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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Review: Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon

Author: Jonathan Stroud

Release date: 14th October 2010 UK
Genre: Fantasy / Historical Fantasy
Target audience: 10+

Summary from Amazon:
Fans of Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus books will devour this book - a cracking adventure brimming with magic, intrigue and a treasure trove of characters that the reader can't help but fall for. We find everyone's favourite irascibly insolent djinni serving at the court of King Solomon in 950 BC Jerusalem, where he is causing his customary chaos and must help a girl assassin sent by the Queen of Sheba to steal the all-powerful Ring of Solomon. The comic relief is perfectly timed, the dialogue sharp and snappy and the fiendishly clever plot perfectly handled with Jonathan's trademark flair and command of language. Thrills, chills and a danger-spiked finale - this is one of the publishing events of the year.

The Ring of Solomon is a hilarious wild, action-packed ride with the one and only Bartimaeus of Uruk. It is fantasy. It is humour. It is comic genius!

The year is 950 BC. Bartimaeus is summoned to Jerusalem by the magician Khaba. He is a cruel master and is in service with sixteen other magicians to King Solomon. Each magician has a host of otherworldly beings to do their bidding and fulfil the orders of the King. In his enforced slavery Bartimaeus and his fellow djinn are ordered to build a temple without their trademark magic to speed the process along. If this is your first encounter with Bartimaeus, let us for now say that he does not take too kindly to being enslaved by power-hungry and imbecile humans.

Meanwhile across the desert, a young assassin – Asmira of the Hereditary Guard – is sent on a mission by her leader the Queen of Sheba (cue sniggering). Asmira has been waiting for this moment since her childhood. Her one and only desire is to do the bidding of her beloved Queen. And so the paths of Bartimaeus and Asmira are destined to cross as she travels to Jerusalem to assassinate King Solomon.

I think I should begin by saying that The Ring of Solomon is a prequel novel to the Bartimaeus series. You don’t need to have read any of those books to read this one as it stands alone as a complete story in itself and can be enjoyed as such. I heartily recommend the Bartimaeus series to you though because like this book, it is extraordinarily funny and addictive.

Bartimaeus is a fourth level djinni. He exists in the other place as a spirit, an essence. But he can be summoned to the human world and enslaved by magicians who bind him and others like him to their will. If you are thinking of attempting this, I advise serious caution. If you are not 100% precise in your terms of summoning, then undoubtedly Bartimaeus will swallow you whole and have a happy indigestion when he returns back home. Djinn in their nature are highly dangerous. Magicians know that they are self-interested at best, ruthless killers, torturers and maimers at worst. But then again, who can blame them? Jonathan Stroud’s writing whilst being incredibly funny does explore the issue of slavery and indoctrination in a subtle and unobtrusive way. (Although Bartimaeus isn’t known for his tact and diplomacy).

This review could go on forever as I discuss layer after layer of The Ring of Solomon. But I am going to try to restrain myself and give you the most basic reasons of why you should read this book. Firstly, it has the wittiest dialogue that you’ll ever have the pleasure of reading. Read this in public places and you will experience a certain laughter induced humiliation. Secondly, it has a beautiful subversive quality which adds to the humour. Bartimaeus has no respect for his master or frankly any human and this anti-establishment tone is something that kids of all ages, from ten to ninety, can relate to. Thirdly, it is just a great story with a great plot, great pace and above all, the most inventive characterisation you’ll ever have the fortune to read. So yeah...I’m quite a fan.

Incidentally, if you like Percy Jackson...you’ll love this!

Thank you to Random House Children's Books for sending me the book to review.


Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I have yet to read Percy Jackson, so I don't know yet if I'd like this or not. But great review, you make it sound very appealing. Normally, I wouldn't go for such a fantasy, but if I like Percy Jackson, then I'll consider this series, to be sure. I really like the cover, very dark and mystical, with a hint of hope. Lovely!

cj'alhafiz said...

A story from 950BC? Sounds cool!! But the cover a bit spooky and devilish..haha!! Nicely reviewed Beck!! Come over my blog and read my latest review on Sidney Sheldon's The Naked Face...=)


Becky said...

Irena, the cover is fab, isn't it! It really evokes the story. It is a great fantasy.

CJ, Thanks! Yes, I guess the date of the story sounds a little bizarre but actually it works amazingly well - the mythology, the magic and the ancient backdrop.

Clover said...

Ooh. I only skimmed your review as I got a copy of this book this week. I'm really looking forward to it :)

asamum said...

Sounds like a great addition for the library :D

brizmus said...

Ohmygod, I SO cannot wait to read this book! I absolutely ADORED the Bartimaeus trilogy, and it sounds from your review like he's back and better than ever! :-)
I'm so glad you loved it as much as I loved the others!

Lauren said...

Excellent review Becky. :) I'd been avoiding your review until I'd written mine, but I now know that your enthusiasm for this series is definitely warranted. I'm now thinking I'd be really interested to read the others and see how Bartimaeus has changed.