Book One in the Bartimaeus Trilogy: The Amulet of Samarkand

The end! Or it’s the Stippling Fire for you!

Who wrote this book and when?
Jonathan Stroud had this published in 2004.

Has there been a film made of it?
Not yet, but I’m waiting for it…

Who are the main characters?
Bartimaeus – the djinni, a self-centered very sarcastic demon under Nathaniel’s power
Nathaniel/John Mandrake – a young powerful magician with a constant battle going on inside between his conscience and his ambition
Kitty Jones – one of the prominent members of the Resistance against the magician’s totalitarian rule
Jacob Hyrnek – a Czech boy who is a friend of Kitty’s
Jessica Whitwell – Nathaniel’s teacher
Gladstone – a famous historical magician
Jane Farrar – one of Nathaniel’s rivals, a member of the Night Police
Julius Tallow – the head of Internal Affairs, has strange yellow skin
Duvall – the head of the Night Police
Mr. Pennyfeather – the crotchety old man who leads the Resistance
Mr. Hopkins – an old man with a great deal of knowledge about magic, not a magician

What’s it about?
The continuation of the first story in this trilogy, set two years on down the road. Once again, Nathaniel calls up Bartimaeus to help him out of a jam. Only this time, he isn’t out for revenge, but defending himself and his country’s government from both the Resistance and a mysterious traitor who is using ancient magic to wreak havoc.

We also meet up with Kitty Jones, one of the prominent members of the Resistance. She’s run into Nathaniel before and the bad blood between them sets up for explosive (literally) encounters when the Resistance undertakes one of its most daring acts of terrorism yet.

Why is this book a classic?
Once again, not a classic, but a bestseller.

Why should I read this book?
Because the Bartimaeus trilogy only gets better the further it proceeds.

Has it won any awards?
I do not think so. However, the first book has won numerous awards.

Favorite quotes:

“The British Museum was home to a million antiquities, several dozen of which were legitimately come by. For two hundred years prior to the magicians’ rule, London’s rulers had made it their habit to filch anything interesting they could from countries where their traders called. It was something of a national addiction based on curiousity and avarice. Lords and ladies taking the Grand Tour of Europe kept their eyes open for small treasures that could be stuffed unnoticed into handbags; soldiers on campaign filled their chests with looted gems and reliquaries; every merchant returning to the capital carried an extra crate of valuables in his hold. Most of these items made their eventual way to the ever-expanding collections of the British Museum, where they were set on display with clear labels in many languages so that foreign tourists could come and see their lost valuables with minimum inconvenience. In due course, the magicians looted the museum of its magical items, but it remained an imposing cultural charnel house.” -p176

“True, as you worm your way deeper into the Old Town, the streets become narrower and more labrynthine, connected by a capillary system of snickelways and side courts, where the gable overhangs become so extreme that daylight barely hits the cobblestones below. Tourists probably find this warren charming; for me, with my slightly more soiled outlook, it perfectly embodies the hopeless muddle of all human endeavor.” -p269

Cleopatra’s Needle:a sixty foot Egyptian obelisk, weighing 180-odd tons, that has nothing to do with Cleopatra at all. I should know, since I was one of the workers who erected it for Tuthmosis III in 1475 B.C. As we’d plunked it in the sand at Heliopolis, I was rather surprised when I saw it in London 3,500 years later. I suppose someone pinched it. You can’t take your eyes off anything these days.” -p408

Anything else?
I appreciate Stroud’s ability to knock off just about any of his characters in a blink.

Personal thoughts:
This sequel (or second strand of the trilogy) isn’t as good as the first one; but then, sequels rarely are. And – I’m pretty sure I know why this isn’t as spectacular. But first, the good stuff.

Bartimaeus is just as funny as he was in the first book, but his character is gaining depth each time we meet him. Stroud makes a point to reveal his background a little glimpse at a time, and each revelation may not seem relevant until later in the story.

On the other hand, we are also privvy to the thoughts of Nathaniel as he becomes more and more like all the sorcerers he once despised. His conscience is beginning to dwindle – or is being consumed by his desire for power and recognition. The relationship between him and nearly everyone else in his life is becoming strained, which is most likely setting him up for a huge fall.

And finally, I enjoyed the introduction and background of Kitty Jones as a character. It’s about time we had a strong female lead. However, sometimes she just seemed inhuman in her reactions – not psychologically twisted, but exactly the opposite – too good. Her inclusion in the book also took away from much of the dry and sarcastic humor which was so prevalent in the previous novel. I felt a lot of personality was drained away from the other two characters to make room for Kitty’s energy.