After thoroughly enjoying 'The Amulet of Samarkand' I was eager to read the next instalment of Nathaniel's adventures - so much so, I managed to get hold of an advance proof copy. Unfortunately, I have to admit that, to begin with, I was a little disappointed - and for the first 100-150 pages I came close to putting it aside. However, I stuck with it and finally started to enjoy it almost as much as I had part one.
I've tried to analyse why I found it something of a chore initially, and concluded there were two possible problems. Firstly, Bartimaeus, whose witty voice added so much humour to the first book seemed to be somewhat underused. I always felt that in book one, it was his chapters that really sparkled - so hearing less of him was certainly a disappointment. I suspected that the prologue was added to inject a bit of excitement and start the book from Bartimaeus's point of view, instead of waiting a hundred or so pages for him to appear - but otherwise, it added little to the overall story. Instead we have new narrator, Kitty - and although, at first, I found her a dull substitute for the djinn, it was eventually her part of the story that held my interest and kept me reading. I warmed to her in a way I never managed with Nathaniel.
The second problem was that Nathaniel seemed even less likeable than in book one. Whereas, in 'The Amulet of Samarkand' he had some redeeming features and won the reader's sympathy by being the underdog - in this book he seemed cold, hard and very unsympathetic. I realise that he has to have some kind of emotional growth curve over the series and will, no doubt, learn from his mistakes - but I would've preferred him to be a little easier to relate to; after all, he is the main character.
In retrospect, I decided that I enjoyed the book, despite my early doubts - and look forward to the next instalment.
The second part of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, "The Golem's Eye" continues the story began in "The Amulet of Samarkand". Like the first instalment, the majority of the action is set in a mostly recognisable London - admittedly, with a few noticeable changes. The Empire (which still exists), having already defeated the Czech Republic, is now considering war with the North American colonies. All the same, some Czech spies are still operating in England, and the Czech immigrant community is viewed with suspicion. Magicians have been the ruling class since Gladstone's time, holding all positions of power. Rather than wands and potions, these magicians derive their power from their ability to summon and control a variety of demons - for example, afrits, djinn and imps. Meanwhile the non-magical human masses are referred to as commoners - some of whom have formed a very troublesome resistance.
Nearly three years have passed since the events of "The Amulet of Samarkand". Nathaniel (more widely known as John Mandrake) is now apprenticed to Jessica Whitwell, the Security Minister, and works at the Department of Internal Affairs. His boss, Julius Tallow, is a typical magician : cruel, arrogant and self-serving, he would happily throw another (such as Nathaniel) to the wolves if it meant saving his own hide. (These same qualities, with extra ambition, have also become more pronounced in Nathaniel). However, since Tallow has more problems than he's aware of, Nathaniel's main rivals are the Chief of Police (Henry Duvall) and his assistant (Jane Farrar).
Nathaniel has been put in charge of pursuing the Resistance, a group of commoners who oppose the Magicians' Rule. Generally, their attacks have been limited to small-scale thefts, nothing that would've left Nathaniel under any great pressure. However, the night before Founder's Day (Gladstone's Birthday), a number of shops are attacked and practically destroyed. Policemen were killed, while a number of demons and search spheres used in investigate are missing. However, there are no indications the attack involved the use of magic - although Nathaniel is far from convinced, the Resistance are the most obvious culprits. Under no illusion that results are required, he realises he has to summon Bartimaeus again.
Bartimaeus (the fourth-level djinn summoned by Nathaniel) is caustic, irreverent and hopelessly vain - he boasts about the walls he built at Uruk and Karnak, but never mentions his work at Jericho. While he wasn't too fond of Nathaniel when they first met, he is even less impressed with his master in this book : in fact, he is determined to let Nathaniel down whenever and wherever possible. The last time the duo worked together, they briefly stumbled across three of the Resistance's members - a small group, led by a girl called Kitty. In this instalment, they share the spotlight with Kitty - a commoner with a limited natural resistance to magic.
