Wednesday 25 January 2012

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud – Review

I’ve just spent a few days in the company of a djinni and a boy magician and loved every minute of it. I’m talking about Bartimaeus and Nathaniel, the protagonists of the aforementioned novel (2003) which, although aimed at the teen reader market is thoroughly enjoyable, fast-paced, very well-written and extremely funny to boot.

What’s it all about? Well, it’s set in an England that has all the hallmarks of the modern day (give or take a decade or two) but is ruled by magicians who summon and enslave the djinn, marid, afrits and various demonic entities of Arabic mythology. Imagine Harry Potter written by Michael de Larrabeiti and that gives you a rough idea of what to expect.

The viewpoint switches between the two main characters, with some backstory for Nathaniel, filling in some details on the world without going all Captain Exposition. The use of footnotes for Bartimaeus’ sections, in which he snarkily comments on the goings-on is a very witty and well-executed technique which had me laughing out loud on more than a couple of occasions. It certainly brings home the point of view of the summoned as well as the summoners. Something to think about when your magic user is standing in the middle of his pentacle, about to cast Spiritwrack.

I found myself making time to dip back into it in a way that I did not with some ‘grittier’ and darker adult novels and am delighted to report that there are two more volumes in the series and a prequel which came out a couple of years ago. All three have gone on my reading list.

Next on its way from the library for me is The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley.


  1. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm always on the lookout for good reads for my oldest.

  2. Good review. I'd wondered about these books.