Ptolemy’s Gate

Every once in a while, something you intend to do gets away from you.  Back in 2006, I picked up and read The Amulet of Samarkand and I really enjoyed it.  Like a grim and gritty version of other books about magic with a kid for a main character, it just felt more… real… than things like the Harry Potter books.  Later that year I did read the second book in the series, The Golem’s Eye, and I enjoyed it as well.  I even picked up the third book, but somehow, for some reason, I never got around to reading it.

Well, I finally did.  Ptolemy’s Gate is the final third of the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.  In this tale we find ourselves back with Nathaniel, a few years older and stronger, but perhaps not wiser.  He’s kept poor Bartimaeus enslaved and trapped on Earth so that his essence has become quite weak.  Meanwhile, Kitty has gone into hiding and taken up learning magic because she desperately wants to talk to Bartimaeus and the only way she can think to do so is to learn to summon him herself.  War rages in the Americas and the commoners of England are beginning to get out of control.  The magicians are losing their grip…

And I won’t go any further, because it would spoil everything.  This book makes for a perfect end to the trilogy, wrapping everything up quite satisfactorily… for me as the reader, some of the characters don’t make out so well in the end.  The three books together make up 1500 pages of excellent storytelling.  I look forward to new works from Mr. Stroud in the future.

The Golem`s Eye

Grabbing a few minutes here and there, the occasional bus ride to and from work, and my recent trip to Jamaica, I finished reading the second book of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, The Golem’s Eye.

Once again we fight Nathanial, a.k.a. John Mandrake, dealing with the magician government. He’s got a new master and a new job working for the Internal Affairs department, and he’s been tasked with tracking down the Resistance. Bartimaeus, as usual, doesn’t want to be there, but bound to service helps Nathanial make his way. The trouble this time comes in the form of a Golem, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the great war with Prague, trashing buildings and businesses of reputable magicians. Everyone wants to point fingers at the Resistance, but Nathanial feels there is more going on and begins his investigation with Bartimaeus’ help.

Kitty, one of the Resistance members introduced slightly in the first book, becomes a main character here and gives us insight into the Resistance, which isn’t the organized rebel movement the magician’s fear it is. In fact, they are little more than petty thieves and vandals, but a new conspiritor shows up and begins to usher them into something far more dangerous.

Over all, I really enjoyed this book. There is something refreshing about this dark and miserable tale that is missing from the Harry Potter series. I look forward to picking up the third and final book of this trilogy.

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.