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14 January 2010 @ 01:46 am
The Bartimeus Trilogy  
This is a trilogy, but unlike Lord of The Rings, it is not one continuous story. Rather, it's several different episodes in the lives of several individuals. So I'll review each book by itself, then as a trilogy.



NOT MINE! property of Stroud et al

title: The Amulet of Samarkand
author: Johnathan Stroud
genre: YA fantasy
series: Bartimeus Trilogy

Summary: This is one of those books that has a main character who is somewhat distasteful, but grows on you anyway. After all, it's not Nathaniel's fault that he's been raised by a rude, thoughtless magician whose only concern is power. The importance of power and influence is all Nathaniel has been taught to respect. Therefore, when he has an embarassing run-in with one of his mentor's associates, Nathaniel's only thought is for revenge. But when he conjures the irreverent, smart-mouth djinni (or spirit) Bartimeus to help him get that revenge, he gets more than he bargained for. Sure Bartimeus will do what he's told, because he has too. That doesn't mean he can't give Nathaniel a piece of his mind, or a piece of advice. The two have some fun (and some not-quite-as-much-fun) adventures before finally getting Nathaniel's revenge and going their separate ways, but as the book ends you know that neither will be quite the same afterwards.

Review: This book started out rather strangely, as it seems to be set with an alternate history for Britain. There is no warning that this is going to happen, and there is no indication of what year this takes place in. Which is alright I guess, but there are some unusual combinations of technology. There are airplanes and cars and electric lights, but neon is a new invention and America is still comprised of colonies that belong to England. Once you get used to these, though, this series is quite good. Bartimeus is my kind of spirit, with his back-talk and disregard for authority. He can be remarkably loyal, though, to the right master: he still wears the form of a magician named Ptolemy, a master of his who died over two thousand years ago. We are given the impression that Bartimues thinks Nathaniel has the potential to be such a magician and master, but he hides it behind lots of attitude. Nevertheless, Bartimeus helps Nathaniel with his desire for revenge. This job isn't without its ups and downs, of course; Nathaniel is mugged by two boys who seem able to perceive the aura of magic around him, and Bartimeus is attacked by a girl who can see through his disguise. But by learning to work together, Nathaniel and Bartimeus follow their quest through to the end.



NOT MINE! property of Stroud et al

title: The Golem's Eye
author: Johnathan Stroud
genre: YA fantasy
series: Bartimeus Trilogy

Summary: Nathaniel, only two years older and barely any wiser, has a new mentor and new responsibilities. But when a magical monster that hasn't been seen in almost a thousand years starts terrorizing London, and a small revolutionary cell known as The Resistance launches several attacks against magicians, Nathaniel conjures his not-quite-a-friend djinni Bartimeus to help him again. Though Bartimues has hopes for a short tour of duty and a small work load, Nathaniel has other ideas. Nathaniel's reputation, livelihood, and perhaps even his life could be forfeit if he can't find out who is behind the monster and the revolutionaries.

Review: Seeing Nathaniel again in this second installement is bittersweet. While we're glad that he has a competent mentor and a good job, we're also sad to see that he has set himself the goal of imitating the unfeeling and power-hungry magicians he is surrounded by. When he calls up Bartimeus, we see that Bartimeus is also dismayed by the path Nathaniel has chosen. But Bartimeus, good-natured as always (ha), resigns himself to helping with only a little sassing and friendly poking at Nathaniel's new persona (and haircut). Although Nathaniel is colder in this book, he is a bit more clever. He zigs and zags across Europe in an effort to catch a monster and a revolutionary menace before they can spell the end of his career, and of his life (because we all know that politics and runaway monsters can be murder). Not only are the dangers and stakes bigger and badder, but Nathaniel and Bartimeus must deal with some old friends--the ragtag group of youths who attacked them in the previous book.



NOT MINE! property of Stroud et al

title: Ptolemy's Gate
author: Johnathan Stroud
genre: YA fantasy
series: Bartimeus Trilogy

Summary: The final book in the series sees a welcome improvement in Nathaniel--he is tired of his posturing coworkers and the stress of trying to stay on top of his career and ahead of his competition in government. That is no easy task for a young man of 17, and his exhaustion with his situation doesn't make it any easier. There is a war going on for control of the American colonies, and the Americans are winning. The commoners in Britain are uneasy, and part of Nathaniel's job is to keep them appeased. His other responsibilities include rooting out dissenters, fighting magical attacks from other countries who are trying to take advantage of England's weakened army, and tracking down a mysterious man whose goal seems to be the complete overthrow of Britain's magical government. It's no wonder that he hasn't dismissed Bartimeus for a rest in almost two years, in which Bartimeus's essence is wearing away. Despite the both of them being sick and tired, they must push themselves to solve these problems before the whole of Britain itself comes crashing down around them.

Review: This book might be my favorite of the three. We finally learn more about Ptolemy, the magician Bartimeus loved so much that he still wears his form 2000 years later, and why Bartimeus became so attached to someone who supposedly enslaved him in bringing him to earth. Of course this backstory is not just for fun--there are elements of the close relationship Bartimeus and Ptolemy shared that will help Nathaniel save Britain. In addition, we are finally treated to some maturity on Nathaniel's part. But while we're glad that Nathaniel can see his world for what it is, we also feel his sense of futilism in going against the majority. In fact, there is one moment where we see Nathaniel's own personal turning point. He has a decision to make; a huge decision. He makes the right one, we applaud him for it, and he knows he did the right thing. But even though he knows he couldn't have done anything else, he also knows that it is going to cost him dearly. And he's right. Other magicians turn against him, he loses the only ally he had in government, and he must depend almost entirely on the weary Bartimeus to help him before the entire social structure of the country collapses and countless lives are lost in the ensuing chaos. Oh, and we're not done with the Resistance yet. You thought we were? No. Ideas are the hardest things to kill, as Nathaniel will find out and as Bartimeus has been trying to tell him all along.

As a trilogy, there aren't many connecting threads. Actually the only threads that go through all three books are Bartimeus's attitude, Nathaniel's personal journey, and the resistance of commoners to magicians' rule. Each book is its own episode in the lives of a few people. But that doesn't make it a bad trilogy. I think it's fantastic, and at the end of the third book I have nothing but the greatest respect for Nathaniel. And I think Bartimeus would share that feeling with me. But I won't tell you why; go read it! You won't regret it. :)
 
 
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