>Jonathan Stroud – The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy: book 1)


The Amulet of Samarkand is book 1 in the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud.  Bartimaeus is a djinni – a magical creature controlled by a magician.  Bartimaeus in particular is a very powerful and very old, at least a few thousand years old, djinni.  He is unfortunately at the mercy of Nathaniel, a twelve year old boy, who ambitiously summons Bartimaeus to settle some petty insult he had received by the hand of an older, more powerful magician, Simon Lovelace.
By Nathaniel’s orders, Bartimaeus steals the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace.  The amulet turns out to be a powerful magical object that is a vital part of Lovelace’s plan.  The majority of the book is spent by Nathaniel and Lovelace trying to steal the amulet back from each other.
In my opinion the book failed in so many aspects.  The biggest and most glaring failure of the book is the point of views used: third person and first person.  Part of the book is told through Bartimaeus’s perspective and the other part is told through Nathaniel’s.  When Bartimaeus tells the story, he tells it through the first person   What annoys me the most when Bartimaeus is telling the story is that he also talks to the reader in footnotes.  That in itself wouldn’t be a problem if he wasn’t already talking to the reader in the body of the text!!  In my opinion the footnotes are just the author’s lazy way of putting in background information without having to work them into the paragraph or sentence.  In informal pieces of writing you may see brackets, (), used in the same way.  For example (I know, not a very good one), take a look at this sentence.  Notice how the information in the brackets is vital and yet I didn’t have to make it grammatically correct to fit in the sentence.  Some of the author’s footnotes are in themselves paragraphs.  So unprofessional.
Another problem with Bartimaeus’s first person point of view is that on occasion he will also refer to himself in the 3rd person!!  Example,

Trapped in the orb, the beetle gave a strangled gulp.
“Oh,” I said.  “Hello.”


Bartimaeus WAS the bettle in that orb!!  Because Bartimaeus is able to change shape and size at will, the author will do this on occasion, presumably, to help the reader keep track of what shape Bartimaeus has changed into.  This is just yet another inconsistency of first person and third person point of view.
Maybe if I was a young teen, the target age group of this book, I’d find it more interested.  But since I am not, the humour used in The Amulet of Samarkand just seemed stupid and forced.  The good: The Amulet of Samarkand is only part of a trilogy.  The bad: I’m feeling inclined to read the rest of the trilogy because I try not to stop reading a book or a series midway.  The lucky: I have many books on my “to read” list that I don’t have to read the rest of this trilogy anytime soon.

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