When reading through the Top 100 of teen fiction, it’s really clear how much the supernatural appeals to readers right now. The Bartimaeus Trilogy) is another example of a supernatural fantasy series, consisting of three books (of which I’ve only read the first). The main persons are 12-year old Nathaniel, a magician apprentice, and 5,000-year-old Bartimaeus, a djinni (spirit, or demon).
In the first book, titled The Amulet of Samarkand, young Nathaniel wants to take revenge at a magician who ridiculed him and practices and studies until he manages to ‘summon’ Bartimaeus. Together, they discover a plot to overthrow the government in the magic world. Nathaniel ends up a hero, aided by Bartimaeus.
Obviously, there’s a lot of magic in this book. If that’s something you have an issue with, you should not read or recommend the book. I had no problem with Harry Potter personally, but this book felt different. Perhaps because there were spirits and demons involved, which ‘feels’ like occult magic one should stay away from. Also, I don’t think it’s a good idea to romanticize demons in any way, lest teens get confused about the danger of the real ones. Not an objective standard by any means, but then again reviews never are objective 🙂
Personally, I had a hard time understanding the world author Jonathan Stroud created. I was often confused about who was what and what the different creatures could do. I felt the world was overly complicated and it kept distracting me from the story.
The fact that main character Nathaniel isn’t a very nice boy didn’t help. He’s arrogant, revengeful, hates his master and is seldom kind or friendly. He’s just not a character I could identify with in any way and I had little sympathy for him or for what happened to him. Likewise, Bartimaeus isn’t a ‘good demon’ either, though he is honorable in a sort of way.
Language wise the book is fine and there are no references to sex of any kind. Still, I wouldn’t recommend it to teens. I didn’t feel there was much to learn or take away from this book. Perhaps character traits as arrogance and pride could be discussed with teens who have read it, but in the first book Nathaniel makes little progress in these areas. Supposedly this changes in the other two volumes in the series, but I haven’t read these. I had to make enough of an effort to get through the first book!
I’m very curious if others have read it and liked the series, as always I’m very aware of my personal preferences and how they influence my reviews and recommendations!