While Kitty's introduction reduces the amount of time Bartimaeus features, it gives some indication of how the commoners are treated and why there is a Resistance. It means fewer wisecracks (Bartimaeus is the book's funniest character), but it adds to the story and action significantly. The focus from one chapter to another switches between the characters, though the story never stalls. Stroud writes Nathaniel's and Kitty's stories ("Kitty and her parents watched him in silence"), while the djinni tells his own ("I could tell it was Prague as soon as I materialised"). "The Golem's Eye" is very easily read and very enjoyable - but I would recommend starting with "The Amulet of Samarkand".
The sharp-tongued djinn of "Amulet of Samarkand" returns in the second book of Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus Trilogy. It's a solid fantasy romp with some sharp social commentary and chilling wizardry, but it suffers from somewhat less of the delightfully observant Bartimaeus.
It's been two years since budding magician Nathaniel summoned the djinn Bartimaeus, and the two ended up enmeshed in a bizarre conspiracy. Now Nathaniel is working his way up in the world of politics and magic, with the sardonic Bartimaeus as his servant. But then the two end up in another hair-raising adventure -- a golem is attacking people in London, and Nathaniel is trying to find out who sent it, and why.
Meanwhile, the resistance against the magicians is growing, and the golem is supposedly an instrument against the magicians. But that isn't quite the case. Instead, a fiery young resistance member, Kitty, is doing some plotting of a very different sort -- and her plans will bring her neck-to-neck with Nathaniel and Bartimaeus.
Stroud takes readers to a parallel world where England is ruled not by bluebloods, but by wizards. It's not a new idea, but he gives it a new spin by wrapping it in political power as well as magic. If the backstabbing mage's world of the first book wasn't chilling enough, Stroud presents the eerie Night Police in this one.
Stroud's writing is solid and detailed, with plenty of gloomy atmosphere and the occasional hair-raising episode. Perhaps the biggest flaw of this book is that the action more often than not focuses on Nathaniel rather than the cynically lovable Bartimaeus. However, it's to Stroud's credit that he can make the intricate political plotting so interesting, while mixing in some grimly funny magic as well.
Nathaniel is still a flawed anti-hero, like Harry Potter's more ambitious cousin. While he's a passable lead character, the one who really steals all the scenes is Bartimaeus. He doesn't appear nearly enough, but his acerbic observations tend to be right on the money. And Kitty is a more likable person than Nathaniel, with a bit more fire in her personality.
The sequel to "Amulet of Samarkand" suffers from a lack of djinn, but Jonathan Stroud manages to keep it going at a steady pace. "The Golem's Eye" is a creepy fantasy read, for anyone seeking something a bit darker and deeper than Harry Potter.
Nathaniel is an utterly repulsive, unlikeable character with few reedeming qualities at all. He's changed a lot since the first book, and not for the better. This would have worked (and indeed did in the Amulet of Samarkand thanks to Bartimaeus) but not so this time. Bartimaeus doesn't even make an appearance until around about page 70, and then he feels to have a far more minor role than Nathaniel. As well as Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, we also have chapters dedicated to Kitty's story.
To be honest, too much of the book went on about Kitty's past (whilst interesting, I felt a lot of it could have been told in a much quicker fashion) then there was the whole Golem incident (which was rather dissapointing all in all). This book was too long, with not enough happening. I cursed the author many times for simply TELLING us that Bartimaeus and Nathaniel had had a conversation (since I just love to read their interactions) Bartimaeus' foot-notes, this time, added little much really, were jarring and often too lengthy. There was far too much time spent to characters doing nothing (at least a chapter on the Resistence basically passing time!) I really enjoyed the first book, but this was nowhere near as good.
