Most bloggers have difficulties in writing reviews of books they really loved, but I find the “ok” ones much more challenging. The Amulet of Samarkand is a good example. I had fun with most of it, at points wished the story would go faster, didn’t feel particularly attached to any character and its biggest lasting impression is that after Googling Samarkand I’m set on visiting it.

The story is about Nathaniel, an apprentice magician that is clearly more talented than his mediocre master. When his master doesn’t protect him from undeserved humiliation at the hands of one of Britain’s greatest magicians, Nathaniel vows revenge.

This alternative Britain is set in the present time, but somehow I kept imagining it in a typical fantasy landscape, with horse and castles. There are fun foot-notes that give you extra insight into this world and show that the author did his homework. Because of them I can’t help thinking of The Amulet of Samarkand as a Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norris for children.

The book’s highlight is by far Bartimaeus, the daemon Nathaniel summons to help him in his quest. He is hilarious, with just the type of sarcasm and aloofness you’d expect from a 5,000-year-old djinni that’s forced to serve a 10-year-old.

The down side of this is that in the chapters that focus on Nathaniel (where we lose Bartimaeus’ first-person voice), there’s a sudden lack of sparkle. It’s not by chance the series is called The Bartimaeus Trilogy

I’ll mentally file this book under “Books I Wish I’d Read When I Was 12″.

According to Wikipedia, Miramax is preparing an adaptation, directed by John Philip Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Proof) and written by Hossein Amini (who did a great job with The Wings of the Dove). Overall very promising!


Other thoughts: Bart’s Bookshelf, Books I Done Read (yours?)