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
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