I heard rumours a while ago that Jonathan Stroud was working on a new Bartimaeus book. When I discovered it was soon to be released, and I could get hold of an early copy, my excitement knew no limits! I just finished it, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. Bartimaeus is back, and he's better than ever!
To go back a bit, there may be some who haven't heard of this fun character. Bartimaeus is first introduced to us in The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem's Eye and Ptolemy's Gate, now together known as The Bartimaeus Trilogy.
These books were set in a world much like our own, but where magicians exist, normally as politicians. They have the ability to call up and enslave demons of various types, and use them to carry out their deeds. In this world, the magicians are pretty much the villains, and you end up wanting the demons to win!
Bartimaeus is the main demon of the trilogy, and the stories are told partly from his point of view. He's been around for a long time, and likes nothing more than trying to catch out the magicians. The key to his character is his sarcasm and wit - many of his best comments appear in the footnotes, and bring many `laugh out loud' moments.
Returning to The Ring of Solomon, it's actually a prequel to the trilogy, as it's set many centuries ago. However, it's a stand alone story, and there's no need to have read the trilogy.
To me, this setting is where Bartimaeus is meant to be. There are more magicians, they are open about there practices, and there are more demons around.. the perfect situation to show Bartimaeus to the full.
The story itself concerns a very powerful ring with Solomon owns - it can bring forth many demons, including one extremely powerful one. This gives him ultimate power throughout the land, although it does mean that many people would like to get rid of him.
One such person is Asmira, a young girl sent by the Queen of Sheba. As a guard, she is given two simple tasks, kill Solomon and get the ring - obviously something she won't be able to do without help!
It's a great story, with some interesting twist and turns along the way. If you want to find a serious side, Stroud does look at the issue of devotion versus slavery, as well as the use of power. But with his clever writing, this is done in amongst the best parts of the book.. the action, fun , sarcasm and wit.
Personally speaking, having recently re-read the trilogy, this book is actually a little more grown up. I know many adults enjoy the trilogy, but I think this one offers them even more.
For fans of Bartimaeus, this is an absolute must-buy. For those not yet introduced to him, you may want to give him a try!