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The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
Book Name: The Bartimaeus Trilogy
Author: Jonathan Stroud
Publisher(s): Corgi
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Audio Book / eBook
Genre(s): Fantasy / Young Adult
Release Date: September 29, 2003

The Bartimaeus Trilogy was a series pushed heavily at the time Harry Potter’s popularity exploded. It certainly isn’t a huge leap from one to the other in the sense that there is magic, mystery, loveable characters, comedy and page turning storylines. I would say though that these books are far more your typical fantasy novel than the Harry Potter stories. Where as hardcore fantasy readers may struggle with Harry Potter, they would find that The Bartimaeus Trilogy is far more suited to the accepted conventions. It is a story of revenge and the journey to achieving it.

That is not to say it is not original though. The Bartimaeus Trilogy gives us perhaps one of the most original characters and means of expressing that character’s point of view since the genres birth. In the first book, The Amulet of Samarkand, we meet Bartimaeus, an evil, sarcastic Djinni (basically a demon) summoned to this world from his dimension by what he considers an unworthy magician. This unworthy magician, Nathanial, has summoned Bartimaeus in order to exact revenue upon a sorcerer who has embarrassed and made a fool of him in front of his master.

Bartimaeus, who was quite enjoying his time relaxing within his own dimension, is not at all happy about this summoning. In fact, he quite openly tells Nathanial that if he could he would kill him on the spot. Fortunately, for Nathanial, Bartimaeus does not know his ‘real’ name. Upon becoming a trainee, magician names are changed because the vast number of evil spells that can affect you require your original name. So Bartimaeus is trapped in this world until he fulfils Nathanial’s demands; ‘still a powerful object from the sorcerer that embarrassed him’.

What makes this series different and as thoroughly enjoyable as it is, has to be the character of Bartimaeus. In addition to his constant sarcasm, wit and desire to kill the ‘hero’ throughout the book, he adds his own little ‘footnotes’ at the end of every other page or so. It might not sound like much, but the odd one will have you laughing out loud or at the very least grinning.

As the story progresses through to the second book, things get a bit deeper and more powers, demons and problems are introduced. Nathaniel finds himself in a world that in addition to having a corrupt magical government has non-magical humans coming together in order to form a resistance against the magicians.

It’s hard to say much more without completely ruining the first book’s ending and the subsequent books after that, but what I will say is that this is more than a story about Nathaniel trying to steal a necklace. This book enters epic territory in the sense that there is a huge conflict between humans and magicians, huge political power struggles, Nathaniel’s struggle through the ranks of being a magician, his loss of family and of course the Djinni that works for him looking to stab him in the back (literally) the moment he drops his guard.

The fact Nathaniel relies so heavily on Bartimaeus combined with the fact that we are told by Bartimaeus himself that he is going to try his damned hardest to mess up Nathaniel’s plans is what makes this book so enjoyable.

In terms of its universal appeal, like Harry Potter, the majority of children would enjoy this book and there is enough action, adventure and darkness to entertain adults. If you are a hardcore fantasy fan that likes epic series like The Wheel of Time, Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire and so on, this probably isn’t for you. But if you are someone who enjoys a book that doesn’t take itself too seriously or a lighter read that you can literally whizz through – this is one for you.

You can find out more about The Amulet of Samarkand and the rest of The Bartimaeus Trilogy on Jonathan Stroud’s website.


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