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The Bartimaeus Trilogy

(5/5) I would give this series an overall rating of 5 stars even though two of the three books were in the 4 star range. I adored this series and recommend it to all those who love middle grade fantasy such as Harry Potter.

(4.5/5) A young boy is given the opportunity to become a magician. When he is made a fool of by high level magicians, and his master does nothing to defend him, he decides to take revenge for himself by summoning a famous djini named Bartimaeus.

This book was absolutely magical. Jonathan Stroud is a master storyteller. I was hooked with the first sentence "...while candles sprang from every available surface like a colony of toadstools..." Stroud's beautiful writing made an already great story so much better. His world building reminds me a lot of Harry Potter, but rather than magicians hiding from those of non magic, they take front and center, involving themselves in the politics of England.

This story is an alternative history that takes place largely in London. It is a wonderful coming of age story that employs a unique friendship that develops between Nathanial and the demon Bartimaeus. The plot was rather cookie-cutter: defeat the bad guy and save the day. However, it was done very well with enough of a spin to make it feel fresh. I ended up purchasing the hardcovers of this series because I loved it so much, and it now occupies a special place on my bookshelf.

(4/5) The Bartimaeus Series is a children’s fantasy series in an alternate London filled with magic, magical objects, and an interesting political system. The magic system in this world is one of the most fascinating aspects of the story, imho. The magicians hold all the power and occupy the seats in government. Funny enough, the only thing that sets them apart from commoners, is the fact that they have been trained in the art of summoning demons and all manner of magical creatures to do their bidding. Most commoners have no idea how magic works, so they think the magicians are doing all the work, but really it’s the demon slaves they summon and command. That makes the magicians really no different (physically) from commoners. But they are VERY different in their beliefs, lifestyles, mannerisms, etc. And so the scene is set for conflict. Given that this is a children’s series, I think this underlying theme throughout the series is quite appropriate and allows young readers to ask deeper questions. It’s certainly a mature enough theme that I enjoy the story as an adult.

The Golem’s eye is the second installment of the Bartimaeus Series. I noticed a shift in the overall feel of the story. The first installment follows Nathaniel, a young magician in training, and all narration is from Nathaniel’s point of view or Bartimaeus’s (the demon he summons). We are made to think the world is only black and white: magic(good) and those who oppose it (bad), which gets flipped on its head later. The idea rides along in the background as you follow Nathaniel and his character arc to right the wrongs he was caused as a child. In the second book, things change. The “resistance” comes into focus, where we see the commoner plight, and the desire to oppose those of magic who rule them.

Suddenly, things aren’t so black and white after all. I found myself wondering why I never saw anything wrong with the magic+political system when I was reading about it in the first book. Stroud does a great job at keeping this in the background in the first book. By introducing a new character POV in the second book named “Kitty,” we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of the Resistance. I was annoyed, but only briefly, by this change in style. I grew to love Kitty’s character much more than Nathaniel’s, especially with the way Nathaniel grew to be pompous, tainted by the magicians training him.

Overall, I enjoyed this refreshing change to the first book. I’m excited to see what the third book will bring, and I definitely plan to read it as it brings the story to a close. While these books aren’t major page-turners for me, they keep me engaged nonetheless. I find that I enjoy reading this before bed in lieu of the books that will keep me up till 2AM when I’ve got a 5:30 morning. I can easily just read a few chapters and then set it down. Recommended read if you enjoy fantasy.

(5/5) Excellent books are the ones that make me cry. Yes...I cried. The tears were necessary.

This book is the best in the series. Hands down! Whilst going through reviews, it appears that I am not alone. Is it any surprise? The characters are older now, and anytime you have older characters, there are deeper ideals to question. I love stories that build layers with each installment taking ideas that start off as simple black and white, and blend them into shades of gray.

Ptolemy’s Gate takes place three years after the second book, when the events surrounding a golem bring Nathanial and Kitty together and she saves his life. After years of contempt towards Kitty Jones and all that she once represented, Nathanial spends the next three years believing she died selflessly for him, and that has shaped him as a person (whether he realizes it at the start of the story or not).

The themes in this third installment are much darker than in the other two. It really forces the reader to think about the foundations of the world, and where magicians and demons (or entities) fit into the puzzle; it does this while fueling your hunger for a great story full of magic, trials, successes, and failures. My favorite parts were the flashbacks to Alexandria where we got to see the relationship between Bartimaeus and Ptolemy and better understand why Bartimaeus was the way he was.

For centuries, magicians have gotten their power by summoning “demons” to do their bidding. These demons are their slaves. This trend happens in all the great empires, and the result is always the same. The empires fall either from rebellion within, or outside forces. The reason remains the same: the magicians and their hunger for power.

Kitty Jones wants to break that trend. I love Kitty. She is by far my favorite character in the whole series. If it weren’t for her, I would have grown frustrated enough with the increasingly poor choices made by Nathanial, that I would have tossed the books away. But she is that redeeming factor that balances out Nathanial. Besides, Nathanial always remained a redeemable character, even if he grew to be similar to the magicians he had opposed in so many situations. His final trials gave him the perfect opportunity to make choices that would direct his character path, which I really loved.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading this series. There is a standalone prequel, I haven’t decided if I will read it or not. I suppose at some point when my mind travels back to this story, which it most assuredly will, I will take that opportunity to read it. Also, I believe I will purchase the physical copies to these books (I read them as ebooks). I only do this when I grow fond of a series because of my limited shelf space; I think this one fits that bill. I highly recommend it to any who love fantasy and magic.


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