on 15 September 2004
After reading the Amulet of Samarkand I couldnt wait for the next installment, The Golems Eye. Noting it was released in the US a month ahead of the UK I had to get a copy, well done Amazon for making the US version available. Jonathan Stroud has done it again and has delivered another cracking installment. The style of telling the story from different characters perspective works just as well as it did before in Amulet, this time there being another view, in that of Kitty from the Resistance. There are still the wonderful asides from Bartimaeus the Djinni which made me laugh out loud. The story is set a couple of years after Amulet with Nathaniel now in post in the Government with responsibility to crush the resistance movement. He is now absorbed into the Magicians culture, mimicking their foppish dress code, and enjoying the benefits of power, all of which provides plenty of ammunition for the irreverent Bartimaeus to exploit. What unfolds is just as good as Amulet, with intrigue and dirty dealings to the fore, and Demons by the dozen. London is being terrorised by a new unknown adversary, and finding himself with a major headache Nathaniel turns once again to Bartimaeus. With the resistance seeking more power, colleagues in Government looking to stab each other in the back, a "thing" on the rampage, the story never flags and I couldnt put it down. Yet again I am left wanting more, and cant wait for The Other Place, shame it wont be out until Oct 05, how will I survive the wait??? Amulet will soon be out in Paperback and I will watch with interest as to how this does in the best sellers list, as it seems to be an undiscovered treasure to date. Wonderful inventive stuff, and I cant get enough of it!
on 13 August 2008
First of all I am an adult whom occationally enjoy reading the so called "children's book" (Narnia, Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl series plus books written by authors such as Garth Nix and Philip Pullman).
I cam accross the Bartimaeus Trilogy over one year ago. Although my memory of the storyline has faded a bit but I remember to have enjoyed it tremendously. I won't disscuss the story in detail but I would strongly recommand this book to any reader, young and old alike. I listen to many audio books because I spent up to 2 hours a day in commuting to and back from work, and books like this make my boring journey actually enjoeyable. The narrator Steven Pacey did a wonderful job in bring the characters to life and communicated their emotion to the listeners.
There is no doubt that I am a fan of Jonathan Stroud, so far I had listen to the Trilogy but I intend to get the books so I can read them again.
Stroud continues to buck the conventions of YA fantasy by showing Nathaniel (or John Mandrake as he's now become) as an increasingly unsympathetic character. This is a boy who is only interested in maintaining and achieving power and he's pretty ruthless about how he goes about it. There are flashes of his lack of confidence and the possible pricking of his conscience over his actions, but by the end we don't hold out a lot of hope for him (and neither, tellingly, does Bartimaeus).
Whereas Mandrake is pretty unlikeable, Bartimaeus himself actually shows almost human characteristics, particularly in his attitudes towards Kitty. I very much enjoy the Bartimaeus segments of the story as they have a riotous flow to them and Stroud has given his djinni a believable and witty voice. Stroud is also clever in using these segments to give the reader a sense of how society has (or has not) changed, and the fact that Bartimaeus was present at the fall of Prague (a particularly good introduction to the book) is a wonderful way of getting backstory and details of this alternative world across to the reader.
For all Stroud's excellent work with Bartimaeus and Mandrake, I found Kitty to be a little disappointing. In the main, this is because she is very much a conventional fantasy heroine. Stroud works hard on her backstory so we understand the sense of injustice she rightly feels and she's clearly passionate about her cause, but there's a bit too much of the 'obviously right' about her and the flaws that she's given are essentially indecision and a reluctance to push her point, which are more plot points than character points. I would have liked to see more made of her growing disillusion with Pennyfeather and the Resistance movement, rather than leaving it until the final raid at Westminster Abbey, because that would have crowned off a complete arc, rather than feeling just a little tacked on.
Stroud has some brilliantly subtle moments in this book where he resolves plot strands in a way that made me have to go back and check a couple of times. This is something that I really don't want to spoil for readers, so let's just say that the magician who attacks Kitty and her friend really gets what's coming to him in a particularly clever way. I also think that the Resistance attack on Westminster Abbey is a wonderful scene and would make for brilliant cinema - particularly the way in which the Resistance members meet their fates.
