Book review

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (2003)

Part one of the Bartimaeus Trilogy

Here's a good book. There's this weedy kid, right? And he's got magic powers.

Actually, he's a rather lowly magician's apprentice and his master thinks nothing of him. But his master is making a big mistake because Nathaniel is a very competent and able magician. He spends his time reading his master's books.

And when he's ready he draws a beautiful pentacle in chalk on his bedroom floor, underneath the rug, and lights the candles and speaks the words of summoning.

He summons Bartimaeus, a five thousand year old djinni. Now, here we have a pretty superior kind of djinni, who doesn't take kindly to being ordered about by pale-faced novices:

The kid cleared his throat. This was the moment. This is what he'd been building up to. He'd been dreaming of this for years, when he should have been lying on his bed thinking about racing cars or girls. I waited grimly for the pathetic request. What would it be? Levitating some object was a usual one, or moving it from one side of the room to the other. Perhaps he'd want me to conjure an illusion. That might be fun: there was bound to be a way of misinterpreting his request and upsetting him.
'I charge you to retrieve the Amulet of Samarkand from the house of Simon Lovelace and bring it to me when I summon you at dawn tomorrow.'
'You what?'
'I charge you to retrieve -'
'Yes, I heard what you said.' I didn't mean to sound petulant. It just slipped out, and my sepulchral tones slipped a bit too.

And who might Simon Lovelace be? Well, he's a powerful minister in the government, in a London that is run by power-hungry magicians. He's also the author of a terrible plan to bring death and destruction to the inner cabinet of the government - but Nathaniel doesn't actually know that, yet.

No, Nathaniel just wants to get his own back on Simon Lovelace for giving him a beating in public and causing him great humiliation. But by pinching the Amulet of Samarkand Nathaniel jumps right in at the deep end, straight away, right over his head.

Want to know what happens? Well, for a start, Nathaniel has only just got the upper hand in his power struggle with Bartimaeus, so he has no chance whatever against Simon Lovelace ... unless Bartimaeus will help out. You'll have to read the book. Highly recommended!

What can I read next?

Jonathan Stroud has written other books, but they are rather different, much more serious. Have a look at this one:

It's easy, if you like books about weedy boys with magic powers. Obviously, if you haven't already read all J K Rowling's Harry Potter books, you could go back and fill in the gaps:

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

And you might also like to have a look at Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl books. They're very funny and have plenty of magic, and a very weedy boy:

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