Nathaniel has plans. In a London where magicians have all the power and control parliament, Nathaniel, an apprentice magician, has just secretly summoned the djini Bartimeus. He tasks the djini to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from the magician Simon Lovelace. While Nathaniel has originally planned this action out of pettiness to show Lovelace he is no weak apprentice, Nathaniel has no idea what he is stealing or what repercussions he has set in motion.
In Stroud’s world, magicians have power through an ability to control demons, imps, folliots, djinn and other extra-worldly beings. But the djinn, etc. are the one’s with the actual ability to do amazing things (change shape, see on all seven planes of existence, build the pyramids in a day – stuff like that). These beings exist, formless and eternal, in their world but have to come when summoned by name. Consequently, Bartimaeus keeps running into other beings like himself that he knows from past summons to our world.
Bartimaeus is a mid level djini with delusions of grandeur. He can’t stop himself from entertaining himself by making snarky comments all the time, usually with bad results. But he is clever and quick-thinking and can usually come up with a way to get out of whatever trouble he gets himself into. At one point he gets captured and imprisoned in the tower of London. Bartimaeus realizes that he knows his guards from a previous meeting (where he had killed many of their kind in battle). The guard says, “I know you… an enemy I think.” And Bartimaeus responds, “Terrible when you can’t remember something that’s right on the tip of your tongue, isn’t it? And some fool is prattling away, distracting you and..” The guard looses his train of thought.
Bartimaeus is the real hero of the story. While Nathaniel proves himself to be not quite as self-serving as other magicians, he is still an apprentice. You’re left with the feeling that whatever decency he possess will soon be stamped out of him by the time he finishes his training.
While not the most creative use of the medium I have ever seen, the graphic novel execution of this book is well drawn and colored. The city has a nice grittiness to it and the characters are as described (I hate it when some character is described as dark and swarthy and they are drawn pale and blond). The Disney/Hyperion label continues to do great adaptations of popular books, helped by having the actual authors involved in the adaptations.
Appropriate for middle school and up.
The Amulet of Samarkand
by Jonathan Stroud & Andrew Donkin
Art by Lee Sulivan & Nicolas Chapuis