Book review

The Golem's Eye by Jonathan Stroud (2004)

Part two of the Bartimaeus Trilogy

Here's a trilogy that uses the power of naming as the foundation of its magic. Remember Nathaniel from Book One? He was the weedy boy who could only just control his djinni, Bartimaeus, and who just about managed to save Prime Minister Devereux from a political coup.

His reward, as we discover in Book Two, was political advancement. When we meet him again in The Golem's Eye he is two years older and two years vainer:

A slight breeze caught the edges of his long black coat and whipped it up behind him as he went. He was aware of the effect, which pleased him. Darkly impressive, it was; he could sense heads turning as he passed.

Of course, we're not supposed to call him Nathaniel. That's his birth-name. His adult name is John Mandrake. He's planning to make the name famous. He's ambitious, now he's a junior member of the government. So it's a nuisance for him that the only djinni he feels he can rely on in a tight spot is his rather unwilling slave from Book One, Bartimaeus:

'We've been through all this before,' I said. 'Remember? You know my name, I know yours. You fire a punishment at me, I fire it right back. Nobody wins. We both get hurt.'

It was careless of the young Nathaniel to allow Bartimaeus to discover his birth-name. That makes them evenly balanced in the power struggle, so it's going to be another smooth working partnership:

Bad though it was to be back, it was nice to see him writhe with fury once again. I let him hop about inside his pentacle for a moment or two. 'Surely you hadn't forgotten,' I said cheerily. 'You summon me, the backchat comes free. It's part of the package.'
He groaned into his hands. 'Suddenly death doesn't seem quite so terrifying.'
I felt a bit better now. At least our ground rules were firmly re-established. 'So tell me about this surveillance job,' I said. 'You say it's simple?'
He composed himself. 'Yes.'
'And yet your job, your very life, hangs in the balance over it.'
'That's right.'
'So there's nothing remotely dangerous or complex about it?'
'No. Well...' He paused. 'Not much.'

Actually, John Mandrake has enemies everywhere, both within the government and without. He's on the trail of the least he'd like to be, but they're doing quite well without him, thanks mainly to Kitty.

Who's Kitty? Well, she's just a Commoner, but guess what - she's immune to magic. And she's got an awfully big grudge against magicians.

Want to know what she does about it? Read on. I think you'll love this book. I really enjoyed the balance of power between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. And I loved the human characters. They're really refreshingly human. Lots of foibles, but lovable even so. Highly recommended.

What can I read next?

This is Book Two of a trilogy, so you really need to read Book One first:

Do you like magic? No problem. There's plenty around. Have a look at this?one by Eoin Colfer:

Or you might like to have a look at the Keys to the Kingdom Sequence by Garth Nix:

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