“The Amulet of Samurkand” – intriguing, but kind of a hard title to remember. Instead, remember this name – Bartimaeus. While young Nathanial is the star magician in this story, it’s the djinni he summons, Bartimaeus, who makes this book such a worthwhile read.
Chapters alternate in narration between Bartimaeus…a long-lived djinni who survives by his wits as much as his magic, and Nathanial, an apprentice perhaps too smart and ambitious for his own good. When Nathanial is painfully humiliated by a magician while his own master stands by and does nothing, Nathanial takes matters into his own hands by summoning Bartimaeus. However, even with the “help” of Bartimaeus (who at the beginning of the novel would love to turn his mischief on Nathanial himself), the misguided apprentice gets himself from a bad situation into a much worse one. He is NOT Harry Potter–his motivations are initially all about revenge, and he makes some pretty petty comments throughout the story. Good thing he has Bartimaeus along – or is it?
One gem of this book is its footnotes. Now sometimes, footnotes just annoy me. The little numbers can be a distraction, and the footnotes themselves often contain historical references to something not directly related to the plot. Not so with this story, however. Bartimaeus gives insight into the magical world, explains his motivations for certain actions, and even explains why he censored an interrogation in the story proper. And he narrates all these footnotes with wit and humor – don’t skip over them!
Like many books, this story is part one in a series. The author, Jonathan Stroud, does give a conclusion to this book. I’m betting, however, that if you venture to read book 1, you’ll be on board for books 2 and 3 (and a Bartimaeus prequel as well). Enjoy!