Where I think the plot drags is in the first third. Stroud obviously has to get Kitty involved and bring in her backstory and I'm not sure that he does it in the most efficient way. For me, her story really held up the main plot of this book (which doesn't really get going until after page 100) and whilst I felt some sympathy for her friend Jakob, it wasn't quite drastic enough for me to be emotionally invested in it. I also think that the ending was a little perfunctory, mainly because I don't think Stroud made quite enough of the mystery as to who was controlling the golem or what that person was trying to do, as a result the denouement has a pat feeling to it. In particular, given that the Golem's Eye is a nice link back to The Amulet of Samarkland, it would have been nice to see a scene wherein it's stolen and perhaps some kind of conversation as to why it's been taken.
Saying all that, considering that this is the middle book in a trilogy, it holds together well in its own right as a story and advances the overriding story arc (which is a lot more than other trilogy writers have been able to do). As a result, I am very interested in reading the third one and seeing just what becomes of the characters and their story.
He's rude. He's surly. He won't hesitate to tell you when your haircut looks stupid. And in over 5000 years, he's seen some bad haircuts. I'm talking about my favorite djinni, Bartimaeus, back in book two of his young adult fantasy trilogy.
THE GOLEM'S EYE is an excellent sequel to the first book in the series, THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND. In the first book, we meet Bartimaeus, an ancient creature of enormous power that can best be described as a type of demon. Unfortunately, he and all of his kind hate the word demon. He classifies himself as a djinni, so we'll just go with that for the purposes of this review. Why annoy anyone who can shoot magical firebolts at you, right? Anyway, Bartimaeus, and other creatures like him, are summoned by human magicians to do their bidding. Needless to say, this forced servitude, or slavery, is not popular with the servants, so they do their best to turn the tables on their human masters whenever possible.
Enter Nathaniel, a boy who is in training to become a powerful magician. In book one of the series, he summons Bartimaeus from the netherworld and an involuntary partnership begins. In THE GOLEM'S EYE, young Nathaniel again finds himself in need of the djinni's aid, so he again turns to reluctant Bartimaeus. This time, a revolutionary group is blowing things up in London, which may or may not be related to a series of unusual occurrences that have the police stumped. Nathaniel feels that his career would take off if he can solve these crimes. But the stakes are high because he knows that his career, and possibly his life, are in jeopardy if he fails.
A key part of THE GOLEM'S EYE storyline centers on the activities of a London resistance group that is fighting to overthrow the magicians' government. Nathaniel's inability to track down these criminals is part of the reason he needs Bartimaeus's help. Of course, the djinni has little interest in helping magicians maintain their dominance. After all, they're the ones who continually force him and his kind into servitude. This conflict of interest makes for some entertaining scenes and conversations.
If you have not read THE AMULET OF SAMARKAND, I strongly recommend you pick that one up before diving into THE GOLEM'S EYE. Technically, you don't have to read the first one, but there is an awful lot of background you will miss if you don't. Plus, it's really fun.
Normally I find myself disappointed in sequels. Somehow they never seem to live up the expectations established by the original. But in this case, I was pleasantly surprised. This book is full of excitement, political intrigue, and humor. Bartimaeus is back with all of his cheeky comments, and there are plenty of thrills to go around. Overall, a great book.
Reviewed by: K. Osborn Sullivan
on 25 February 2006
After reading The Amulet of Samarkand I just couldn't wait to get my hands on The Golems Eye, I loved both books. They are so differentt to anything I'd read before with lot's of fantasy magic and good humour. You really get to know the characters and feel gripped by the fast paced action. Highly recommended :-)
This is definitely a "kidult" book. It is the final book of a trilogy I have thoroughly enjoyed, and didn't lose steam like so many others. The boy and his Genie (who hates him, and has him somewhat under his control rather than the other way round) have some good times chasing after artefacts and trying to put england to rights. A great fantasy, with thoroughly believable characters. It doesn't shy away from violence, but is done in a very subtle way such as would be suitable for any child from 10 up who is used to fantasy games and books. The jokes are also sometimes on a dual level as all the best cross age group stories are. I definitely recommend all three books or audio books.