Menu

Jonathan Stroud biography and books reviewed

Jonathan Stroud was born in Bedford and grew up in St Albans. He always had a burning desire to write a full-length work of fiction which he would have wanted to read when he was younger, and so after graduating from York University he embarked on a publishing and writing career in the game book and non-fiction department at Walker Books. He moved to Kingfisher Publications to edit children's non-fiction, and for a time juggled working with writing; but Jonathan is now a full-time writer.

In May 1999, Jonathan burst onto the children's book scene with his first novel, Buried Fire. This powerful and compelling read combines elements of fantasy and mythology in a contemporary setting. It is a pacey story that shows how the dark past lives on and can still have a vice-like hold on the present.

Jonathan's second fantasy adventure The Leap was published in January 2001 as part of the new Definitions list.. The Leap portrays the devastation of grief and the temptations and dangers of a world within a world as Charlie is devastated by the tragic accident up at the disused Mill Pool involving her best friend, Max. Refusing to believe Max is dead she embarks on an emotional journey in her dreams. Soon her dream world becomes more important to her than anything else until this fantasy and real life begin to merge and give rise to strange events in the everyday world.

The Last Siege was published in February 2003. A chance encounter on the snowy slopes of a castle moat throws together three lonely teenagers; Emily, Simon and the highly imaginative but enigmatic Marcus, who is the catalyst for all that follows. At first the ruin is merely the backdrop to a day in the snow. But when the three break in to the forbidden interior of the keep, they find the castle taking on a different and deeper meaning.

The Amulet of Samarkand, the first part of the Bartimaeus trilogy was published in October 2003. This rich and wickedly witty opener introduced the thoroughly irresistible genii, Bartimaeus, and his arrogant young master Nathaniel. Skilfully inventive in plot and structure and vividly atmospheric, this magical epic is Stroud at his best and it has been very warmly received since its publication.

The long awaited sequel, The Golem's Eye, published in October 2004 saw the reluctant duo pair up again, this time with anti-hero Nathaniel working in Internal Affairs in the Government. The Resistance movement is gaining ground and poised to strike at the heart of the Government, and Bartimaeus, the witty and idiosyncratic djinn is back to unravel the mystery. The story mixes political intrigue and mystery to deliver a brilliant sequel to The Amulet of Samarkand.

The trilogy is completed with Ptolemy's Gate, published in paperback in October 2006. The magicians' rule in London is teetering on a knife-edge, with strikes, riots and general unrest. Can Bartimaeus, Nathaniel and Kitty settle old scores if they are to survive and prevent the earth's destruction?

Ptolemy's Gate has been long listed for The Carnegie Medal.

THE GOLEM'S EYE

"Another sophisticated, sardonic satire . . . It is a fast-paced, frightening and funny and you don't want it to end"
The Bookseller

"The alternating perspective between the three central characters add depth, detail and humour to the action-packed thrills."
The Times

"A vast plum pudding of a novel that improves with each mouthful."
The Independent

"Fresh, downbeat, witty and wise, this novel is a worthy sequel to The Amulet of Samarkand."
TES

THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND

"One of the year's most inventive and ingenious novels"
The Sunday Times

"Stroud's fast-paced plot is matched by his witty turns of phrase and excellent metaphors"
Financial Times

"This is a hilarious read with a stroppy young wizard whose daemon, Bartimaeus, is funny, cynical and totally out for himself."
The Observer

"The Amulet of Samarkand offers 484 pages of drama, humour and hypnotically engaging storytelling"
The Independent

"What a delight is The Amulet of Samarkand. . . A tonic for anyone aged 12 and up"
TES

THE LAST SIEGE

"This is packed with suspense and palpable tension. This compeling thriller is impossible to put down."
The Bookseller

"Stroud's novel will engage teenage readers; his characters are convincingly written and the fascination of the castle is strongly conveyed."
School Librarian

