is what really makes the series.

Michele said...

You're too late to spoil it for me now ! Look out for my review of Ptolemy's Gate later today !