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The Amulet of Samarkand is the first in the Bartimaeus trilogy, chronicling the adventures of young magician's apprentice Nathaniel, and the 5000-year-old djinni, Bartimaeus. The story is set in a universe very like our own, but with an upper class of magicians; it is they who run parliament and the country. The magicians' power comes from their ability to summon very types of demons and bind them to their will, with more powerful demons requiring more magic to summon.
The main protagonist of the story is Nathaniel, apprenticed to a lowly parliament official. Nathaniel dreams of greater things however, so without his master's knowledge, he begins illicitly practicing magic, culminating in the summoning of Bartimaeus. Nathaniel has a task for Bartimaeus; to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from the magician Simon Lovelace. He isn't sure of the importance of this amulet, but he knows it is precious to Lovelace. The reasons for Nathaniel's grudge against Lovelace are slowly revealed in flashbacks throughout the first half of the book. However, Nathaniel has got himself in over his head, and Lovelace is not at all happy to have his plans disrupted by anyone, least of all an apprentice. Nathaniel falls into even more danger when he and Bartimaeus discover the full extent of Lovelace's plot. Soon, the pair find themselves on the run; pursued by Lovelace, the government, and a mysterious group who hate magicians, the Resistance. And yet somehow, they must find a way to thwart Lovelace and his wider conspiracy...
I really liked the narrative style of this book. Alternate chapters are told from Nathaniel's and Bartimaeus' point of view, the former in third-person, and the latter in first-person. This means that the reader can follow all the different parts of the story, but it also means that the reader gets to know Bartimaeus a lot better than Nathaniel, as we never see the thought processes in Nathaniel's head. Nathaniel is quite an arrogant character at times, so not always likeable, but as the flashbacks tell some of his backstory, it is easier to understand why he acts this way. Bartimaeus is also immensely arrogant, but he comes across as a lot more sympathetic. As a djinni he is forced to serve magicians, despite finding living in this world incredibly painful, and therefore you get the sense that his arrogance and attitude are more of a coping mechanism. Besides, having been around for 5000 years and served King Ptolemy and King Solomon, he has plenty of reasons to be dismissive of the little boy who is now his master. Bartimaeus' narration is also incredibly funny, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. His sections contain plenty of footnotes, either cheeky asides, or explanations of how magic works. You don't have to read this, but they add plenty of detail and humour to the story, so I would recommend doing so. The plot itself is brilliant, with plenty of action, and enough surprises to keep it interesting. I really like the world the book is set in; there are enough links to our own history to make it realistic (the prime ministers Gladstone and Disraeli as two rival magicians for example). Overall, I would really recommend this book; it's funny, thrilling, and with characters you can identify with, despite their situations being unlike anything most of us have experienced!
I bought this book for my daughter who has yet to read it, and ended up reading it myself on the recommendation of my husband. So the two adults in the house have read it and enjoyed it - just need to get the intended recipient of it to read it now.
The story is set in an alternate reality where some of the population are magicians and some aren't (a bit like the wizard/muggle thing in Harry Potter, although the magicians are known to exist in this world). The two main characters are Nathaniel, a 12 year old magician's apprentice, and Bartimaeus who is a djinn. There is a whole hierarchy of spirits, djinni and demons, and Bartimaeus is fairly powerful, but by no means amongst the most powerful.
The story starts with Nathaniel invoking Bartimaeus and giving him the job of finding and stealing the amulet of Samarkand. This causes Bartimaeus some amusement, as 12 is far too young to be invoking spirits, especially of his standing, and he waits for the youngster to make a fatal slip-up. Nathaniel is equal to his task, though, and Bartimaeus retrieves the magical amulet, which Nathaniel then hides among his master's belongings.
We then start to see in flashback how Nathaniel has come to this situation : ridiculed by some senior magicians in the past, he is set on revenging himself on them and has studied in secret topics well beyond his years to learn the magic necessary for his plans.
Bartimaeus and Nathaniel unintentionally uncover a vast plot involving some of these senior magicians and the amulet of Samarkand, and by now totally in over their heads end up running for their lives as their interference is discovered.
