The Amulet of Samarkand

I suppose one of the things that always kept me away from the Harry Potter books were the descriptions of Harry himself. In the beginning he’s pure and noble, and everything he does is for the good. Its almost sickening sweet. The later books help fix him up right as he makes mistakes and costs people their lives.

In The Amulet of Samarkand, the first of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, one of the main characters is a horribly flawed boy who lives in a horribly flawed world. In the London of his world, magicians rule, literally. They aren’t hidden or secret, they run Parliment and keep the “commoners” beneather their feet. Common children are sold into apprenticeship where they are forced to forget their birth names and learn the ways of magic. Nathaniel, is one such child who is apprenticed to a minor magician of small power, but Nathaniel wishes to be greater, teaching himself more than his master will allow, especially once he is humiliated by Simon Lovelace, a much more powerful magician. Nathaniel takes his self taught knowledge and summons Bartimaeus to help him get his revenge on Lovelace. The only problem is, in seeking his revenge he stumbles on to a much more deadly plot by some of London’s other magicians. While keeping revenge on his mind, Nathaniel also decides that he needs to help the society of magicians by stopping this fiendish plot.

Most of the tale is told by Bartimaeus, who like many of the demons summoned by magicians, hates magicians and their petty squabbles. He’s also a wise cracking smartass, which helps keep the book fun and fast. One of the things I really enjoyed about this book, however, is that while it does leave some loose ends, the tale sits well by itself, and if I never manage to read the rest of the trilogy, I won’t feel like I’m missing something. I would gladly recommend it to young and not-so-young readers.

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