2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
An entertaining sequel with strong story telling,
This review is from: The Golem's Eye (The Bartimaeus Trilogy) (Paperback)
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.