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Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

The Amulet of Samarkand is the first book in an older series, the Bartimaeus trilogy.  And I'm so glad that it's an older series!  This first book was so good, I'm already excited to binge the series.  This middle grades book was just as enjoyable for me (supposedly an adult, lol) as it would be for an actual middle schooler.  One of the main characters, Bartimaeus, has a great, snarky sense of humor that had me chuckling out loud.

The other main character, Nathaniel, is super relatable.  Yes, he's an 11-year-old boy, but he's got the same impatience and also desire to do good that we all have.  The entire plot comes about because Nathaniel is insulted by a leading magician in the community, and he seeks a rather petty way to exact revenge.  Then when the consequences start to hit, he quickly tries to backpedal in order to avoid any blame falling on those he cares for.  Are you familiar with the phrase "what a tangled web we weave when we first endeavor to deceive?"  That's Nathaniel's situation in this book.  He's an apprentice magician, young and with just enough knowledge to get himself into trouble and not enough to get him back out of it.  When a local magician bigwig belittle's Nathaniel, and the magician that Nathaniel is apprenticed to doesn't stand up for him, Nathaniel concocts a plan to get revenge on both of them at once.  His plan:  summon a djinni (also referred to in the book as a demon or genie; I imagine the "demon" reference makes a few conservative parents of young readers a little nervous, but I digress) to steal an amulet from the powerful magician and hide it in Nathaniel's magician's study.  Both magicians will be insulted when the cops get involved and find the stolen item!  But of course the plan falls a little short of expectations, and the situation spirals out of control.

Now you'll notice that I've referenced magicians and djinni/genies/demons and magical amulets as though they occur every day.  Well, in Jonathan Stroud's world they do!  This book did a fantastic job of introducing all these fantastic elements and making them seem everyday.  The reader never feels lost in this world.  I listened to this book on CD in my car, so it was a bit disjointed, and I was able to easily follow the story.

And as I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the other main character is fantastically snarky, which I love.  The Amulet of Samarkand is told in two viewpoints:  young Nathaniel and the djinni he summons, Bartimaeus.  Bartimaeus is very, very, very old; centuries old.  And he is, of course, a bit put-upon that a mere slip of a boy could summon him and force him into his revenge plot.  I loved hearing his internal monologue as he gripes and whines about his task.  Like it's so hard to travel a short distance and pick up an amulet.

Overall, I'm liking this series.  I love how the characters of Nathaniel and Bartimaeus play off of each other.  Just when Nathaniel's timidness would start to get under my skin, we'd switch to a Bartimaeus chapter.  (By the way, the chapters are all headed with a character's name, so there's no question of POV.)  I wanted to take Nathaniel under my wing and love him, and I wanted to be friends with Bartimaeus.  I listened to this first book on CD, and I would continue to do so.  The narration is great; good, even tone and good pacing.


Tynga is a 32 years old mom of two, from Montreal, working as a lab technician in an hospital specialized in heart disease. In her free time, she enjoys reading all things Paranormal and photography.

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