book-reviews

The Bartimaeus Series

Rating: ★★★★

I first read The Amulet of Samarkand a very long time ago, what must be close to the series' publication date. I seem to remember that Ptolemy's Gate wasn't yet published when I reached that point in the series. If I did read that volume then I don't remember it very well, as re-reading the series in its entirety this January was something I found very much a fresh adventure.

The series is good. Stroud writes an engaging but not unnecessarily action-packed plot which does a good job of revealing his world without ever giving the impression that the worldbuilding is more important than the story. The narrative voice of Bartimaeus is excellent, thoroughly justifying itself with the asides, self-aggrandisement and ironic humour. Yet the book is not just shallow. We see through Bartimaeus a sketch of a historiography of the magical world, in which magicians become the ruling class, become corrupt, and then their civilisation crumbles. We see also the complex relationship between djinn and mankind, and of how, rarely, a personal connection can be made between the two. There is something stirring in this ancient spirit's final respect for Nathaniel.

The Ring of Solomon I read after the main trilogy, and found a bit lacking in comparison. The motives of the players are less complex, the characters a little flatter. The main benefit of the novel was the embellishment of the relationship between Bartimaeus and Farquarl, which ended so poignantly in Ptolemy's Gate.