This is a smart, sassy book probably aimed at the 10+ market, but is well enough written that it has kept two adults entertained. Bartimaeus is a fine comic character, keeping us informed on his thoughts about the world in general through footnotes which are at worst witty and at best downright hilarious. These are easily the best bits of the book, and I found myself checking the foot of the page with every page turn hoping for a new footnote to enjoy.
I'm going to read the rest of the trilogy, and keep working on the kid.
The title 'Amulet of Samarkand' sounded so Oriental and magical that I was forced to start reading the book when I saw it at my cousin's. After that, I ordered it from home in order to continue. I had found a rare branch of fantasy.
Jonathan Stroud was born in 1970 and studied English Literature at the University of York. He has been writing stories since the age of seven. The Bartimaeus Trilogy is the most acclaimed of his works, of which The Amulet of Samarkand is the first.
This story has an unusual setting. It reminds me of books set in the 19th Century, but at the same time it seems to be a form of Utopian novel, though not exactly a futuristic novel. This is not your Brave New World or 1984, it does not use technology to show a possible future. In fact, it uses a special form of magic. This world runs on the summoning of djinnies and other fiery spirited beings, and it is upon them, and not technology, that the civilization of Great Britain and the rest of the world is based.
Stroud has given much thought to the social structure. Britain is ruled by Magicians, who dominate the commoners. The more powerful you are the higher your status in Parliament. The commoners are typically poor and deprived and constant surveillance is maintained in the form of spying spirits.
Our hero is a young boy named Nathaniel. In early infancy he is assigned to be a Magicians apprentice. He is in absolute awe of his master, who does not think much of Nathaniel and disapproves of his wifes kindness to him. However, he is very ambitious and competent child, and is quickly disenchanted by his masters lowly status among the other state officials. Though very young, he teaches himself to master advanced magic- the ability to summon a very powerful djinni.
As a person, Nathaniel is what may be generally termed as good but when he is humiliated by being beaten in public by a powerful minister, Simon Lovelace, Nat nurtures feelings of hate and revenge. This begins to change him and in order to enact his revenge, he takes a big step by summoning a superior djinni. In this way we are introduced to the books other main character, after whom the trilogy is named, and the only character who narrates in the first person. I give you Bartimaeus!
This is one loveable djinni! Not because he is really nice and cuddly, but because of his fresh, sarcastic humour, his brazen selfishness and his exaggerated arrogance, seen when he recounts past incidences. Stroud has included footnotes, which are additional speeches in the voice of Bartimeaus to clarify or embellish his tall tales.
Where Nathaniel is serious and ambition driven, Barty is funny and ready to escape. Forced by Nathaniel to steal an ancient and powerful artifact from Simon Lovelace, Nathaniel and Barty find themselves in a lot of trouble. They stumble over a plot that can threaten the whole country. Nathaniel needs all the help that Barty can give. Can they save the day?
The plot is totally original though it is leaning heavily on existing evidences and beliefs in the existence of Jinns (genies). I love the action, like when Barty is stealing the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace and encounters acquaintances hed rather forget, combined with a running commentary from him which means fits of laughter. Strouds humour is original. Nowhere else will you find a baby faced imp who would sooner tell you to drown yourself in a teacup than plead for some milk. With the action and comic there is the fantasy and fun history lesson from Bartys perspective who has lived thousands of years. (He has allegedly worked for Suleman and chatted with Ptolemy).
Strouds character formation is also admirable. I have read the whole trilogy. I can tell you that the development of Nathaniels character is beautiful and unhurried. In the first book he is innocent but ambitious. From this, in the second book, he becomes pompous and not a little detestable. Finally, in the last book, he realizes the baseness of his character and takes a turn for nobility and honour until he gives the ultimate sacrifice.
I would recommend this book, and the two that follow it (Golems Eye and Ptolemys Gate)- it will be worth your while!
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The amulet of samarkand is a great read for teenagers. Basically it is present time and set in normal london but about half of the city are magicians who can cunjure up imps and demons. A boy called Nathaniel is brought up as a magician but he is very eager to learn and goes of to read the books himself. By the age of thirteen he already knows how to conjure creatures and he calls upon bartimeus just as a test. He knows a man call Simon Lovelace so he tells Bartimeus to take a precious item from Lovelaces house. Bartimeus finds it hard but in the end he returns with the amulet of samarkand... This book can be bought from almost any bookshop or online.