Review: The Amulet of Samarkand

Series: Bartimaeus

And then, as if written by the hand of a bad novelist, an incredible thing happened.

The Amulet of Samarkand is a fun book. It feels someone like a grittier Harry Potter, where instead of the bright and shiny flick of a wand, you summon demons. Instead of a fantastic hidden castle in the woods, you have Arthur Underwood–imagine if Harry was tutored throughout his magical career by a slightly more competent Vernon Dursley. And instead of a dark wizard coming to kill you because of an accident of your birth… well, Nathaniel does a pretty good job of bringing trouble down upon his own head.

That being said, it’s actually a fun read–so long as you enjoy a rather snarky sense of humor. In particular, the counterpoint between Nathaniel (eleven year old magician in training, sound familiar?) and Bartimaeus (a relatively powerful djinni he summons to assist him in all manners of trouble) is pretty interesting.

The writing style is different enough that you can always remember whose head you’re in. The sheer amount of snark coming out of Bartimaeus directed towards his current master is amusing, especially when you start to get the feeling that the former may actually feel a bit protective of the former. Bartimaeus really is going to be the reason you either love or hate this book.

One thing that I did particularly enjoy about the book was the magic system. The idea is that magicians can do a bit on their own, but most of their power comes from the ‘demons’ they summon–the more power you want, the more powerful / risky species of demon you have to summon. Seems fairly solid.

That did it. I’d gone through a lot in the past few days. Everyone I met seemed to want a piece of me: djinn, magicians, humans…it made no difference.I’d been summoned, manhandled, shot at, captured, constricted, bossed about and generally taken for granted. And now, to cap it all, this bloke is joining in too, when all I’d been doing was quietly trying to kill him.