THE LEAP

"makes uncomfortable, compelling reading."
Guardian Education

"Atmospheric and intriguing, this is about making choices, knowing when to hang on and when to let go - the quality of writing never flags."
Daily Telegraph

BURIED FIRE

"Jonathan Stroud writes like a seasoned veteran with a voice all his own, and tells a cracking story that races to a strong climax"
The Telegraph

"A gripping tale and an efficacious way to make a parent's dream of seeing their teenage boy with his head in a book and not in front of the box stand a chance of coming true"
The Observer

Jonathan Stroud reviews

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

The five books that make up the Lockwood & Co series are so good that's I'm currently re-reading them all. I also hold The Bartimaeus Trilogy and stand-alone novel Heroes of the Valley to be amongst the finest fantasy books I have read. The most enjoyable fantasy books always supply the reader with a healthy dose of wish-fulfilment. I think this was key to the success of the Harry Potter books and the Narnia Chronicles before that and one the greatest strengths of Lockwood & Co. is that readers will wish they could live inside the book - after all, what teenager would not want to live in a massive old house, looking after themselves with no adults to order them around? And then at night they get to strap on a rapier and go out to battle the unsettled dead… Who wouldn't get a little bit excited about the prospect of being a full-time ghost-hunter? In Stroud's world it is the kids that hold the power, not the adults.

Read our review

The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Life is never exactly peaceful for Lockwood & Co. Lucy and George are trying to solve the mystery of the talking skull trapped in their ghost jar, while Lockwood is desperate for an exciting new case. Things seem to be looking up when the team is called to Kensal Green Cemetery to investigate the grave of a sinister Victorian doctor. Strange apparitions have been seen there, and the site must be made safe. As usual, Lockwood is confident; as usual, everything goes wrong - a terrible phantom is unleashed, and a dangerous object is stolen from the coffin. Lockwood & Co must recover the relic before its power is unleashed, but it's a race against time. Their obnoxious rivals from the Fittes agency are also on the hunt. And if that's not bad enough, the skull in the ghost-jar is stirring again...

"Jonathan Stroud writes skillfully, creating a gripping narrative that moves seamlessly from the comfort of home to the thrills and chills of graveyards and haunted houses. I find that the best authors really show their expertise in the tricky second book of a trilogy - a book which in lesser hands only seems to serve as a bridge to the third and concluding installment, but The Whispering Skull can both stand as an enjoyable stand-alone book and also a one that further fleshes out its characters and the world in which it is set."

Read our review

The Hollow Boy by Jonathan Stroud

Lockwood & Co. might be the smallest (some might say shambolic) Psychic Detection Agency in London. But its three agents - Lockwood, Lucy and George - are exceptional Talents. And they get results. When an outbreak of ghostly phenomena grows to terrifying levels in Chelsea, Scotland Yard is left baffled. Even more baffling is that Lockwood & Co appear to have been excluded from the huge team of Agents investigating the Chelsea Outbreak. Surely this is the perfect chance for them to show once and for all that they're actually the best in town? Well, that's if they can put aside their personal differences for long enough to march into action with their rapiers, salt and iron...

"My advice to you, dear reader, is to read the Lockwood & Co books then read everything else Stroud has written. He’s the bee’s knees in my opinion and his work is enormous fun to read."

Read our review

The Creeping Shadow by Jonathan Stroud

Lucy has left Lockwood & Co. A freelance operative, she is hiring herself out to other agencies – agencies that might value her ever-improving skills. But now Lockwood needs her help. Penelope Fittes, leader of the well-renowned Fittes Agency wants Lockwood & Co. – and only them – to locate and remove the ‘Source’ for the legendary Brixton Cannibal. It’s a tough assignment. Made worse by the tensions between Lucy and the other agents – even the skull is treating her like a jilted lover! What will it take to reunite the team? Black marketeers, an informant ghost, a Spirit Cape that transports the wearer, and mysteries involving their closest rivals may just do the trick. But not all is at it seems. And it’s not long before a shocking revelation rocks Lockwood & Co. to its very core...

