The Bartimaeus trilogy is a series of books about magic, mystery and conspiracy and is one of my all-time favourite series. If you can get over the fact the book is technically marketed for children aged nine to twelve, then please give this series a read (case in point: Harry Potter!). To me, it’s one of those series that, while geared for a younger generation, can be enjoyed by all ages.
The first of the series, The Amulet of Samarkand was first published in 2003. Two more books in the series followed, with the last being published in 2005. A prequel was later published in 2010.
What’s It About?
The Bartimaeus trilogy follows the story of a young magician named Nathaniel. At a young age, Nathaniel is sent to live with a strange family. Here, he becomes the apprentice of the cruel mid-level magician, Arthur Underwood. Underwood is more preoccupied with his own appearance than letting the boy reach his full potential.
Nathaniel adopts the name of John Mandrake to protect himself from his enemies. When the notorious magician Simon Lovelace humiliates him, the boy swears his revenge, and Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus to do just that. Bartimaeus is a 5,000 year-old djinni with a mysterious past. While Nathaniel acts as his enslaver, forcing him to do his bidding, Bartimaeus ceaselessly attempts to find ways to trip up the young magician and get released from his bounds to earth.
Bartimaeus is charged with the task of stealing the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace. In the meantime, the duo gets caught up in a much bigger plot of murder, lies and deceit.
While the first book in the series follows Nathaniel’s thirst for revenge against Lovelace, the final two books in the series focuses on the fall of London’s power by a resistance led by the stubborn Kitty Jones, who rises against the magician-led government. It also follows the innocent Nathaniel’s transformation into the arrogant, power-hungry John Mandrake.
Why Should I Read It?
Bartimaeus is one of those book series you can’t put down. I’ve read it more times than I can count and I don’t think it has received the recognition it deserves. It is the book that got me into writing myself and will forever be dear to me.
If the detailed and engrossing writing style of author Jonathan Stroud isn’t enough for you, then focus on the complex yet easy to follow plot with twists in almost every chapter. The characters are so unique and their personalities just jump out at you from the page. As well as that, the stories surround British landmarks that we are all familiar with. Bartimaeus himself keeps a steady flow of humour, whether it be in his dialogue with the other characters, his actions, or the little side notes he adds at the bottom of the page so he can talk directly to the reader, expertly breaking the fourth wall.
Not to mention Stroud went to great detail to make sure he got the histories and technicalities of the story right, from British history to information on djinni, marids and all manner of magical creatures! The story is very diverse, including various cultures such as Egyptian mythology and history.
One of my personal favourite things about the series is the relationship Bartimeaus constantly mentions with an old master named Ptolemy. It adds a sense of realism to the character and leads up to some excellent plot points for the final book.
I have tried to get friends to read these books for as long as I can remember, but they turn away from the fact that the book is technically intended for children. I can understand that since I was young when I read the series first. Still, I constantly find excuses to go back to it. It is honestly a brilliant read and I think more people should get to know the series.
If you’re interested in magic and mystery then you should check out Skulduggery Pleasant or The Gatekeepers. Or go for the obvious one and re-read Harry Potter!
Feel like revisiting your childhood? Or just want to give a new book a read? Then you should give Bartimaeus a chance!
Doing a little of this, a little of that. If you see me holding a camera, run!