Jonathan Stroud

Books: Fantasy | Children's

The Bartimaeus Trilogy: The Amulet of Samarkand (2003), The Golem's Eye (2004), Ptolemy's Gate (2006)

The Bartimaeus Trilogy

The Amulet of Samarkand (2003)

Bartimaeus is a djinni who has been around for thousands of years. He even spent time in Ancient Egypt, a culture that he seems to have some slight fondness for. However, when he's called this time, his Master is an eleven year old apprentice with revenge on his mind.

I loved how this story was primarily written from the point of view of Bartimaeus. Although this book is for children/young adults, Nathaniel, the boy, is the secondary character, and our initial image of him is less than flattering, as we're seeing it through Bartimaeus's eyes.

This switch in the expected point of view set the tone for the book. The humans—or at least the human magicians—aren't very impressive, and so Bartimaeus becomes the sympathetic figure—and he's not necessarily that sympathetic (especially when it comes to his opinion of humans.)

This book was a lot of fun to read. Bartimaeus is an interesting characters, and although he doesn't have a very high opinion of humans (with good reason) you quickly see why he doesn't care much for humans. After all, being enslaved and forced to do another's bidding would hardly make you think well of a group.

Although this is a young adult book, the writing doesn't feel like a children's book—in fact the only thing that feels like a kids' book is the fact that Nathaniel is eleven years old—so adults should enjoy this book, despite it's young adult/child classification.

I have to say that one of the advantages of shopping on-line is that I get recommendations for books that I normally wouldn't notice because I never go into the young adult/kid's section of the book store. I don't think I would have picked up this book in a bookstore—most likely I wouldn't have come across it. (I don't care much for the kid's section, because there are kids there.)

If you like fantasy, then I highly recommend The Amulet of Samarkand. I've already ordered the second book in the series, and can't wait to read it.

Rating: 8/10

The Golem's Eye (2004)

The second book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy starts two years after the end of The Amulet of Samarkand. Nathaniel/John Mandrake has been the apprentice of Jessica Whitwell, and has become a member of the Department of Internal Affairs, and put in charge of learning about and stopping the Resistance.

We also come back to Kitty, who in The Amulet of Samarkand stole Nathaniel's scrying glass, and attempted to take the The Amulet of Samarkand from Bartimaeus. We discover her position in the Resistance and how she came to join the Resistance in the first place.

And of course there is Bartimaeus. We don't spend quite as much time with him as we did in the first book, because the story is now split between more characters than Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, but I do enjoy his opinions and ideas and his view of things.

As I finished this book, I realized that The Golem's Eye was in many ways what I wished the Star Wars prequels had been. You see the path Nathaniel is taking, and keep hoping that he'll see the light and change, but you also see and understand the forces that are driving him in that direction. You don't like it, but you see why it's happening.

Unlike the first book, the second book finishes its story arc; however, it is very obvious that there is going to be another book. Although Nathaniel seems to have made his choice as to the kind of magician and person he is going to be, there is still a hope that he might go in a separate direction.

Which is part of what made this book less enjoyable for me--the fact that I really don't like Nathaniel--or more rightly John Mandrake--very much. Luckily, Bartimaeus is still amusing and fascinating, and the more we learn about Kitty, the more I come to like her.

if you have read The Amulet of Samarkand, then you will definitely want to read The Golem's Eye. Now I'm just waiting for the third book.

Rating: 7/10

Ptolemy's Gate (2006)

The final book of the Bartimaeus trilogy, in Ptolemy's Gate Bartimaeus and Nathaniel discover the conspiracy that has been plotting to overthrow the government. We also discover what Kitty Jones has been doing since we last saw her. John Mandrake may have risen in the government, but Kitty has been struggling to keep things together.

We also (finally!) get to learn more about Ptolemy. The Egyptian boy whose form Bartimaeus often takes when maneuvering through the world. I'd learned enough bits and pieces over the past two books to become very curious, so I was delighted that we actually got to spend time with him, and learn about his past.

I'm going to say something that you'll almost never hear me say--so feel free to gloat and laugh. I think that the Bartimaeus Trilogy would make a great series of movies.

The descriptions of the action and the transformations that Bartimaeus makes would be absolutely fantastic and amazing with good CGI.

As far as the story, without giving away anything, it was very good, and very gripping. However...


I wasn't really sure that I believed Nathaniel's conversion. I read it, but I kept waiting for him to turn back again to his drive for power and control. At the end of the second book he was, to all intents and purposes, no longer Nathaniel, but had completely become John Mandrake. I suppose the answer is that he wasn't as far gone at the end of book 2 as I though he was, which is why it didn't take as much as I expected for him to see the error of his ways, so to speak.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad for the fact that he turned back from his path of power, but unlike Kitty, I had a hard time trusting the change. Probably because of Nathaniel's treatment of Bartimaeus. Sure Nathaniel saved his life by dismissing him when he was almost dead, but it was Nathaniel's fault Bartimaeus was that weak in the first place.

Anyway, I was delighted by the renewal of the banter between the two, and as always, was glad that Nathaniel got to redeem himself.


So, I enjoyed Ptolemy's Gate and the rest of the Bartimaeus Trilogy. Although this is a Kid's/Young Adult book, aside from the lack of curing and naughty bits, it neither felt nor read like a Kid's book, and I definitely recommend it for children, as well as for adults who like fantasy.

Rating: 7/10