The Amulet of Samarkand – Jonathan Stroud

I picked this up in paperback eons ago at some sale or other, and it has been kicking around my room ever since; it lived next to my bed for quite a while, but I seem to have finally put it away … somewhere … Happily, I decided to give it a try through Netgalley, and I was very happy that I did. It’s smashing.

The point of view alternates between first person not-necessarily-reliable with the demon/djinn Bartimeus, and third person with the young wizard’s apprentice Nathaniel. It works beautifully. Nathaniel precociously summons Bartimeus despite his youth and iffy training, and sets off his plot of vengeance against a wizard who humiliated him some months before – and also sets off a chain of events he could never have foreseen. He’s sheltered, is Nathaniel; on a day-to-day basis he probably sees less than a dozen people, between the Underwoods (Mr. U being the wizard to whom Nathaniel is apprenticed) and the servants and tutors, and is never exactly challenged by his instruction. The project is to prove himself, to be revenged, and to fight off the fate he sees coming if everything continues as it has been.

It’s a wonderful story. It’s funny, with Bartimeus’s snarky humor and world-weary wisdom (“I did my best to sound grandly dismissive, but voles can only do peeved”) countering the young earnest anger of Nathaniel’s half of the tale. And it’s scary, as Nathaniel finds himself in over his head and sinking fast, though not as fast as might be expected for a boy his age: he is good.

I thought the footnotes sprinkled through the Bartimeus chapters were going to be an annoyance, but they were far from it. They were hilarious.

In the middle of the lawn was a lake adorned with an ornamental fountain, depicting an amorous Greek god trying to kiss a dolphin. 4
Footnote 4 Inadvisable.

The Adobe digital edition from Netgalley had quite a number of problems:

… currendy had the stolen goods …
…there was no knowing who eke was involved with Lovelaces plot …

– Hopefully the real thing is better. The book deserves better.

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