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The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1) Paperback – May 3, 2004

4.5 out of 5 stars 524 customer reviews
Book 1 of 4 in the Bartimaeus Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the "ultimate sacrifice" for a "noble destiny." If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn't tough enough, Nathaniel's master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy's only saving grace is the master's wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine. In British author Jonathan Stroud's excellent novel, the first of The Bartimaeus Trilogy, the story switches back and forth from Bartimaeus's first-person point of view to third-person narrative about Nathaniel. Here's the best part: Bartimaeus is absolutely hilarious, with a wit that snaps, crackles, and pops. His dryly sarcastic, irreverent asides spill out into copious footnotes that no one in his or her right mind would skip over. A sophisticated, suspenseful, brilliantly crafted, dead-funny book that will leave readers anxious for more. (Ages 11 to adult) --Karin Snelson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

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. Carolyn Phelan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 11 years
  • Series: A Bartimaeus Novel (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 462 pages
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion; Reprint edition (May 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780786852550
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786852550
  • ASIN: 0786852550
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (524 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Let's face it, fantasy is a well-worn genre, bloated with Tolkein ripoffs, tired generic plots and characters. There seems to be no end to the stuff...and no shortage of readers who'll swallow it. And to this we can add a new type of fantasy that is fast reaching critical mass for younger readers...the Harry Potter clone. Check the young readers section of your local bookstore and you'll find literally dozens of books about young boy and girl wizards. As the saying goes, everyone wants to be the first to do something second.
There is nothing new in fantasy, only old wine in new bottles. So when a new fantasy comes along that actually feels new its a red letter day in my book.
That rant is by way of saying that this wonderful book avoids the pitfalls of many fantasy writers simply by virtue of the writing. A few years back David (and Leigh) Eddings burst onto the fantasy scene with their original Belgariad books. Plot-wise they were simply Tolkein retreads without the epic mthology. But what made them so readable, and so popular, was the original and entertaining voice with which they told their tales.
So it is with Jonathan Stroud. This is a fun, wry, funny, well-charactered piece about a modern London where magicians rule the land and magic comes in the form of controlling various levels of demons (or djinn). Set amidst the political intrigue is a story of a young apprentice magician's quest for revenge via the use of the some-time narrator djinn Bartimeus. He is the main reason to read the book. His amusing, ironic take on events is worth the price of admission alone. The world itself is well drawn and realised, as are all the characters.
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Format: Audio Cassette
12-year-old Nathaniel lives in a fantastical London in which the ruling class are all magicians; as is the tradition, his parents sold him as an apprentice magician when he was only 6. He lives in the attic of his master's house, unloved by everyone except Mrs. Underwood, his master's wife. Seeking revenge for past humiliations, he instructs his djinn (genie) Bartimeus to steal a magic amulet from Simon Lovelace, the most powerful magician in London. Thus begins a Mission-Impossible type adventure to prevent Lovelace from recovering the amulet and using it in a grand, take-over-the-world type of evil scheme.
If you have been resisting Bartimeus because it sounds like a Harry Potter wannabe, don't-read it now. Although the parallels are obvious--a world of magicians, an orphan apprentice battling a supreme evil--the author is not out to mimic Potter but to offer a different and more pessimistic vision of what a magical world would be like. In Harry Potter's world, magicial ability is a sort of genetic artifact; there are good, evil, and silly magicians - just as in the `human' world; and themes of the importance of family and friends predominate.
Bartimeus' vision is much, much darker. Nathaniel lives in a world where magicians are a dominating ruling class, who thirst for wealth and power, and who will stop at nothing to get it. But all their power stems not from innate ability but from the ability to control the spirits (genies, imps, and the like) that populate the natural world. Here, the wizards are always on the edge of disaster created by losing control over these spirits. One word wrong in an incantation means disaster! There are no beneficent Dumbledore-like wizards here; all - and this includes Nathaniel - are driven by personal gain, revenge, and anger.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As I've said in previous reviews, if you're going to set your book in England and have as a main character a young boy learning the art of wizardry, you've guaranteed yourself a comparison to Harry Potter. With The Amulet of Samarkand, Jonathan Stroud can proudly say, "bring him on--wands at 15 paces!".
With so much pallid fantasy out there, Amulet is a breath of fresh air, told in a witty, original voice within a well-constructed plot and structure focused on two complex characters. Amulet is set in an alternate England ruled by magicians whose powers come from their ability to conjure demons. The society is beset within (by a resistance movement of "commoners" as well as by the murderous in-fighting among the ruling class magicians) and without (at war with Prague). Nathaniel is a young magician's apprentice who, after being publicly humiliated, seeks revenge via the demon Bartimaeus and a powerful talisman--the book's namepiece. By the time the book closes, it will involve murder and mayhem, betrayal, the attempted overthrow of the government, ancient (and I mean ancient) grievances, several tense chase scenes, various escape attempts, political commentary, the searing intensity of unassuagable guilt, and more.
Despite all that is crammed in here, the plot moves along briskly for the most part (this despite its complexity and the use of footnotes). Nathaniel is a complex character, giving us easily as many reasons to dislike him as to sympathize with him. He is no paragon of heroism or innocence. The other and much more likable main character (or perhaps more accurately the true main character) is the demon Nathaniel summons and the trilogy's title character.
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