Top positive review
2 people found this helpful
on 13 July 2007
Before I started reading this book I was totally unprepared for Stroud's style. I was expecting the conventional 'amighty demon filled with wrath bound to the courageous but challenged master' sort of thing but was rather taken aback by what I got. a)The djinn Bartimaeus always addresses the reader in 1st person, whereas his 'master' Nathaniel is dealt with in the 3rd person; and b)Bartimaeus is deeply cynical and intelligent in a way that challenges the typical fantasy pretension. However, once I overcame my shock (and Bart's ironic little footnotes) 'The Amulet of Samarkand' was worth the read.
I'm not saying it will grip you in a Potteresque fashion, for the plot sometimes moves a bit slowly, but I did enjoy reading it. Interestingly, none of Stroud's characters are very likeable --possibly he's read too much Iris Murdoch?-- and though my sympathies often went to Nathaniel as the underprivileged apprentice, he's far from being a 'hero'. Bartimaeus, by contrast, is quite profound in many of his observations about humanity and he takes the self-appointed role of social commentator from a demonically objective point of view. The fact that he frequently remarks how he will imaginatively annihilate his previous masters when he gets the chance is refreshing in face of the the manipulative, arrogant, contriving magicians. Where THEY are duplicitous, Bartimaeus is totally frank and honest.
So, the book is about Nathaniel wanting to seek revenge on the ironically named magician 'Lovelace' for an affront to himself. Initially, Nathaniel's reasons might be construed as trite but as he and Bartimaeus enact Nathaniel's revenge, they get caught up in a web of intrigue and sedition which they could not have foreseen. (It's like a thriller with magic and demons thrown in.)
I wonder whether Stroud is making any political comments what with the government being run by the magicians, rife with plotting and back-stabbing and the Prime Minister allegedly one of the worst? It's impossible to say for sure but Stroud's universe is distressingly familiar in many ways. The ending is particularly fascinating as we see Nathaniel willingly enter the foray of ambition and deception; and Bartimaeus, almost ruefully, aknowledge that Nathaniel will probably go far --such is life.
I enjoyed the climactic ending and I think you will too, for it nicely ties up the plot's main threads (though some plot lines are left purposefully dangling) and leaves us with the compelling thought that, however much humans may have progressed in civilisation, we're not all that great when exposed by the nonchalent observations of a humorous djinn who's been around the block a few times. I think it's worth a read :)