Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy Book One) (2003)

Someone once said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Indeed I have seen many people who think they know a lot about a topic and they just don't realize how much they don't know. In Jonathan Stroud's book, Nathaniel is handed over to a magician at the tender age of five to be an apprentice. The story takes place in London and, like Harry Potter, a major magic culture exists in the middle of non-magic people. A mean and ambitious magician named Lovelace, humiliates the boy when he is eleven, after only six years of training. Nathaniel studies advanced books behind his mentor's back until he feels he is able to summon a djinni. He calls forth Bartimaeus, a powerful djinni, thousands of years old. He commands the djinni to steal a certain artifact, the amulet of Samarkand, from Lovelace and the action really begins.
The story is told from the viewpoint of Bartimaeus in some chapters, peppered with footnotes. The first book I read with footnotes I found very tedious but in this book it works. As the djinni explains (in a footnote, of course), "By and large, humans can only manage one conscious level, with a couple of more or less unconscious ones muddling along underneath. Think of it this way: I could read a book with four different stories typed one on top of the other, and take them all in with the same sweep of my eyes. The best I can do for you is footnotes." The other chapters are written from Nathaniel's point of view but since he is a simple human, there are no footnotes.
There are imps and magic spells and ancient languages which all make this a fun and diverting book. I will try the next book in the series to see if the fun continues. Harry Potter and all fantasy fans would get a kick out of this book.
My rating for this book: ++++

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