Reviews for Amulet of Samarkand
Booklist Reviews 2003 September #1
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 6-12. Picture an alternative London where the Parliament, composed of powerful magicians, rules the British empire. When five-year-old Nathaniel's parents sell him to the government to become a magician's apprentice, the boy is stripped of his past and is given over for training to a grim, mid-level magician from the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Over the next seven years, Nathaniel studies the lessons given by his cold master, but in secret he delves into advanced magic books, gaining skill beyond his years: he summons a djinn to steal the powerful amulet of Samarkand. Inspired by a desire for revenge, this bold act leads to danger and death. Nathaniel's third-person narrative alternates with the first-person telling of Bartimaeus the djinn, a memorable and highly entertaining character. Rude, flippant, and cocky, his voice reflects the injustice of his millennia of service to powerful magicians who have summoned him to do their capricious bidding. His informative and sometimes humorous asides appear in footnotes, an unusual device in fiction, but one that serves a useful purpose here. Stroud creates a convincingly detailed secondary world with echoes of actual history and folklore. The strong narrative thrust of the adventure will keep readers involved, but the trouble that is afoot in London extends beyond the exploits here. The unresolved mysteries will be more fully explored in the next two volumes of the trilogy. One of the liveliest and most inventive fantasies of recent years. ((Reviewed September 1, 2003)) Copyright 2003 Booklist Reviews
Horn Book Guide Reviews 2004 Spring
Through guile, teamwork, and dumb luck, a magician's apprentice and a ""Spenser for Hire""-type djinni uncover and foil a coup attempt masterminded by a ruthless magician. The pace never slows in this wisecracking adventure, and Stroud has created a well-realized fantasy world, but it is the complementary main characters who will keep readers coming back for the rest of the projected trilogy. Copyright 2004 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2003 #6
The magicians ruling the British empire in this anachronistic modern fantasy derive their powers from demons -- marids, afrits, djinn, imps -- who, though summoned to work the magicians' wills, are always looking for a loophole through which to destroy them. Bartimaeus, a smart-mouthed bruiser of a djinni, called by a stripling magician to steal the Amulet of Samarkand, finds just such a loophole when he learns his master's secret birthname. Nathaniel, however, manages to regain the upper hand with a time-delayed spell: Bartimaeus must protect the apprentice magician long enough to get the spell removed or spend eternity in a tobacco tin. Through guile, teamwork, and dumb luck the ambitious but green kid and the "Spenser for Hire"-type djinni uncover and foil a coup attempt masterminded by Simon Lovelace, the powerful and ruthless magician who is after them for stealing the Amulet. The pace never slows in this wisecracking adventure; chapters in Bartimaeus's lively first person (with indulgent explanatory footnotes) alternate with third-person chapters on Nathaniel's adolescent insecurities and desires. Stroud has created a compelling fantasy story in a well-realized world, but it is the complementary characters of Bartimaeus and Nathaniel that will keep readers coming back for the rest of the projected trilogy. Copyright 2003 Horn Book Magazine Reviews
Kirkus Reviews 2003 October #1
In a contemporary London full of magic, a thrilling adventure unfolds. Twelve-year-old Nathaniel is apprenticed to a politician (which means magician), but early emotional pain leads him toward hardness and anger. Arrogantly summoning a djinni to help him steal an amulet from slickly evil Simon Lovelace, he's swept into a swirl of events involving conspiracy at the highest government level. Nathaniel's perspective alternates with that of Bartimaeus, the cocky, sardonic djinni. No character is wholly likable or trustworthy, which contributes to the intrigue. Many chapters end in suspense, suddenly switching narrators at key moments to create a real page-turner. Readers will hope that Stroud follows up on certain questions-is it slavery to use a djinni? will shaky looming international politics affect the empire? who deserves our alliance? and who are the mysterious children ostensibly running an underground resistance?-in the next installment, sure to be eagerly awaited. (Fantasy. 10-14) Copyright Kirkus 2003 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2003 July #3
A seemingly omniscient narrator begins this darkly tantalizing tale set in modern-day London, ushering readers into a room where the temperature plunges, ice forms on the curtains and ceiling, and the scent of brimstone fills the air. Suddenly, the voice reveals itself as the djinn Bartimaeus, appearing in front of Nathaniel, the 10-year-old magician who has summoned him ("Hey, it was his first time. I wanted to scare him," Bartimaeus explains). The djinn thinks of himself as rather omniscient, having been present for some major historical moments (as he explains in various footnotes, he gave an anklet to Nefertiti and offered tips to legendary architects-"Not that my advice was always taken: check out the Leaning Tower of Pisa"). Debut novelist Stroud plunges readers into a quickly thickening plot: Nathaniel commands Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a task that the djinn completes with some ease. Other factors quickly become more interesting: the motive for the boy's charge, how Simon came by the Amulet and the fallout from the theft. What these reveal about the characters of Simon and Nathaniel makes for engrossing reading. Stroud also introduces the fascinating workings of the "seven planes" (magicians can see three of them only with special spectacles), the pecking order of magical beings, and the requirements of various spells and enchantments-plus the intrigue behind a group of commoners mounting a Resistance (this loose end, presumably, will be explored in the remainder of the planned Bartimaeus trilogy). The author plants enough seeds that readers will eagerly anticipate the next two volumes. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal Reviews 2004 January
Gr 5-9-Nathaniel has been apprenticed to Mr. Underwood for several years. At the age of 12, he has finally been Named and is on his way to becoming a real magician. Suddenly, London is in an uproar. The Amulet of Samarkand has been stolen from the powerful magician Simon Lovelace. Only Nathaniel knows what really happened because it was he who commanded the 5000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to steal it for him. Now, with a rebellious demon under his control and all of London searching for the thief, he must figure out a way to keep the amulet hidden. Stroud has woven an intricate fantasy set in an alternative London where the most influential members of society, and even the Prime Minister himself, are magicians. The richly rewarding story unfolds in chapters that alternate between Bartimaeus's first-person narration, which includes arcane and very funny footnotes, and Nathaniel's account, told in third person. There is plenty of action, mystery, and humor to keep readers turning the pages. This title, the first in a trilogy, is a must for fantasy fans, and in particular for those anxious for the next Harry Potter.-Ginny Collier, Dekalb County Public Library, Chamblee, GA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA Reviews 2003 December
When Nathaniel, an underestimated almost twelve-year-old boy magician, summons a centuries-old djinni named Bartimaeus, readers are off on a wild adventure with more narrow escapes than even Houdini could muster. Nathaniel is an apprentice to master who bothers little with his training, so Mr. Underwood has no idea what Nathaniel's self-taught magical capabilities really are. Nathaniel's first task for the djinni startles even Bartimaeus, who has seen a lot in his day, as he wryly remindreaders throughout the novel. He charges Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace as a matter of revenge for humiliating him while his master did nothing. The escalating chain of events resulting from this theft is told in alternating viewpoints from Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, who uses sardonic footnotes to enhance his storytelling. The narrative also successfully uses both first and third person, rich vocabulary, sophisticated wit, and a hierarchy of magical creatures woven into a fascinating plot that will be appreciated by fans of Diana Wynne Jones and other complex fantasy writers. Teens will race to the end to see if Nathaniel anBartimaeus can work together to save London's magical community from Simon's evil plans. They will eagerly await the second book in this planned trilogy with a Miramax movie in the making. Fortunately, the quality is as high as the hype, but aBartimaeus says in one of his footnotes, "Well, what are you hanging around reading this for? Read on quickly and see for yourself."-Cindy Dobrez 5Q 5P M J S Copyright 2004 Voya Reviews.