April 15th, 2011

Golden Hair

Except The Queen

Except The Queen by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder

Once, two fairies came upon the queen of fairy cavorting with a mortal.  They laughed and ran off, but some time later, one of them let it slip.  The enraged queen sends them packing into mortal lands, transformed into old women, and they have to try to live in the modern world.  They get some help, but they also find the fairy is loose in the world, and these are the -- ehem -- Good Folk out of folklore.

It's an interesting point-of-view set-up, with each chapter in its own POV, which is probably wise because they are very different.  Very strong voices.  Some first-person, some third-person, some even second-person, and very well done.

And the story winds on through doves, hawks, crows, Baba Yaga, sisters, strange aunts, and other familial relationships, crude college students, buying fruit, selling herbs, and plenty of other stuff before it all resolves together, revealing what was happening behind the scenes and pushing along many events.

#23 The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud

In Jerusalem, 950 BC, the djinni Bartimaeus has been enslaved to a magician serving King Solomon. When Bartimaeus is sent on a mission to determine what is attacking travelers in the desert, he runs into Asmira, a young woman who desires nothing more than to meet with Solomon. Only there's more to her quest than just that. She's been sent by the Queen of Sheba to kill King Solomon and steal his ring, a magical item of great power. Asmira is determined to complete her task without fail, but she needs Bartimaeus's help to do it.

One of the benefits to having a character that's thousands of years old is that there are plenty of stories that you can tell. The Ring of Solomon is a prequel to Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy, taking place thousands of years before the stories of Nathaniel and Kitty. It's also a novel that surprised me a bit. Upon picking up the audiobook, I couldn't help but feel a little skeptical. The Bartimaeus trilogy is a worthy fantasy series. It's also very well contained. A prequel felt unnecessary, as if the author was trying to profit on the successful trilogy by putting out a sub-par volume. Fortunately, this is not the case. The Ring of Solomon is a highly entertaining novel filled with great characters, biting humor, and plenty of magical action. Although it lacks the satisfying larger arcs that can be found in a trilogy, it still builds upon the many concepts raised in the original novels, such as master/slave relationships, the the idea of corrupt magicians in power.

Perhaps what surprised me the most about The Ring of Solomon were the characters of Asmira and Solomon. At first, the strong willed Asmira felt like a poor copy of Kitty Jones (form the original trilogy). After all of Bartimaeus's bragging about “speaking with Solomon” during the trilogy, I was a little let down by Solomon himself at first, finding him a little on the dull side. What I forgot is that Stroud doesn't always do the expected when it comes to characterization, and both Solomon and Asmira end up as rather interesting characters. Another thing I enjoyed was the setting. Pre-Christian Jerusalem is quite different from Modern day England, but there were a surprising amount of things that were rather the same.

The Ring of Solomon is a worthy prequel to the Bartimaeus trilogy. The humor was just as sharp as ever, and Stroud once again proves that you can make a story that's fun without being substance free. It's a good choice for people who have read the original trilogy, and those who are completely new to the series. As with the previous novels in the series, I experienced The Ring of Solomon as an audiobook. Simon Jones once again does a top notch job as narrator. If you're looking to read this book, I would suggest checking out the audiobook format.

Rating: four and a half stars
Length: I listened to the audiobook, but the print version is 398 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Similar Books: The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling, The Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer, The Skulduggery Pleasant Series by Derek Landy.
Other books I've read by this author: The Amulet of Samarkand (my review), The Golem's Eye (my review), Ptolemy's Gate (my review)

xposted to temporaryworlds , bookish , and goodreads

Next up I will be reviewing Serenity: The Shepard's Tale by Joss and Zack Whedon, and The Guild by Felicia Day. Apparently I was in the mood for graphic novels.