Dahti Blanchard

The Bartimaeus Trilogy Book One: The Amulet of Samarkind by Jonathan Stroud
Hyperion Books Bartimaeus Trilogy
ISBN 078681859X
462 pages
C. 2003
Age category: 10 & up (all the way up)

I hadn’t necessarily planned to start with a kids’ book to review, but this is one of those great books that aims at all ages. It’s not to everyone’s taste, mind you, but I found it wonderful, disturbing, hilarious and I loved it.
The story is set in an alternative modern day England which is ruled by magicians. These magicians can be just as greedy and self-serving as we’ve come to expect of our own real-life politicians. The two main characters are Nathaniel: a twelve-year-old apprentice magician who is mistreated by his master and humiliated by another adult magician, and Bartimaeus: an egotistical, mid-level demon who prefers to be called a djinni. When Nathaniel (who has taught himself much more magical technique simply by reading than his master suspects) summons Bartimaeus to steal the amulet of Samarkind from the magician who humiliated him, he finds that he has created far more trouble than he was expecting.
Much of the tale is told in first person by Bartimaeus—with many cynical and very funny footnotes to help clarify things for us dim humans. It is interspersed with third person segments from Nathaniel’s point of view.
This is not a happy tale—a number of terrible things happen and you wonder if Nathaniel is going to grow up learning to be as bad as some of the people around him. A rather satisfying, if decidedly unsentimental, relationship slowly grows between the boy and the demon however, and you discover that Bartimaeus has his own warped set of ethics in the end. By the time the boy reluctantly sets the demon free to go back to wherever it is that he usually dwells, much damage has been done but Nathaniel is in a much better position to learn more magic. But, how will he use it?
There are many unanswered questions and loose threads that make you eager for the next installment. Plus, you can’t help looking forward to a return visit from one of the funniest demons/djinn of the literary world.

© 2008 Dahti Blanchard
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