Author: Jonathan Stroud
Most Americans are familiar with the tale of Aladdin, in which a young Egyptian thief finds a djinni who grants him three wishes. The Bartimaeus Trilogy delves into the conscience of a djinni named Bartimaeus while he is serving a young magician’s apprentice in a modern-day London with a government run by magicians. In this alternate universe, djinn and a host of other magical creatures, ranging from petty imps to defiant foliots, intimidating afrits, and powerfully frightening marids, play a huge role in everyday life. Most, however, are forced to serve humans against their will. They must be summoned from the “Other Place” by a magician, who is no different from a “commoner” except for a vastly superior education, and then the being’s essence is bound to their master’s will. That is, unless their master makes a mistake. Bartimaeus, who narrates much of the novel, is happy to explain how easy it is to snuff out a careless magician who messes up an incantation, the drawing of a pentacle, or a hieroglyph. Being a particularly sarcastic, mischievous, and egotistic being, Bartimaeus tells his part of the story from his charmingly witty point of view. After all, to a being that helped build the ancient walls of Prague, fought in the great many wars in history, and served such magicians as the legendary Ptolemy, the day-to-day drama of London magicians is very laughable indeed.
Then who commands the great Bartimaeus? To the despair of the djinni’s exceedingly massive ego, a twelve-year-old apprentice has somehow managed to summon the cocky entity. In this novel, it soon becomes apparent that this boy, Nathaniel, is not being manipulated by his master or another magician but is working on his own account to seek revenge upon the powerful Simon Lovelace. Lovelace cruelly humiliated the boy at a very young age, ridiculing and abusing him in front of other magicians after Nathaniel showed off his exceptional knowledge of magic. Determined to prove he wasn’t powerless and that he could contend with Lovelace, Nathaniel dedicated himself to his studies, reading through his master’s library and teaching himself much more advanced techniques and spells than his master would ever let him use. His master, the incompetent Arthur Underwood, consistently underestimated his apprentice’s abilities and refused to believe that Nathaniel could know so much so soon. Working completely by himself, Nathaniel learned everything he could about his enemy, Simon Lovelace, and how he could take him down. He finally decided to summon the accomplished djinni Bartimaeus to help him steal an item he saw come into Lovelace’s greedy hands: the Amulet of Samarkand. Little did he know, Lovelace had a terrible use in mind for the amulet, and it was sorely missed after Bartimaeus successfully snagged it, causing a fast-paced chain of events that would change both Nathaniel’s life and Bartimaeus’s existence forever.
Jonathan Stroud’s captivating adventure story will enchant anyone who takes interest in magic or fantasy novels. Cheer Nathaniel on as he overcomes his emotional neglect with his incredible capacity for knowledge, and laugh as the shape-shifting Bartimaeus goes on gleeful escapades filled with nonstop skullduggery. The point-of-view in the novel switches back and forth from first person with Bartimaeus to third person with Nathaniel. In Bartimaeus’s chapters, there are footnotes every couple pages, offering more explanation to all of the djinni’s magical references in the novel. The two perspectives begin at different points but unify to become a smooth succession of events as the plot becomes more intense.
The Bartimaeus Trilogy: The Amulet of Samarkand is a classic tale of adventure and revenge with many not-so-classic twists and turns, thanks to the devious djinni. The two succeeding books in the trilogy feature the same main characters but give larger roles to minor characters and use much of the background information given in The Amulet of Samarkand. Being one of my favorite trilogies, I highly recommend you find out what happens to Nathaniel, to Simon Lovelace, Mr. Underwood, and of course, the unforgettable Bartimaeus.