The Amulet of Samarkand: A Book Review

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Set in London where magicians are the elite, the book is about a young boy named Nathaniel who became a magician’s apprentice. Thinking that he was unappreciated and his talent taken for granted, he decided to summon a powerful djinni (yes, that’s how they spell it, not genie) to get back at a magician that humiliated him before. This action led to a conflict putting him in the middle of a magician-filled government coup d’etat of some sort.

What I like about the book is that it presented a fresh concept of what magic and wizards are. In this book, magicians didn’t possess magic, they just know how to control the entities or demons which perform magic for them. Also, on a more serious note, it incorporated politics in the plot by making the magicians the ruling class of the society referring to non-magical folks as commoners.

While it may sound or may be associated with the more famous potter series, the Bartimaeus Book I might be more appealing to readers who are older. It is not written with colorful descriptives and interesting new magical concepts and spells. However, despite this, the action packed sequences wherein the author narrates in detail every bit of action there is, takes you into the book itself that you can’t stop thinking about what will happen next. This quality makde the book a true page turner that it could be finished in just one sitting.

This book also presented a very distinctive narrative style where the author shifts from Nathaniel to Bartimaeus, giving a balance between the obvious and what is anticipated. what’s more interesting (or just plain hilarious) is the way the author put footnotes of side comments and snippets of what the djinni, Bartimaeus thought of each situation he’s in or when he’s criticizing a person. This footnoting is a relatively new thing for me and is a great way of incorporating a purely academic system in writing into a hilarious method of entertaining. It will make you want to say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

The book is a great follow-up if you just happen to finish the Harry Potter series. It would be like a development in the level of fantasy that your mind is taking in, from a world of extremes where the story is as simple as good versus evil, to a more serious, more complicated plot where the only differences from the real world is the magic part. It is a classic retelling of heroes and villains only this time, like mentioned before, there is no black and white, and like in Bartimaeus’ realm, gray matter is everywhere and you don’t know who’s who.

All in all, I give this book four stars.

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