The Amulet of Samarkand tells the story of a young apprentice named Nathaniel, who becomes fed up with constantly being underestimated and humiliated by his Master. In Stroud’s London, the government is composed of immensely powerful Magicians whose main source of power comes from the summoning of Demons (also called Djinni). Seeking revenge, he secretly summons a powerful Djinni named Bartimaeus. Nathaniel orders him to steal an extremely valuable magical object, The Amulet of Samarkand, from famed magician Simon Lovelace. What initially begins as an act of vengeance soon turns into a fight for survival when Nathanial and Bartimaeus discover themselves in the middle of a plot to destroy the Government.I must confess that I was rather apprehensive of reading The Amulet of Samarkand, mostly because it is classified as being a children’s book. However, I could not have been more wrong in my assumptions. Stroud moves far beyond the sphere of typical fantasy novels in that the main character is not Nathaniel, as the reader would expect, but Bartimaeus. Rarely have I ever seen such an unconventional and unlikely hero in a fantasy series, let alone one so memorable.
Even more unusual was the fact that I found myself captivated by the lack of knowledge about Bartimaeus’ past life. His sarcastic remarks and observations about unfolding events (written in the form of footnotes) provided both a glimpse into his mysterious history and a unique perspective of the setting. It’s not very common for authors of Fiction to include footnotes, especially in the words of the main character. For me, they were really what I enjoyed most about The Amulet of Samarkand. I loved reading Bartimaeus’ comments about Nathaniel and London Society. His witty sense of humor made me laugh out loud multiple times at each turn of the page. It was refreshing to not have to read through endless pages of exposition, and instead learn about the back-story when it became relevant.
It’s easy to be transported to Stroud’s magical world while reading The Amulet of Samarkand, thanks to his vivid descriptions. What also interested me was that the story does not start off with an exposition, but instead jumps right into the action. Despite this, I never found myself getting lost or confused as I had originally expected. In fact, the characters and their antics continuously kept my attention, from the moment I first opened the book. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about other Magicians and Demons from Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, complete with their differing opinions. What I loved most about this book was the fact that it was completely unlike anything I have ever read before, and I am so glad I decided to pick it up from the shelf.
The Amulet of Samarkand is without a doubt one of the most entertaining books I have ever read. It was fast-paced, thrilling, and downright brilliant. With each turn of the page I was consistently surprised with a new bit of information that left me hungry for more. I highly recommend to readers of all ages, and I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
The Amulet of Samarkand is the first episode of Jonathan Stroud’s critically acclaimed Bartimaeus Trilogy. If you enjoy this book, we highly recommend checking out book two, The Golem’s Eye.
This review was written by Allyson Czadowski as part of Shurtugal.com’s new weekly book recommendations and reviews column. On Thursday of each week, Shur’tugal staff will review a new fantasy or sci-fi book (or recommend an old one), posted on the home page of Shur’tugal, in partnership with Lytherus.com.