aPriL does feral sometimes 's Reviews > The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
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'The Amulet of Samarkand', part one of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, is a fun teen thriller! Although this is an alternative London with magicians ruling the country through enslaved magical beings, this book reminded me of the traditional stories of Charles Dickens - cruelly used orphans, many mean horrible adults especially those responsible for our hero's education, and gangs of street kids living in unforgivable poverty. The story doesn't mention what year it takes place, but it might be in the late 1950's or 1960's, or later I suppose (there is mention of the Crystal Palace radio tower and there are cars).

Nathaniel was taken from his parents when he was five years old and given to Arthur Underwood, Junior Minister in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and his wife Martha, as an apprentice to learn the magic spells which control a variety of magical beings. As usual in these situations, Nathaniel's training in how to summon and control 'demons' (they are not really demons, but they seem to be like the beings in Middle-Eastern fairy tales and legends) is by a second-rate master who little cares for him. Underwood speaks of Nathaniel as an 'it'. Martha, on the other hand, is kind, and she becomes the only person he loves.

Regardless of Martha's affection, Nathaniel is a very mean and angry kid by the time he is twelve years old. He is intent on vengeance because the other magicians mistreat and humiliate him as if he were a 'commoner', the worst thing in London society to be. Because he reads from Underwood's library of magic books on his own, he is a much stronger magician than anyone suspects. The first step in his revenge is to discover what weaknesses and secrets the magician Simon Lovelace, who humiliated him most, possesses, which he does by creating a scrying glass with a captured and enslaved baby imp he imprisons inside of a mirror.

After spying on Lovelace through the service of the imp, he next calls out and enslaves the powerful Djinni Bartimaeus from his dimension to serve him by stealing the Amulet of Samarkand. Nathaniel has discovered that this Amulet, now in Lovelace's hands, is so important to Lovelace that he ordered his djinni to murder its original owner to steal it for himself. Even though cruelty is normal for magicians, murder is still frowned on. Something big is being planned by Lovelace, and Nathaniel is going to uncover the mystery, hopefully resulting in something with which Nathaniel can get payback.

Bartimaeus narrates alternate chapters with Nathaniel throughout the novel, and unlike the morose angry young boy, Bartimaeus is full of snark and sarcastic jokes. He is indeed a powerful magic creature able to change his appearance from a fly to a young boy, and he has been alive for millennia. Mankind seems like a very stupid vicious race to him, but now Nathaniel has bound him to service and he reluctantly carries out Nathaniel's commands.

'The Amulet of Samarkand' is very enjoyable and entertaining to read, gentle reader! I highly recommend it. It has intense scenes of violence, though not graphic, but deaths occur to people along the way. Nathaniel does not appear to be a nice person, which is understandable given the upbringing he has had, and what is expected of him when he grows up, but Bartimaeus certainly is an engaging and fun entity! The book can be read as a standalone, but there are a few hints there is more to come.
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Reading Progress

March 27, 2016 – Started Reading
March 27, 2016 – Shelved
March 27, 2016 –
page 44
9.52% "This demon is one of the snarkiest ones I have ever read about! I want one!"
March 28, 2016 –
page 250
54.11% "Oh, this is excellent!"
March 30, 2016 – Shelved as: alt-universe
March 30, 2016 – Shelved as: cold-hard-mean
March 30, 2016 – Shelved as: fantasy
March 30, 2016 – Shelved as: magical-drama
March 30, 2016 – Shelved as: mysteries-potboilers-thrillers
March 30, 2016 – Shelved as: older-teen
March 30, 2016 – Finished Reading

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