Jonathan Stroud, has long been a big name in the young adult world and yet I've only really read one of his titles before (Heroes in the Valley) which whilst fun, didn't exactly set my world alight and left me wondering exactly how he'd managed to earn the kudos of so many readers.
That was until I read this book. Whilst I haven't read other titles in the Bartimaus series, I was instantly struck with the authors writing style, that was not only fast paced but also written with an almost unparalleled level of humour as the reader follows the exploits of our heroic djinn. The style was crisp, the dialogue ideal but overall the real thing that sells the book is the principle character who not only stole the show but gave the reader a real link to the world in which he inhabited. This was done through his sense of humour alongside his warped principles for the way that the world should work which when backed up with an ego the size of a skyscraper really did make this something spectacular.
Finally add to this a seriously huge story arc, a huge selection of supporting cast members and an easy to access world made this ideal reading material and overall really has made me want to buy the previous titles so that I can have a lot more fun with the heroes other exploits. Great stuff, although judging by how the djinn have been pushed into service to create things for other, I do wonder if they sprinkled Jonathan's writing with some of their magic. It really is just too good to be true.
In a world where wizards regularly summon a host of demons to become slaves to their every whim, life can be pretty tough on the demons - or imps, foliots, djinns, afrits and marids, if you want to be polite about things - as Bartimaeus could tell you. After all, no sooner has this smart, dashing, and did he mention highly intelligent, ancient, revered and all-around brilliant djinni disposed of a typically incompetent and meddlesome master, then he's brought back.
As punishment! Which is not how things are supposed to work. Then again, events in Jerusalem 950BC are far from usual. All because King Solomon has a Ring, which can summon a host of demons with a simple turn, and bring about destruction with a mere thought.
But just when Bartimaeus thinks things can't get any more humiliating, the real trouble starts. Well, when one's slave of someone call Khaba the Cruel, things aren't likely to get better. And that's before the fanatical girl with a death wish arrives...
Bartimaeus is back! The sarcastic, witty, devilish yet surprisingly honourable djinni returns, and his mouth is as big as ever. Fans of the original trilogy (The Amulet of Samarkand,The Golem's Eye,Ptolemy's Gate) won't be disappointed with his newest (or rather oldest, since we're back in Bartimaeus' long past) adventure. And for those who've never met him before, all the important stuff is included, so you won't get left behind.
As always Bartimaeus (and his brilliant footnotes) completely steals the show, but there's plenty to enjoy here: greedy wizards, cheeky foliots, a friendly worst enemy Faquarl, powerful yet brainless afrits, a rundown on some of Bartimaeus' intriguing past master, and those pesky royal leaders. Not to mention poor Asmira blindly trying to achieve an impossible task set for her by her queen, without any real clue about how to go about it.
Throw in a few quests, some fighting, knife-throwing, summoning spells, mortal peril, self-doubt, menacing shadows and an all-powerful ring, and what's not to love?
Hugely enjoyable, fast-paced, clever and fun, for fans and newcomers, Bartimaeus is a treat for all fantasy fans - young or old. Though possibly not as good as the original trilogy, with its difficult yet vital power struggle with his master Nathaniel, Bartimaeus is still my favourite anti-hero. More, please!
This won't disappoint the many Bartimaeus fans around the world. It has the same zany adventures and the same arrogant humour. You do need to have read the other books first though in order to fully understand shape changes, planes of perception, djinns, imps etc to say nothing of the footnotes which are a fundamental part and are often wickedly funny. To read a fantasy novel which has no recourse to bad language and copious amounts of violence is a welcome treat these days. Something I do need to stress is that in my opinion, this novel is to be enjoyed by all ages. Well written and a real treat!
This review is of the Audio CD version of the book
I must say after listening to the other audiobooks about my favourite jinn, Bartimaeus. I eagerly waited to hear this relatively new prequel release. I am somewhat disappointed that this version is abridged, and I am sure that much good material and humour was lost and I hope the powers that be produce a full version! Unlike other books in the Bartimaeus series, this book can be read in isolation without necessarily having to read or listen to other titles, although I highly recommend them. There is little point in adding a plot summary, firstly they are rather like spoilers and then help to diminish the enjoyment of the material. Secondly other reviewers have done a much better job than I could!
