Monday, February 6, 2012
Review: The Amulet of Samarkand
The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The Amulet of Samarkand, Book One in the Bartimaeus Trilogy
Fast-paced, addictive, magical fantasy
This YA book starts with a demon being summoned, in turn the demon appears, “two yellow staring eyes materialized in the heart of the smoke”. The demon is determined to frighten the young magician boy that summons him. The boy is very young, too young to be making demands such as charging the demon Bartimaeus to retrieve the Amulet of Samarkand. The demon believes that the boy’s Master is forcing the boy to make the request. The demon is bound to do the boy’s bidding, but he resists as much as he can as he knows his task will be troublesome.
The demon very nearly loses his life as he fights other demons and strong magic when he stealthily steals the amulet from the powerful Simon Lovelace. Bartimaeus is dangerously pursued by beings that will stop at nothing to retrieve the amulet. But even as the quest began, Bartimaeus knew he would face great danger, as he knows that the Amulet holds great powers.
Bartimaeus is a demon who must obey the boy, a defiant demon, and a dangerous demon, one whose mind constantly works to determine a way to kill the boy. Demons must obey the commands of their summoners, which often puts Bartimaeus in great danger. Bartimaeus is a seasoned and clever demon, who does what he is commanded to do, despite having his life endangered. Even as a demon Bartimaeus is determined to survive, he wants to live, to be released from his service to the boy.
Nathaniel is a young apprentice magician with a grumpy Master who doesn’t recognize his student’s intelligence. The Master teaches slowly, proving too frustrating for the boy. Nathaniel makes up for it by reading all of the Master’s books and learning higher level magic in his room at night. The boy has a lonely life, he stays inside his Master’s house, and he knows only his unkind Master and the Master’s wife. The boy has no friends, no one to talk to, and he is bent on revenge against a much stronger (adult) Magician, Simon Lovelace. Nathaniel knows much more than his Master would believe, even the demon cannot believe the boys knowledge of magic, this will work to the boy’s advantage.
Before you think that this is too reminiscent of Harry Potter. No it is not! Magic is the only common denominator.
The reader wants to root for the boy to succeed despite the fact that we are unsure whether or not the petulant boy is a hero. We also root for the success of the demon, as we want the boy and demon to work together to vanquish the magicians who have wronged the boy.
While I wished success for the boy and demon, I could not decide whether or not this book had a hero, not even as I finished the book! My hope, and ah clever author Jonathan Stroud, is that the boy and Bartimaeus represent the good guys. This book left me wanting more; it read like a fast-paced action adventure, I anxiously await the next two novels.
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