The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
Review by Daniel Offer
*Daniel Offer is the manager of the Facebook emoticons software application "Emoinstaller." Emoinstaller makes Facebook instant messages more interesting with extra Facebook chat emoticons. Hundreds of new Facebook smileys are installed by Emoinstaller at a click of a button.
Bartimaeus: The Amulet of Samarkand is a novel which successfully bridges the divide between children’s and adult fiction. The story of an ambitious young demonologist and an ancient and exasperated demon, it is a challenging and sophisticated read for young readers of perhaps 12 years and upwards and a witty entertaining and fast-moving adventure story for adults.
Learning that Bartimaeus: The Amulet of Samarkand is the story of a young apprentice magician, cruelly bereft of his parents and lonely and neglected in his foster home, we may feel that we are in over-familiar territory. Stroud’s novel, however, is very different in tone from the work of J K Rowling.
Nathaniel’s parents were not tragically killed, but sold their little boy to the government (a magical hierarchy) to be an apprentice magician, knowing that they would never see him again. There is no comforting Dumbledore-type figure to provide a moral centre. The kindest character in Bartimaeus is Mrs Underwood, the wife of the magician to whom Nathaniel is apprenticed. Other than his drawing teacher, Ms Lutyens, from whom he is soon separated, she is perhaps the only person to show Nathaniel affection. In turn, Nathaniel expresses a love and loyalty to her that is otherwise all but absent from his life. Mrs Underhill’s failure to challenge her husband’s harshness and mistreatment of his apprentice, however, makes her seem somewhat weak and ineffectual.
We may feel sympathy for the hero of Bartimaeus; a lonely, friendless young magician, subject to outrageous repression and unkindness by the adults around him, but he is not an overly sympathetic child. Far superior in ability to his mediocre master, he studies advanced magic in solitude and secrecy, for motives that are not pretty, however understandable.
The demon Bartimaeus is disgusted to be successfully summoned by the ambitious twelve year old and, even more so, when Nathaniel compels him to undertake a dangerous and difficult mission. Their relationship is not cosy, but governed on either side by fear and constraint. The perspective of Bartimaeus, the millennia old demon who relates a great part of the narrative, provides a cynical, humorous and entirely unsentimental view of events.
Forced by the boy’s precocious powers to steal the legendary Amulet of Samarkand from the well-guarded house of powerful magician, Simon Lovelace, Bartimaeus is plunged into a series of perilous situations, many times escaping destruction only by a hairbreadth. When the demon finds the locket and uncovers something of how it came to be in the possession of Simon Lovelace, both Bartimaeus and Nathaniel find themselves entangled in a world of murder, magic, intrigue and high politics, the stakes higher than either of them dreamed. Nathaniel pays a very high cost for his overweening pride and things will never be quite the same again…
Bartimaeus: the Amulet of Samarkand is highly recommended as an enthralling, darkly humorous read for older children and adults!
Jamey from Feuer
The wizard Nathaniel is apprenticed to is named UnderWOOD, not Underhill. That's kind of a large error. The novels... all of them, are brilliant. Stroud displays a deft hand with pacing and a scathing wit. (Ah, Underhill is Frodo's travelling name isn't it? Changed that now, thanks Jamey - Lee, Fantasy Book Review).
Sakshi from Singapore
Brilliant book! Made me laugh out loud, gasp, even shed a tear at one point. Must read! :)
Nathan from Pamilan
There is just no telling much about these books. They are simply marvelous and electrifying. The author being a very capable twister of the tale almost wills you into his captivity and takes you through a roller coaster ride that is full of unexpected hues and pop!!!! You have another foliot to completely reverse the gear. Twice I read this book and no other experience was so fulfilling. So enjoyable is the read that to say goodbye to the book seems like the epitome of death!! This is the awesome-est book that you could ever read.. Now why is Stroud being so slow in bringing out another series centered around the same world???
Harrison from Indiana
I simply loved these books. The story had the perfect amount of twists and turns. Unlike many fantasy novels this book even had a good taste of humor in it!
Edgar from United Kingdom
A tantalizing tale, which dominates with its footnotes and quirky comments, in spite of that The Amulet of Samarkand still makes me feel as though this was just another run-of-the-mill, unexceptional work undistinguished, bog-standard highflyer.
Sarah from Barford
Captivating writing style, fantastic character interactions. Laughed out loud all the way through.
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