"This is a grisly tale, in the best possible way. You’ll jump, laugh, be moved and be left wanting copious amounts of tea and biscuits. What else can I say? It’s brilliant, just as expected, just like every book I’ve read by Stroud. The scariest thing of all though is that the next book might just be the last... Please say it ain't true."

Read our review

Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud

Listen then, and I'll tell you again of the Battle of the Rock. But none of your usual wriggling, or I'll stop before I've begun . . .

Halli loves the old stories from when the valley was a wild and dangerous place - when the twelve legendary heroes stood together to defeat the ancient enemy, the bloodthirsty Trows.

Halli longs for adventure but these days the most dangerous thing in the valley is boredom. He tries to liven things up by playing practical jokes. But when one of his jokes goes too far, he reawakens an old blood feud and finds himself on a hero's quest after all. Along the way he meets a ruthless thief, a murderous rival, and a girl who may just be as fearless as he is . . .

"Written out of a deeply felt world, and with a taut, disciplined voice that knows its Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as its Harry Potter, Jonathan Stroud's new book is, quite simply, stunning." The Guardian

"It has been quite a long time since I have enjoyed a book this much. Although this may be my first encounter with Stroud'’s work it will certainly not be the last. An enthralling tale told by a master storyteller." Fantasy Book Review

Read our review

The Amulet of Samarkand: A Bartimaeus graphic novel by Jonathan Stroud

This graphic novel should appeal on all seven planes, from those familiar with the books to complete newbies. Where I think this may well come up trumps is with a reluctant reader – a youngster confronted with a graphic novel will react differently to one with a 500-page book of words shoved under their nose. It would be nice to think that said reluctant reader, upon enjoying the graphic novel, felt compelled to give the book a try and thereby be rewarded with an even fuller story. I believe that this was the case with the Artemis Fowl graphic novels, hopefully the same will happen here.

Read our review

The Ghost of Shadow Vale by Jonathan Stroud

Glam killed the monster of Shadow Vale-but he also died in the fight. Now Glam's ghost has come back and he's worse than the monster ever was... Barrington Stoke specialise in books for reluctant, struggling and dyslexic readers.

"With a scary cover image from artist Siku, showing ghostly Glam ready to fight the monster, there are interior illustrations in ink drawn by the same artist in a shonen manga style. Jonathan Stroud's The Ghost of Shadow Vale is the perfect read near a roaring fire with a slice of cake and a hot drink. All Barrington Stoke novels are designed to be dyslexia friendly and other titles are; The Goblin of Tara by Oisin McGann, Young Merlin by Tony Bradman, Thor and the Master of Magic by Kevin Crossley-Holland and Samurai by Ian Beck."

Read our review

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

I don't know if Jonathan Stroud is a household name worldwide but he certainly should be. He'll be on this list twice, once for his Lockwood & Co series but first for his wonderful Bartimaeus books. Comic fantasy is not my cup of tea usually - there's a reason why comedians only do twenty minutes on stage, someone trying to make you laugh can be great for a while and then wears thin. Stroud's greatest achievement in this book and the two that follow is to be consistently funny while striking a balance between humour, tragedy, adventure, excitement, delightful characters (both human and djinni) and a story rich in every way you could wish for. And, my, he can end a trilogy well, arguably the best bringing together of story arcs and untied ends I've read.

Read our review

The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud

The Golem’s Eye has great dialogue between characters you begin to care even more about. As witty, entertaining and fast moving as the first book in the series, it cannot be recommended highly enough.

Read our review

Ptolemy's Gate by Jonathan Stroud

The Bartimaeus Trilogy is one of the finest trilogies found in the fantasy genre. Although often classed as young-adult fantasy there is no upper-age limit for books this good, all ages will enjoy it. This sublime mix of alternate history and magical fantasy features magnificent characterisation and dialogue; it is always funny and often hilarious. Ptolemy’s Gate’s perfect ending will move many to tears. We highly recommend.

Read our review

The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

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.

"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."

Read our review