Not to sound too repetitive, the audio CDs are well presented and the narration is very good and you just flow with the story. The voice and dialogue for the jinn are all very well done. Some people will think that the central Character, our young sorceress is less than well rounded and naïve, I believe that lends itself to the verbal `sparring between her and Bartimaeus. Also it seems to this listener that it is part and parcel of the humour and that this makes the story, well that's my feel.
An important point mentioned by another review, was the authors skill in not having to use strong language or graphic violence to help keep the reader engaged and that is refreshing, to say the least! As the book is aimed at the younger audience. Not say that adults would not enjoy it!
The price tag is not too bad, if you wish to buy to hear more than once. If not try to get it from the Library, it is worth it.
on 21 October 2011
Having read the original Bartimaeus trilogy several times I was very happy when the author announced he was working on this book. I read his blog and followed his writing process. When it was released I purchased it almost immediately.
The setting is different from the trilogy as it's set in ancient times. That makes it already not as good because it becomes a standard adventure whereas the trilogy had an underlying theme and you could see the connections to modern day London.
Bartimaeus is his usual self and the gallery of demons around him are also fun to read about. However, the human characters aren't as fleshed out as they were in the trilogy and I found them bland at times.
With all that said it's a great, fun, story for everyone. But coming from the superior trilogy I can't give this any better grade.
on 2 August 2016
A great present for a friend who loved it. Well worth a read (having read it myself) if you enjoy a fantasy alternative history. Stroud has been sure to include really witty and funny characters. This has for me become his trademark and sets him apart from the usual writers of wizards, demons and fantastical worlds!
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!
If you haven't read any of the Bartimaeus books, you have a treat in store but start with the Amulet of Samarkand. This one is a completely separate story set in a different age with the same main character and a few minor characters. I felt it wasn't quite as clever as the original series but it still thoroughly deserves 5 stars - it is witty, exciting, unpredictable and moving and of course it stars Bartimaeus himself who remains as inimitable as ever.
on 10 September 2011
Perhaps it's a bit unfair to give four stars to this book when I may have given five to other which are not better, but the thing is, my nearest reference for this is "Ptolemy's Gate", and I liked that better, so my five stars I reserve for that.
More or less, the story goes like this: the main character, a supernatural being with magic powers, is frequently summoned by magicians to carry out whichever missions they order. In the times of Great King Solomon, young Arabian girl Asmira entrusts him with killing the King and stealing his ring, an object of immense power. In trying to fulfil that deed, Bartimaeus has to survive the attacks from many fellow spirits and uncover a conspiracy that threats to bring terror and destruction all over the kingdoms of Middle East.
For those who haven't read the Bartimaeus' series, I'll simply say that this is a book packed with action, whith a a main character that is original and relatively complex, funny, witty, and lovable. It is written in a fresh and ironic voice, relatively fast paced but with descriptions good enough for the reader to be submerged into the story's atmosphere. The footnotes, almost always in a comical voice, add pleasantly to the whole. Though it's intended for young adults, probably many inveterate grown up readers will enjoy it. I have.
All I've said above won't come as a surprise to those who have read the previous series. The only drawback I can see is that the relationship between the djinni and his master isn't as moving and close as it was with Nathaniel; Asmira's story is more heroic, the character is a bit dull in her flawlessness and her background is a bit commonplace when it comes to adventure novels. Anyway, in the whole I loved it. An perhaps, the storyline not being complex and the main characters pictured as a pretty girl and a, mmmh, sometimes handsome boy, some film making company could fancy making it into a movie. Just saying.
on 13 July 2013
As with all his books, Jonathan Stroud paints wonderful pictures and keeps the reader entertained from start to finish. I especially like his, Bartimaeus, quip about the fanatics that would sit on top of a pole and call demons to torment them. when he said, he used to tickle them until they fell off, I nearly fell of my chair.
Oh by the way, I am 57.