REVIEW The Amulet of Samarkand: Jonathan Stroud


My roommate raved about the Bartimaeus Trilogy, and I thought that this was a perfect way to begin the new year. I really loved this book, and I’ll try to get hold of the sequels as quick as I can.

Bartimaeus is a djinn who is summoned by a young magician Nathaniel to steal the Amulet of Samarkand, a legendary artifact which is in the possession of a powerful magician Simon Lovelace. The theft of the amulet has unfortunate repercussions, as Nathaniel and Bartimaeus have to escape scheming magicians, powerful djinns and the mysterious Resistance to thwart Lovelace.

This was a fantastic book, just perfect for my taste. The writing is crisp, the story fast-paced and I had a lot of fun reading it. It is a contest of wits between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, and each does his utmost to get the upper hand over the other. Stroud creates this magical universe where magicians, assisted by the spirits they summon, control England. But these magicians aren’t always the good guys; they are conniving, power-hungry people who treat their spirits like slaves.

Bartimaeus is a wonderful character, a sarcastic djinn who resents the task he is summoned for and tries every way he can to get out of it. Stroud includes many footnotes in Bartimaeus narrative, which help the reader get an idea of the settings of the story. Most of the footnotes are snarky asides, which will keep you in stitches.

When you've helped construct several of the world's most majestic buildings, and in some instances given pretty useful tips to the architects concerned,[2] a second-rate Victorian mansion in the Gothic style doesn't exactly wet your whistle. You know the kind of thing: lots of twiddly bits and turrets.[3] It was surrounded by a wide expanse of lawn, on which peacocks and wallabies were decoratively scattered.[4]

[2] Not that my advice was always taken: check out the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
[3] Not a good enough description for you? Well, I was only trying to move the story on. Heddleham Hall was a great rectangular pile with stubby north—south wings, plenty of tall, arched windows, two stories, high sloping gables, a surfeit of brick chimneys, ornate tracery that amounted to the Baroque, faux-battlements above the main door, high vaulted ceilings (heavily groined), sundry gargoyles (likewise) and all constructed from a creamy-brown stone that looked attractive in moderation but en masse made everything blur like a big block of melting fudge.
[4] So decoratively that I wondered if their feet had been glued in position.

If you love fantasy, you can’t afford to miss this.

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6 Responses
  1. historyofshe Says:

    This does sound good-- plus the names sound really fun.

  2. jennysbooks Says:

    I feel like I read the first two books in this trilogy and then couldn't get hold of the third one. I enjoyed them a lot, but I've forgotten the plots completely by now. Guess it wouldn't hurt to start over again.

  3. I agree! This is a great book. We read it awhile back but remember it fondly. The djinn is a riot!

  4. Shweta Says:

    Need to get started on this trilogy. Sounds fascinating..Had seen it in the book store but didn't know if it was good.

  5. Thea Says:

    Sounds like my kind of book.
    snarky = good (sometimes)

  6. Great a children's librarian...I have always recommended Stroud to the...what can I read after Harry Potter question!

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