Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the "ultimate sacrifice" for a "noble destiny."
If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn't tough enough, Nathaniel's master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy's only saving grace is the master's wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.
Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine.
I have first read this book shortly after it came out because I remember still being a kid, and I loved it. I never pursued other books in the series until last year when I started the series from the start again. It was just as good as I remembered.
There was a lot of things going on but it was so good! I loved the magic element, and the magicians, the different kind of djinnis and other beings from the other side. There was also a lot of politics and schemes going on, but it all came together very well.
"One magician demanded I show him an image of the love of his life. I rustled up a mirror."
Stroud writes so good; I love his style. It's fluid and very engaging and so funny even though the things that were happening in the book were very very serious at times. The book was told from Bartimaeus' point of view with sarcastic and hilarious footnotes that I enjoyed immensely. It was such a good read; I laughed a lot reading this book. That, and magic were two things that totally engaged me and I loved the novel since first few pages on.
The world building was done very well. It was all happening in London and some other parts of England as well, and it was all described so nicely, with just enough detail to let you imagine things but not info-dump you under a huge pile of word bricks. We learn all we need to know through sarcastic remarks from Bartimaeus.
"Watch where you leave your victims! I stubbed my toe on that."
It may sound like a Potter-style book but it's far from it. It has nothing to do with Harry; they're totally different, except both are awesome reads about magic. That's where similarities end. It is a totally different kind of magic with its own villains and demons and magic rules and different kinds of plants and spells and rituals, but it's equally engaging.
The characters were awesome. I really liked Nathaniel even though he was super cocky at times. I LOVED Bartimaeus; he was a sarcastic smartass with the biggest mouth in the literary world. He was pretty powerful and even though he was a demon, essentially, he was sort of good, or rather fair. He bonded with Nathaniel in a special way, and their relationship evolved in weird ways, but I liked it in the end, it had good dynamics. The rest of the characters were more or less villainous and Nathaniel soon learned it's him against the world, so to speak. He was so sure in his world, his people and his powers, he was blind to it all, but together, Bartimaeus and he slowly started discovering the truth.
The book held a lot of action and intrigue, mystery, awesome twists and turns and some serious bickering I enjoyed a lot. It was a great read I absolutely devoured and I would recommend it to anyone that loves reading about magic.
One of my favorite books!