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That’s right, Jonathan Stroud, who will also be our Author of the Week! That’s right, six days and six book reviews! Because, as we all remember, on the 7th day, the Good Lord Above (TM) said we should rest.
Now Jonathan Stroud’s been a man about town sort of author, dabbled in a little bit of every kind of writing before he really hit his stride (in my professional opinion, as a world famous published author) with the Amulet of Samarkand and its introduction into the Bartimaeus series.
Meet Nathaniel who has been adopted into a Magician’s family. Magicians are conniving, backstabbing, ruthless people who rule over the Commoners through the use of their “magic,” which is actually enslavement of magical beings (read Demons, or the politically correct term: Spirits) who are forced to reside on earth and bound to the will of their master. Aside from the obvious political and social metaphors present, Jonathan Stroud actually does do some inventive and ingenious things (unlike, say, me:)
- A Magical System Like No Other: There’s no better way to make a magic system stand out by casually subverting all the other systems out there. The magicians don’t do much themselves and the Spirits they command have an excellent mix of specific powers (shape changing for one) and other vague ones (like Detonations, Convulsions and Fluxes??) Don’t get me wrong; there is magic in this book, just not the way you expect it to be with wavy wands or powerful swords and flashy smoke or rabbits who disappear into hats.
Actually there might have been a rabbit who did disappear into a hat. We’ll get back to that.
- The Alternate Universe Which We Aren’t Sure of When It Happens: Harry Potter is most definitely set in the 90s, and Percy Jackson inhabits a time-wrap universe where everything happens according to one structured book timeline with everything else fixed in the real world. The Bartimaeus Series on the other hand, has a lot of real stuff (like cars,) and hints and mentions of world history that Stroud’s made up to fit the story. England, for example is still an Empire with its colonies (who might be rebelling hehe…) and Europe has a bunch of Old-World Powers who try to be rivals of the British Empire (TM.) So we’re fairly grounded about what’s happening and kinda sure about when it’s happening but we have no concrete idea of what’s already happened: except through some tidbits that one can infer from if they’re really paying attention.
As they say: show, don’t tell.
- Characters Whom You Want to Alternatively Root For And Punch in the Face: Stroud’s made some fantastic characters before, but the Bartimaeus Series had a whole gallery who stand out with elan. Boy magician Nathaniel, his master Underwood, his soon-to-be-nemisis Simon Lovelace, and mysterious rebel leader Kitty Jones alongside perhaps the wittiest character to grace the pages of a book ever: Bartimaeus himself. Wise-cracking, permanently offended and injured by his work, and relentlessly commentative, Bartimaeus is that little voice inside our head that makes thing bearable.
Except he’s, like, funnier.
The Bartimaeus Series needs to be read. By everyone. Ever. But I’ll settle for the 13-17 that is its target audience. But hey – don’t let me convince you. I’ll let Stroud do some convincing of his own.
That did it. I’d gone through a lot in the past few days. Everyone I met seemed to want a piece of me: djinn, magicians, humans…it made no difference.I’d been summoned, manhandled, shot at, captured, constricted, bossed about and generally taken for granted. And now, to cap it all, this bloke is joining in too, when all I’d been doing was quietly trying to kill him.
— Bartimaeus, The Amulet of Samarkand (Book One of the Bartimaeus Series)