Who wrote this book and when?
Jonathan Stroud, 2003.

Has there been a movie made from it?
No, but Miramax owns the rights to it. And it would make one wonderful movie.

Who are the main characters?
Nathaniel/John Mandrake – a young apprentice magician who is very talented and very ambitious
Bartimaeus – a 14th level (medium) djinni with an attitude
Simon Lovelace – a very ambitious and corrupt magician
Arthur Underwood – Nathaniel’s master and teacher
Martha Underwood – Arthur’s wife
Jabor – an upper level djinni
Faquarl – an upper level djinni

What’s it about?
Nathaniel is a 12 year old boy who is far more talented at magic than he lets on. He’s been taken under the intstruction of a mediocre magician named Underwood – a man who refuses to teach his apprentice anything he doesn’t have to. When Nathaniel is humiliated by one of the ministry’s magicians – Simon Lovelace – he vows revenge.

Once he’s gained enough knowledge, he summons a 14th level djinni named Bartimaeus – a djinni with a sarcastic sense of humor and a soft spot for one of his former masters, Ptolemy. Using a crudely made scrying glass, Nathaniel has discovered Lovelace possesses a stolen artifact called the “Amulet of Samarkand” and that he intends to use it for something big. So Nathaniel has Bartimaeus steal it and hide it in his master’s study. Unfortunately, before he can dismiss Bartimaeus, the demon learns his birth name – something which gives Bartimaeus power over Nathaniel and puts the boy in a very bad position. They also discover the Amulet is much more powerful and vastly more important than they originally thought, and their possession of it throws them in the center of potentially one of the biggest crimes of the modern age.

Why is this book a classic?
This book isn’t a classic. It’s a bestseller.

Why should I read this book?
I’d recommend this if you’re into adventure stories or myth/fantasy works. This book is interesting, hilarious, and entertaining all at once – and creative to boot.

Has it won any awards?
-2004 ALA Notable Book
-2004 Best Books for Young Adults Top Ten Pick
-Bank Street 2004 Best Book of the Year
-A Booklist Top 10 Fantasy Book for Youth 2004
-A Book Sense Children’s 76 Book
-A Book Sense Children’s Top Ten Title
– A 2004 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Winner
there’s more…but you get the idea. It’s good.

Favorite quotes:
“The temperature of the room dropped fast. Ice formed on the curtains and crusted thickly around the lights in the ceiling. The glowing filaments in each bulb shrank and dimmed, while the candles that sprang from every available surface like a colony of toadstools had their wicks snuffed out. The darkened room filled with a yellow, choking cloud of brimstone, in which indistinct black shadows writhed and roiled. From far away came the sound of many voices screaming. Pressure was suddenly applied to the door that led to the landing. It bulged inward, the timbers groaning. Footsteps from invisible feet came pattering across the floorboards and invisible mouths whispered wicked things from behind the bed and under the desk.
‘The sulfur cloud contracted into a thick column of smoke that vomited forth thin tendrils; they licked the air like tongues before withdrawing. The column hung above the middle of the pentacle, bubbling ever upward against the ceiling like the cloud of an erupting volcano. There was a barely perceptible pause. Then two yellow staring eyes materialized in the heart of the smoke.
‘Hey, it was his first time. I wanted to scare him.” -p2

Anything else?
Footnotes? Great idea.

Personal thoughts:
I loved this book from the very beginning (as you can tell by the gi-normous quote). Stroud not only created a wonderful fantasy London to have his story occur in, but he makes the fantasy seem perfectly plausible. He switches around the traditional “evil demon” and “benevolent magician” concept usually used (unless the magicians AND the demons are BOTH evil) and instead provides us a world where magicians are corrupt and power hungry and demons are…demons.

The idea of using footnotes for Bartimaeus’ personal quips makes this book all the more enjoyable to read. They’re often hilarious and informative – many of them tying in to later events in the book or even the serires. And Stroud’s ability to describe is spot-on. Some of his comparisons are flowery and poetic (“I chose a rich, deep, dark chocolatey sort of voice, the kind that resounds from everywhere and nowhere and makes the hairs stand up on the back of inexperienced necks” -p5). Some are downright disgusting in their simplicity. (“…he limped his way like some giant land snail up the stairs…” p 344). And the story is so intoxicating you never even see the next twists coming until you’re suddenly hitting a plotline switchback.

To be blunt – Jonathan Stroud writes how Chris Paolini SHOULD write if he wanted to make good books. He uses big/obscure language and pulls it off. He develops an environment different enough to be different but same enough to be relatable. His characters are individual and memorable in their personality and destiny, not distant. And Stroud put out all three books of the Bartimaeous trilogy in three years. J.K. Rowling should take note…

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