The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud is the first book of the Bartimaeus sequence; a contemporary YA Fantasy series. The series is comprised of a trilogy, of which The Amulet of Samarkand is the first book, and a prequel which was published after the trilogy. The sequence is made up of the following novels:
- The Amulet of Samarkand
- The Golem’s Eye
- Ptolemy’s Gate
- The Ring of Solomon (prequel)
In general, I don’t read YA, but this series is just so good and entertaining, that I had to buy it.
Twelve year old magician’s apprentice Nathaniel is sick and tired of being treated like he doesn’t know anything. He’s been steadily learning more than he should but his master still refuses to see his potential. Coupled with a horrible and shameful experience he’s gained a few years ago by the prideful magician Lovelace, he is intent on getting his revenge. He summons Bartimaeus, a djinni of uncountable years and deeds, to help him steal the Amulet of Samarkand. But Bartimaeus has no intention of being just a stupid servant. Things spiral even further out of control when Nathaniel figures out that the Amulet has a bigger part to play in the world of the magicians in London. And he gets sucked into a nefarious plot, along with his quick-witted and smart-mouthed djinni.
When I first picked up the book, I had no idea I would come to love it as much as I do. I certainly didn’t expect the use of footnotes to work out so well. Stroud uses the footnotes only when the story is told from Bartimaeus’ perspective, but they add so much more to the story. The footnotes are used to make it seem like Bartimaeus is talking directly to you, explaining things, elaborating, reminiscing and occasionally giving insight into the workings of magicians and their “magic”.
The use of demons – though you should never call them that: it’s highly offensive – and their powers, is what makes the magicians ‘great’. That is the source of that power. I thought it was interesting to see magicians being dependent on what they consider to be foul creatures and yet use them like parasites. Without the demons, they are nothing. They would be just like the commoners (people who can’t use magic) and yet most magicians treat demons like dirt.
Through Bartimaeus’ perspective, we get to see how demons view the magicians and their many failings. Through Nathaniel’s perspective, we get to see how life is for a magician’s apprentice and what his future could be like. Stroud did a good job of portraying both sides.
What I also liked was how Stroud showed that some times, things just don’t happen the way you wanted or expected them too. Nathaniel’s plan to get revenge gets his master and his wife killed and turns him to a fugitive, who has to rely on a djinni to survive, because he doesn’t know how to live like a ‘commoner’. The book also highlights that not all commoners are glad about being ruled by the magicians; the resistance makes a few appearances in the book, though plays a much bigger role in the next one.
All in all, a wonderful read. I recommend it to everyone, young adult or no.
10/10 (the use of footnotes made this book even more interesting)