Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The Amulet of Samarkand
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
When a young apprentice magician summons the djinn Bartimaeus to steal a magical amulet, both djinn and boy discover that revenge is often more trouble than it's worth.
Nathaniel lives in an alternate, contemporary London where ambitious, and selfish magicians are the ruling elite. Someday he'll be one himself, and he's made a good start: at age twelve, he's made an enemy and feels a burning desire for revenge. His life is harsh, but Nathaniel is clever and he knows just how he wants to get even. He's also a lonely boy starved for attention and affection who takes refuge in amassing power and becoming every bit as touchy and self-important as the magicians around him.
Bartimaeus is a jaded, 5,000-year-old djinn who lives by his wits and sees human masters as temporary annoyances until he can figure out a way to pull the rug out from under them and get a little revenge of his own. He is surprised to see how young his new master is, but that doesn't make the boy any less able to order him around - to the proud djinn's irritation. Bartimaeus' side of the story is told in first person, and he's a hilarious narrator who makes frequent asides that make his scorn for humanity and his pride in his own cleverness apparent.
It's been a while since I read a fantasy book that pulled me in like this one. The characters are deeply flawed but still likable, and I have high hopes for Nathaniel's future character development (where I hope his personality will be leavened under the snarky guidance of the djinn). There are hints of a much-needed revolution happening in London, possibly led by a mysterious girl whose power even Bartimaeus doesn't understand. It's an intriguing world, and I can't wait to see more of it!