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#5 The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

In London, eleven-year-old Nathaniel is studying to become a magician. He is confident in his knowledge of magic, and feels held back byhis master, who considers him to only be of mediocre talent. When Nathaniel is humiliated by a magician named Simon Lovelace, his wounded pride will not let Lovelace get away with it. He throws himself into his studies, and wracks his brain for a way to expose Lovelace for the fiend he truly is. Only it's not something he can do alone, leading Nathaniel to summon an ancient djinni named Bartimaeus.

I've been aware of the existence of The Bartimaeus Trilogy for a while ago, but have hesitated to pick it up. I took one look at a story of a young boy learning magic in England and assumed that it was just another Harry Potter rip-off. How wrong I was. Although there are certainly similarities between the two series, The Amulet of Samarkand proves to be a fascinating fantasy novel filled with complex characters, great world building, and plenty of humor and suspense. This novel is no rip-off.

The Amulet of Samarkand is interesting because it almost has two protagonists. Although it's Nathaniel's quest that drives the plot, Bartimaeus receives just as much attention. I really enjoyed watching the power struggle between these two. Despite (or perhaps, due to) his narcissism and near lack of conscience, Bartimaeus is so easy to like. He has a great voice filled with snark and humor. Although a much quieter character, I also appreciated Nathaniel. In some ways, he is the “young innocent hero” stereotype that you'd expect, but he certainly has his faults. He's very much a product of his own environment, which can result in him acting superior and prideful. Although you'd think this would be a bad thing, I can't help but admire Stroud for doing this. It occasionally sacrifices Nathaniel's likability but results in a better crafted character. Also worth noting is the interesting setting. Much like J.K. Rowling seemed to use the concept of pure bloods and muggle-borns to tell a story about racism, Stroud's world of ruling magicians and oppressed commoners can be seen as telling us a lot of about social class. I really look forward to seeing how Stroud will continue to explore this world in future volumes.

The Amulet of Samarkand is a worth fantasy novel that I probably should have read sooner. I chose to listen to the audiobook, which is a very strong production. Simon Jones really nails Bartimaeus's voice. Filled with magic, action, and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, The Amulet of Samarkand is a good choice for anyone looking for a fantasy book with both dark and light moments.

Rating: four and a half stars
Length: I listened to the audiobook, but the print version is 462 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. For a less obvious comparison, this book at times reminded me of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (my review), only much shorter, with far fewer characters, and meant for a smaller audience.
Other books I've read by this author: this is my first

Next up I will be reviewing Room by Emma Donoghue

xposted to temporaryworlds ,bookish , and goodreads
Tags: xxx author last name: r-z
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