Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

I had been eying the Bartimaeus Trilogy for some time now but just recently found the books in audio format at the library. I was a bit weary because it was very much a fantasy book and it has to be a very good fantasy book for me to get into it, yet Stroud developed a series of characters that left me eager to read the other two books.

In this first installment we meet Nataniel, a young magician who just has not had much affection in his life, He part of a ruling class in a alternate reality England. The magicians rule over the commoners by enslaving demons that help them maintain order. Children are separated from a very young age and placed in the care of older magicians who take them on as apprentices. They are taught to forget their birth names because it is a source of weakness, if anyone finds out their true names it would give the person the power to repel any magic that the magician tried to yield against them. At the age of 12 they are registered as magicians and given a new name which would identify them within the ranks of society. Nataniel is the apprentice of Mr. Underwood who does a piss poor job at preparing him for the world of Magic. He is an unwanted annoyance to the senior magician but his wife cares deeply for Nathaniel, even though she will not stand up to her husband on his behalf.

After a dreadful incident several years past, where Mr. Underwood failed to protect Nathaniel against another magician, Mr, Loveless, Nathaniel takes his training into his own hands, in hopes to find a way to avenge himself against Loveless. What he didn't even stop to consider is that he was stepping into a mess that was larger than himself and that Loveless was into more than just humiliating young apprentices.

Bartimaeus is the actual star of this book. He is a Ginnie that Nathaniel has summoned to do his biding by stealing an amulet from Loveless. Bartimaeus is irreverent and sarcastic to anyone that stands in his way, he has no loyalties and has just one goal, look out for #1, him! I kept thinking that there was to be a change in his character, typical of most books where the unloved characters find a true friend and the selfish person turns a new leaf, but this never happened. Bartimaeus serves Nathaniel because the young magician has threatened to look his essence in the human plane for all eternity if he fails to due his bidding, and this extreme punishment was promised after Bartimaeus discovers Nathaniel's true name.

The book held onto it's intrigue until the last line was read, preparing us for the next installment which I am told is not such a page turner. Don't expect to fall in love with Nathaniel, because he is a spoiled brat that you just want to deck! He is a selfish little rascal who only cares for his revenge and never looks beyond the right now, which is what gets him and everyone around him into trouble. Bartimeaus lack of respect for anyone, is what really fuels this story. He has tons of one liners that have you shaking your head and giggling.

There is also the presence of a group of young kids that appear to be resistant to magic and at several times accosted both Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. The mysterious leader is a girl who we don't really know much about in this book but who's character will have a larger role in the next installment, Golem's Eye.

Grade: A
Format: Audiobook


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