Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005
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*****= An all-time favorite
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****The Golem's Eye

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book Two

by Jonathan Stroud

Reviewed February 23, 2005.
Miramax Books, New York, 2004.  562 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (MCN F STR).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2005 (#11, Young Adult Fantasy Fiction)

The Bartimaeus Trilogy is another story set in an alternate-reality London.  It has an intricate and cleverly constructed background.  Magic exists, but is entirely performed by spirits.  Magicians study to learn how to bind djinni, afrits, imps, and the like, forcing them to do their will.

At the time of the story, magicians have been the ruling class of the British Empire for more than a hundred and fifty years.  Lucky commoners are the ones who are allowed to serve them.

My complaint about The Amulet of Samarkand carried over into the start of this book—there wasn’t really a likeable character to root for.  Nathaniel, who was eleven in the first book, is now fourteen and has risen to an important post in the government.  Despite his promise, he again summons the djinn Bartimaeus.  He needs to determine who is working havoc in London.  If he fails, it will be his political destruction.

This book continues to follow Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, but approximately a third of the book is given to the perspective of Kitty Jones, a commoner active in the Resistance which Nathaniel is committed to fight.  I found myself drawn more and more to Kitty, and found that a likeable character was all this book needed for me to think of it as truly great.

As the book goes on, it reads like a spy novel, with a shadowy figure pulling strings behind the scenes.  Nathaniel and Bartimaeus travel to Prague to figure out who’s controlling a powerful golem.  Kitty and her comrades launch a daring and frightening raid on a tomb.  Things all come together at the end.

Though Nathaniel is less likeable than he was at eleven, with the help of the outside perspective of Bartimaeus, we can see exactly how his character falls, little by little, into the vices of the magicians he wants to emulate.  I’m expecting a grand and epic struggle in the third book.  I hope that Kitty will come out somewhere on top, but also that Nathaniel will find some last remaining vestiges of ethics left in his character.

Reviews of other books by Jonathan Stroud:
The Amulet of Samarkand:  The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book One
Ptolemy's Gate:  The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book Three
The Ring of Solomon
The Screaming Staircase
The Screaming Staircase audiobook
The Whispering Skull
The Whispering Skull audiobook
The Hollow Boy
The Hollow Boy audiobook
The Creeping Shadow

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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