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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, October 23, 2005

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

The Bartimaeus Trilogy Book One: The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud. New York: Miramax Books, 2003. ISBN: 0-7868-1859-X

This book was obviously designed not necessarily to compete with, but to attract the same or similar audience as the Harry Potter series. It's a fantasy story involving wizards with an eleven-year old as the primary protagonist, though the demon djinni he uses to perform his magic for him is also featured as a narrator throughout much of the book.

And it works. Chances are, kids (and/or adults like me, for that matter) who like Harry Potter will probably enjoy this well-crafted tale. I do have to say, however, that the story is quite a bit darker than the Potter books. Our hero, Nathaniel is his name, hasn't any friends his own age, and precious few adults who provide him with much in the way of support, either. In his version of what has the feel of a 19th century London in some alternate universe or other, apparently children are often taken from their parents and handed over to a magician to become an apprentice.

Such is the case with Nathaniel, who is nothing if not precocious, diving into magical arts most (including his master) would consider far beyond his abilities. But the consequences turn out to be a tad more dangerous than anticipated. Our young hero gets himself into hot water almost if not quite over his head.

If the book has a drawback, it would only seem to be the slightly too pat of an ending. Although the book's packaging makes more out of being the first in a trilogy then it does out of its own title, there isn't much in the way of a cliffhanger ending to compel one into the next installment. A few loose ends, sure, but nothing to rival the evil enemy that young Potter constantly faces, and that we know won't be fully overthrown until the final volume.

Still, very much recommended for fantasy fans both young and old, and especially for anyone needing something to help pass the time until the next Harry Potter comes out.


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