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The Bartimaeus Trilogy
on January 20, 2008
Note: Potential spoiler warning in my descriptions of the books.
You know, it really is hard to find well-written, well-characterized, well-plotted, witty books nowadays. Surprisingly hard. But I finished the Bartimaeus Trilogy a few months ago, and not only has it got all of the above characteristics, it's also one of the all-around best series I've read in a long time.
I'm puzzled by those who call it a knockoff of Harry Potter. Having a boy magician as the main character doesn't make something a Harry Potter knockoff. Especially when that magician is Nathaniel, as different a character from Harry as you can imagine.
Nathaniel is bitter, ambitious, naïve, and hugely precocious. At the beginning of the first book, he is under the tutelage of inferior magician Arthur Underwood, who treats him terribly. Nathaniel puts up with it, though - until he is humiliated by a man named Simon Lovelace in public, and Underwood is too afraid to help him.
Nathaniel, furious, throws himself into a task that no one expected he could accomplish - summoning a powerful middle-ranking djinni to exact revenge on Lovelace by stealing the Amulet of Samarkand.
But Bartimaeus, the djinni, is not a docile creature. Sarcastic and hilarious, it is his part-narration - and the footnotes that go along with it - that really make the books.
In the second book, THE GOLEM'S EYE, Nathaniel must summon Bartimaeus again when he is put in charge of hunting down the source of a devastating attack. The Prime Minister is certain that the Resistance, a group of commoners rebelling against the magicians' unfair regime, is behind the attack, but Nathaniel is not so sure. Meanwhile, Kitty Jones, a commoner at the head of the Resistance, is searching with the others for magical weapons they can use to overthrow the magicians and regain London.
The third book, PTOLEMY'S GATE, is arguably the best of the trilogy, where we learn the most about Bartimaeus's past. Nathaniel has been abusing the djinni to the point where he is almost dead, until, in an act of compassion that surprises even him, Nathaniel sends him back temporarily to the Other Place to regain his strength.
But Kitty hasn't been idle, either, and she finally decides to try something that has never been tried by anyone like her before. And as the fates of Nathaniel and Kitty and Bartimaeus intertwine again and again, and the government begins to crumble - but *not* in the way you were hoping it would - it's impossible to tell what will happen. You will be racing to reach the finish - but, beware: You might find yourself crying in the end.
I can't recommend this trilogy highly enough, and I can't wait to read some of Jonathan Stroud's other work.