Old School Thursdays: The Amulet of Samarkand

Review from 2008. I did not end up reading the rest of this trilogy. It didn’t rock my world enough even though I liked the whole totalitarian aspect to it. And I don’t know if it’s my imagination or not, but I think I come across as being a little cranky in this one… Mustn’t have had my morning coffee!

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud is a young adult fantasy set in modern day London, but with a twist. It’s magical (ring any bells?). Sure it might sound vaguely like something else but being set in Britain and being magical is as far as that goes really (obviously I’m hinting at HP in case I’m not making any sense).

It’s magicians that run the country, they’re the politicians and they seem to be a bunch of arrogant pompous gits. It’s reminiscent of a totalitarian state run by a magical group with no real regard for the “commoners” the non magical folk. An approach I found interesting. There’s also the fact that the “demons” they call up to do their bidding (they don’t have magical power, they use spirits and magical entities) they treat less then scum and call them servants or slaves. It gives one the impression that the main character is an arrogant little brat and will grow up to be an arrogant, prejudiced bastard.

Do I seem a bit irked to you? Well I am. It’s mainly because in most stories it looks like there is some hope of a prejudiced character to learn some lessons and perhaps have their eyes opened to a bigger picture, but with this story I’m not too sure. It’s possible, I’m only at the beginning of the trilogy after all, but so far I can’t see much hope for the young character Nathaniel.

Luckily there is the other character Bartimaeus, the djinni (Genie) to follow as well. He basically is the comic relief being a somewhat sardonic character. It’s actually refreshing how sarcastic and amusing he is. Telling little snippets of stories and information during the story via foot notes, paying out humans and well you, the reader. It’s just like you’re being told a story by a wise arse who openly shows his contempt for humankind.

That probably doesn’t sound too amusing, but I guess you have to read it to appreciate the humour. Might seem unlikely, but I actually warmed to the djinni from the beginning.

Aside from the characters the story was very well written which is a relief because I’m sure it’s not my imagination, but I’ve seem to be reading more and more novels with grave grammatical errors (I loathe errors in a novel I’m trying to read) and lacking description. Fortunately for my sanity I have come across some gems, this being one of them. Who ever edited this book was doing their job and the description from the writer wasn’t confusing or muddled at all, instead it was clear cut and comprehensible. What a bonus!

Also, even though The Amulet of Samarkand is the first in a trilogy it was written in such a fashion it could have been a stand alone novel. Easily, seeing as there was no cliff hanger ending (woo) and really only hints at more to come. In all honesty I only have a desire to read the rest to find out if Nathaniel gets sucked in & duped by the oppressive hierarchy (which has already started) or if he wakes up and fights it.

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