For those who love a romping glorious adventure about a demon with a heart (despite itself).
There are actually four books written by Jonathan Stroud about the irascible demonic djinni Bartimaeus, but the fourth is a prequel that was written after the initial books and does not include any of the main characters from the original trilogy (with the exception of Bartimaeus himself). I read the fourth book (entitled The Ring of Solomon), and although I found Bartimaeus as enchanting a character as always, this book fell flat for me as I failed to truly care about the new ensemble of characters in this prequel to the same degree as I did the original trilogy. This review is about the endlessly muchier trilogy, one of the best series of this generation.
But on to the muchier-ness:
In The Amulet of Samarkand we meet the precociously talented (though socially awkward) British 12-year-old magician’s apprentice named Nathaniel, (who’s official name is John Mandrake, as all magicians must protect their true identity or chance being compromised by those they ensorcell). Long before anyone, especially his mentor, thinks it possible, Nathaniel successfully summons a high-level djinni named Bartimaeus to do his bidding, which in this case involves stealing the Amulet of Samarkand from the one magician whom Nathaniel despises most: Simon Lovelace. What Nathaniel doesn’t expect is that Bartimaeus is far more than your normal djinni, and what Bartimaeus isn’t prepared for is his new young master’s heretofore untouched potential.
There’s so much more to this delicious tale that I won’t reveal here, but know that this first in the trilogy could easily stand alone as a satisfying read that won’t disappoint!
This second book takes place two years after the events of the first and begins by showing us the considerable changes wrought in the life of Nathaniel–both personally and socially–as a result of what transpired in The Amulet of Samarkand. In this novel, Nathaniel and Bartimaeus must save Britain from a massive (and seemingly invincible) clay Golem that is terrorizing London. A minor character from the first book, Kitty Jones, who is now a member of the magical resistance, becomes the third major character in this book, as she is forced to team up with Nathaniel and Bartimaeus to bring about a compelling conclusion.
The last novel in this trilogy sees Bartimaeus, Nathaniel, and Kitty together again, and although I really cannot reveal anything about the plot itself without spoiling the pleasure of your reading experience, I can say that this book confronts some fundamental themes about the preciousness of life, friendship, and loyalty, as well as the universal truths of forgiveness and redemption (but in an entirely new way). Stroud does not disappoint, as he thoroughly scrutinizes the magical world he has created (with all sorts of correlations to our own world today, of course), as well as crafts a fascinating exploration of Bartimaeus himself. A beautiful (if heart-wrenching) ending to an incredible triumph of a series.
Muchier Scale: 10 out of 10