The Bartimaeus Trilogy-Amulet of Samarkand: A Book Review

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The Amulet of Samarkand is the first book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy written by Jonathan Stroud. This book is about fantasy and adventure. The central character is a five thousand years old Djinn, Bartimaeus.  The author is famous for his vivid tales of fantasy fiction and magic. The book is dark and mystical with creatures such as Djinn, Afrits and imps. They are demons and spirits who work for the magicians, who call them using various spells, enchantments and drawings of pentagons. The whole of London is under the reign of these magicians who with the power of the spirits are successfully ruling over the non-magical people.

The other important character in the Amulet of Samarkand is Nathaniel, the young apprentice to a magician, who summons Bartimaeus the Djinn. He wants Bartimaeus to steal the amulet of Samarkand, a powerful piece of magical artifact from Simon Lovelace, a powerful and influential magician. Thus follows a series of events which are dangerous and precarious. He wants to steal the amulet because he wants to avenge the humiliation that he bore when he was ten years old at the hands of Lovelace.

The book is fast paced and un-putdown-able. The best part are the footnotes (which should not be skipped), they are mostly humorous as well as cynical and are in the chapters where Bartimaeus is sharing his own point of view. He is one character who demands constant attention and his wise cracks are side-splitting. He gives random trivia about the history of magic and his own triumphs. This unlikely pair of a 12 year old boy and cranky old Djinn find themselves involved in a big magical conspiracy to overthrow the government.

Jonathan Stroud had brilliantly combined both Nathaniel’s and Bartimaeus’s point of views in different chapters. It does get somewhat frustrating when one person’s narration ends and the other’s begins at a very critical point, then you feel like skipping to the next chapter. This new, dark and magical world is engrossing and you simply don’t want to get out of.

There is another tale which runs parallel in the book. It is of the French revolution against the magicians and their dark arts. This is an interesting group of people are not be afraid of magic as well as the spirit beings. Their role is also critical in the whole series.

There are also other characters such as Mr. Underwood, Nathaniel’s master, and his loving wife Mrs. Underwood. She cares for him but that does get him into a lot of trouble eventually. Thus the book clearly shows that in this dark world there is no place for affection.

The book ends in a very abrupt note and leaves the reader begging for more. The magical world is sinister and vengeful and we wonder if young Nathaniel will join ranks with all the other magicians or start a revolution somehow.

Ridhu Bhatia

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