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Book Review: The Amulet of Samarkand

Sunday, April 8, 2012
The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1)
by Jonathan Stroud

5 Stars: Keeper
Publication: December 30, 2003
Pages: 462
Author: Website | Facebook | Twitter
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Buy it: Amazon | Kindle | B&N | Book Depository

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.

The Amulet of Samarkand is a childhood favorite of mine. It is a book filled with magic and monsters that leap off the page and a plot kept me spellbound from start to end. The world is well-crafted, the characters are witty and enchanting, and the pages don't feel bogged down with details. I first read this in middle school and immediately checked out the next books.

Bartimaeus is witty and intelligent. He's the kind of djinni who will twist his master's wishes while granting them, unless he really likes him and he approves of the task. He is ancient, arrogant, powerful, and very sarcastic. I love his interactions with Nathaniel. From their first meeting, the two must rack their brains for ways to work around each other. Nathaniel is highly intelligent for his age. After being publicly humiliated by magician Simon Lovelace, Nathaniel connives a plot for revenge by summoning an ancient djinni to steal the Amulet of Samarkand, which is currently in Lovelace's possession.

What starts as a plan of vengeance soon turns to into very real danger, for Nathaniel has gotten himself involved with dark plots that he could have imagined. Bartimaeus and Nathaniel must work together to stay alive and overthrow evil. This is brilliantly crafted story is filled with wit and suspense that will captivate readers of all ages.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher. No payment was received in return for a review. The receipt of the book had no influence on the opinions expressed in my review.
5 comments on "Book Review: The Amulet of Samarkand"
  1. I loved this series. Thanks for the great review.

  2. I enjoyed this book but ended up not being able to get the sequels from the library-thank you for the reminder to give this series another try! I really liked the humor and I'm sure I would enjoy reading all of the books.

  3. I haven't read many middle-grade books but after your 5 star rating, I think this will be a good one to start with. What other middle grade novels do you recommend? :)

    1. This is actually a book that both middle-grade students and older teens can enjoy. There are themes for readers of all ages. I also love anything Tamora Pierce writes, the Huber Hill books by BK Bostick, and Ordinary Magic by by Caitlen Rubino-Bradway.

  4. Isn't Bartimaeus great? Nice review :)


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