Fantasy Book Review Children's Book of the Month, December 2010
In October of 2010 Jonathan Stroud released the much-awaited prequel to his best-selling Bartimaeus trilogy. Having just read and thoroughly enjoyed it (the e-book in case you were interested) I can confidently say that The Ring of Solomon is brilliant in two important ways - both as an introduction to the trilogy for those lucky enough to not have already read it (as in they still have a treat in store) and also as a fascinating insight into the past of my – and many other fantasy fans’ - favourite djinni, the irascible, insolent, yet strangely lovable Bartimaeus.
The year is 950 BC and the self-proclaimed master djinni Bartimaeus is to be found causing chaos whilst serving at the court of King Solomon in Jerusalem. But with the arrival of Asmira, an assassin girl sent by the Queen of Sheba, things begin to get even more interesting and Bartimaeus must use all his skill and cunning to not only survive, but also aid Asmira in the theft of the all-powerful Ring of Solomon.
I am going to keep this review pretty simple, short and sweet as all I really need to say is “get it, read it, enjoy it”. However, for those who need a little more persuasion, here is my reasoning.
If I was asked what it was I believed to be Jonathan Stroud’s forte I would unhesitatingly answer that it is his perfect use of humour within his books. There is always a fine line that needs to be trodden when injecting humour into a narrative - too much and it begins to grate, too little and the results can be rather dry. Stroud uses delightfully subtle humour in just the right amounts and his charming mix of wit and sarcasm (used in the main by Bartimaeus) often results in the reader emitting frequent, out-loud bursts of laughter.
Here is an example of a passage that really tickled me in which Bartimaeus explains his preeminent throwing skills, aided by a footnote. Footnotes are a favourite of the author’s and it is within these that the most fun is stored.
‘Like the throwing technique?’ I grinned. ‘Learned it squirrel-tossing with the Mongol nomads*’.
*On quiet nights we’d go down to Lake Baikal with a basket of plump ones each and send them skimming out across the waves. My record was eight bounces, seven squeaks.
The Ring of Solomon: Chapter 26
And then we have the moving and oddly profound relationship between Bartimaeus and Asmira. Generally speaking there is nothing but mutual hatred between the summoned spirits and their human masters but here, as was the case with Nathanial and Bartimaeus previously, Asmira and Bartimaeus form an almost affectionate friendship that has each questioning who and what they are.
In conclusion, the truth of the matter is that Stroud does everything extremely well: dialogue, world-building, humour, plot – all are done with consummate skill. I have said this before but it is worth mentioning again – I firmly believe that those who have worked previously as book editors often become very good authors and Stroud is a case in point. He is able to write books that are effortless to read thanks to an impressive command of words and how they should be structured plus an admirable attention to detail. So, any aspiring authors out there looking for a job to pay the bills while they write – go and get a job as a book editor.
The Ring of Solomon is an excellent fantasy adventure, full of magic, intrigue, excitement and humour. A real must-buy and a perfect Christmas present for readers of all ages.
Jonathan Stroud, as well as being the author of the Bartimaeus books, has written the standalone novels Heroes of the Valley (which I also strongly recommend, read the review here), Buried Fire, The Leap and The Last Siege. Now a full-time writer he lives in St Albans with his wife and two young children.
The Ring of Solomon (Bartimaeus)
Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Doubleday Childrens (14 Oct 2010)
Review by Floresiensis
1 positive reader review(s) for The Ring of Solomon
Nathan from Pamilan
Stroud, as expected, has always been very unexpected at storytelling. Even though the book is fun, it does drive in some philosophical content. A very enjoyable book because the pace is just right, Bartimaeus is a big time idiot and a cool demon too, author takes us to palaces, deserts, ancient monuments, smoke filled 'other world'... the list is exhausting. And most of all there is this bond btw. Bartimaeus and the girl, that u can't fail to soak into your skin. This is one of the best books. Truly.
9.8/10 from 2 reviews