The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
The Amulet of Samarkand
In an imaginary England, Parliament, the Prime Minister and all government offices are staffed by magicians. To have enough magicians, the government pays parents to give up their five year old children as apprenticsd to magicians. Homesick at first, Nathaniel gets impatient with his master, Arthur Underwood, who teaches at a slow pace, but appreciates Mrs. Underwood’s love and kindness. After he plays a minor prank on powerful magician Simon Underwood, Nathaniel suffers a humiliating beating by Underwood without any protection or protest from his master. Vowing revenge, Nathaniel uses his skills to summon Barimaeus, a powerful djinni, to assist him. They discover Lovelace is organizing a plot to assassinate top officials and seize power, which gives them more incentive to stop him. The author brings these characters alive, and infuses the book with lots of excitement and humor. He also develops a subplot involving commoners organizing resistance to the magical government.
Even though this book it a little long, it held me spellbound. I especially love the character of Bartimaeus, whose humor and snarkiness were totally charming. Readers who like humor, fantasy, adventure or all three will love this book!
The Golem’s Eye
To give background to this continuation of the trilogy started in The Amulet of Samarkand, a prologue recounts djinni Bartimaeus’ time serving magician in Prague in 1868 when the British conquered it under Prime Minister Gladstone, whose staff had legendary power. Returning to the present, magician Nathaniel has been renamed John Mandrake and works as an assistant to the head of Internal Affairs in the government. Charged with tracking down and eliminating commoners’ resistance attacks against the government, Mandrake suspects large attacks against British landmarks and institutions are work of a more sinister and sophisticated plot. Investigating with Bartimaeus, he realizes there is a traitor in the government, working as a double agent. Jonathan and Bartimaeus team up with resistance leaders to flush out the traitor, whose identity surprises everyone.
I got hooked on this trilogy in the first book and loved this installment. Jonathan Stroud, the author, has created a world and characters with real depth. Once again the humor and excitement propel the story forward; I was not at all deterred by the book’s length. Readers who love fantasy will find themselves captivated!
Seventeen-year-old Jonathan Mandrake, who started in book one of this trilogy as five-year-old apprentice magician Nathaniel, now heads the propaganda ministry. The war in America is going badly, commoners are revolting and other countries are attacking England with magic. Nathaniel’s mission to recruit more soldiers for the war and to lift the country’s morale becomes ever more challenging, and he has kept the djinni Bartimaeus working too long without a respite to regain his strength. Meanwhile, former member of the commoner resistance Kitty has changed her name and works as a housekeeper for a retired magician to learn magic herself. Kitty’s goal, to rebuild legendary Ptolemy’s Gate between human and magic worlds so she can establish trust between the two groups, moves forward. Unknown to both Jonathan and Kitty, a power hungry magician is plotting to use powerful magic beings to overthrow the entire government and take it over himself. Without giving away the ending, I will say it had me on the edge of my seat, unable to stop reading until I found out what happened to all the characters, both human and magical.
Jonathan Stroud has created a fantasy world that is entirely believable, with characters both human and magic about whom I really cared. I found the ending completely in accord with who these people and djinni were, as well as totally satisfying. I’m happy to say that Stroud has continued the character of Bartimaeus in Bartimaeus: The ring of Solomon, which the Berkeley High Library owns!
All reviews by Mrs. Goldstein-Erickson