Thursday, 22 August 2013

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, by Jonathan Stroud

I actually read this trilogy a few years ago, but as many of my friends are always looking for fantasy recommendations, it seemed time to talk about The Bartimaeus Trilogy. 

A series for young adults, don't let that put you off. Packing in far more humour, action and emotion that many books for adults, I loved virtually every second of this fantastic series, and especially adored the titular Bartimaeus,a rather sarcastic djinni who rather quickly became one of my all-time favourite characters.

Interested? Then read on for my reviews...

The Amulet of Samarkand - 5 stars

Elevated from a 4 to a 5 through the use of sarcastic footnotes and the snarky attitude of Bartimaeus, one of my new favourite book characters. 

Nathaniel is a young magician's apprentice who, after summoning a djinni (the aforementioned Bartimaeus) to enact a boyish revenge on Simon Lovelace (a powerful magician), is drawn into a conspiracy against the Government from which he'll need all the help Bartimaeus can reluctantly provide in order to stay alive.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of our two main characters, both have strong voices and those concerning Nathaniel help to ensure you empathise with the kid following his stingy upbringing at the hands of Underwood, his master, even when some of his behaviour is brattish. I liked that this was included, as he wasn't just the perfect hero but a (relatively) normal kid trying to make his place in the world. The parts from Bartimaeus' point of view are laugh out loud funny, and I loved all of his sardonic asides regarding other demons, events and human behaviour. It's this element which helps makes this the kind of book that you could easily pick up and re-read numerous times.

The Golem's Eye - 4 stars

A couple of years have passed since the events of The Amulet of Samarkand and Nathaniel has risen quickly through the ranks at Westminster, as well as growing to be considerably more of an arrogant, ambitious, selfish and snobby clot (much to Bartimaeus's disgust, and mine).

As a part of the Internal Affairs division of the Government, Nathaniel is charged with bringing down the Resistance (opposing the rule of the corrupt magicians, though a rather small scale operation). To make matters worse, a Golem is raging through London...

I enjoyed the development of the more unsavoury elements of Nathaniel's character, which was quite fitting considering his company at Westminster, even while cursing him and hoping he got knocked down a peg or two, and relished the expansion of the character of Kitty who gave us the commoners' perspective of life under the magicians' rule, as well as providing us with a human to root for.

However, once again the show is well and truly stolen by Bartimaeus (he would be pleased to know!) I'm itching to know how the final part of the story will unfold and hope that he and Kitty will become friends, teach Nathaniel the error of his ways, and see off the prigs in the Government!

Ptolemy's Gate - 5 stars

Excuse me a moment, I have something in my eye...

In an extremely well earned pay-off to the Bartimaeus trilogy, everything is wrapped up beautifully in this final instalment weaving in elements from the preceding volumes and finishing with an affecting act of heroism.

When we begin, Bartimaeus has been serving Nathaniel ceaselessly for a couple of years and, as such, is in a sorry state, whilst Nathaniel grows increasingly disillusioned with his life and position and Kitty has been working on a project of her own. Soon, all three must work together to battle a new, terrifying threat to London and the rest of humanity.

We get far more of Bartimaeus in this than in The Golem's Eye, which in my mind is only ever a good thing, and the humour employed is enough to stop any emotional moments tipping into sentimentality - towards the end I frequently laughed while nursing a large lump in my throat.

I loved the progression of the characters; Nathaniel's disillusionment doesn't feel forced in any way, and the deepening relationships also provide some surprisingly touching moments (particularly in the case of Bartimaeus and, well, anyone).

Thrilling, funny and heroic, I recommend this trilogy to fantasy fans of all ages.

Since I read the above, a new entry has been published in the Bartimaeus series - a prequel to the series set in Jerusalem at the time of King Solomon...don't worry, I read that one for you too.

The Ring of Solomon - 4 stars

Ah, Bartimaeus. How I'd missed you with your smart mouth and sarcastic footnotes. It's good to have you back.

My favourite djinn was always telling whoever would listen about what great feats he'd pulled off and events he'd taken part in. Luckily for us, we now get to read about those too as we catch up with him in Jerusalem, bound to one of King Solomon's magicians. And soon up to his essence in all manner of trouble.

As laugh out loud funny as he's ever been, I loved every minute of being back in Bartimaeus' company. While there was the odd slight lull whenever we weren't with him it wasn't enough to stop me from savouring every second, and not wanting it to finish.

If anyone is taking count, I vote for more Bartimaeus in my reading future. Make it happen, Stroud!

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