Harry Potter it ain't ! — 6 years ago
The first part of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, “The Amulet of Samarkand” is set in a mostly recognisable London – admittedly, with a few noticeable changes. The Tower of London is still a feared prison and the Empire (which still exists) is at war with the Czech Republic. Magicians are the ruling class, holding all positions of power, while the non-magical human masses are referred to as commoners. These magicians derive their power from their ability to summon and control a variety of demons – for example, afrits, djinn and imps.
The book begins with the first summoning of a djinn called Bartimaeus by a magician’s apprentice called Nathaniel. Nathaniel orders the Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from a very powerful magician and minister called Simon Lovelace. One thing leads to another and, sooner than you can say “N’gorso the Mighty”, there’s murder, mystery and mayhem – with the added bonus of some young and mysterious human revolutionaries. Needless to say, Lovelace is at the heart of the wrongdoing and the Amulet is clearly at the crux of his dastardly plans.
Nathaniel and Bartimaeus are the story’s central characters and the focus of the story alternates back and forth between them. Stroud has taken an interesting approach – he writes Nathaniel’s story (“Nathaniel’s eyes narrowed”), but the djinni tells his own (“I sat on the ground cross-legged”). Bartimaeus, for me, is the star of the show – the parts of the book that focus on him are among the funniest I’ve read in a long time. Caustic, sardonic, irreverent and hopelessly vain, he spends much of the book hoping to betray his master and plotting his downfall. The footnotes included in his sections also allow him to explain certain things or wander slightly off-topic.
Very funny and very enjoyable !