The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Release Date: 2003
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Other Titles in Series: The Golem’s Eye (#2), Ptolemy’s Gate (#3), The Ring of Solomon (Prequel)
Overall- 97/100 or A
Synopsis: Nathaniel is eleven years old and a magician’s apprentice, learning the traditional arts of magic. All is well until he has a life-changing encounter with Simon Lovelace, a magician of unrivaled ruthlessness and ambition. When Lovelace brutally humiliates Nathaniel in public, Nathaniel decides to speed up his education, teaching himself spells way beyond his years. With revenge on his mind, he masters one of the toughest spells of all and summons Bartimaeus, a five-thousand-year-old djinni, to assist him. But summoning Bartimaeus and controlling him are two different things entirely, and when Nathaniel sends the djinni out to steal Lovelace’s greatest treasure, the Amulet of Samarkand, he finds himself caught up in a whirlwind of magical espionage, murder, and rebellion.
Review: The Amulet of Samarkand is a quick, witty, and fast-paced fantasy. It is the first of the Bartimaeus trilogy, and in my opinion quite an eye-opener. I enjoyed this novel greatly, the wide palette of characters was quite striking. I particular enjoyed the thoughts of the lead character, a sarcastic and often narcissistic djinni. They were cleverly expressed in footnotes, which added to the character’s. . . finesse I should say.
Jonathan Stroud has created a very interesting fantasy world. In fact, I would classify it as an alternative history. Taking place in London, the seat of the modern-day British Empire, the plot revolves around Nathaniel, a preteen magician. London is riddled with such magicians, who comprise the ruling class of society. They control every aspect of the government, and summon powerful spiritual entities to keep citizens in check. Nathaniel is apprenticed to a fairly low-ranking magician, who he often holds in contempt. His ambitions surpass anything his master has achieved.
A pretty good book in general, The Amulet of Samarkand is sure to give anyone a laugh. I myself enjoyed it greatly. There is much to uncover about the mysterious Bartimaeus, which I’m sure readers will do in later novels. I believe, after I’ve reviewed the entire series, I might send Stroud an email requesting an interview. I hadn’t planned on requesting authors directly, but I’m very eager to have a conversation with this one.
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