Book Reviews: The Bartimaeus Trilogy – The Amulet of Samarkand

I started reading this book under the recommendation of my cousin, it took me a while to get to it, I normally don’t move very fast on recommendations. When I started reading it I was surprised that nothing actually happened for the first half of the book. Besides the main character’s backstory there really wasn’t much happening. You could debate that a lot was happening, and you would be right. Things were definitely happening, but the plot wasn’t advancing. And it didn’t start doing so until halfway through the book.

And yet, I still consider it a good book. It’s a YA novel that is somewhat longer than the typical YA fare. If you’re a teen that has only read thriller type novels, such as the Maximum Ride series, then grow some taste and pick up some real books. Why, back in my day we didn’t have a YA genre. We read our Tolkien and our Robert Jordan, and by golly we liked it!

But, in all seriousness, if all you’ve read are Maximum Ride or Eragon, do yourself a favor – if you haven’t already – and pick up Tolkien (you are excused from reading the Silmarilion, I haven’t gotten through that yet) and any of the other classic writers of adult fiction. Though please be discerning in what you pick, I don’t want to have hordes of irate parents hounding me because I recommended inappropriate literature. (HA!) So please, if you have parents that will have a problem with it please avoid the “Adult” adult fiction. Or just don’t tell them you read this blog. That works too.

The Amulet of Samarkand is a pretty long book, for a YA novel. Later Harry Potter books long. I have to warn you that it takes a while to get into – and the main character, Nathaniel, is not the most sympathetic of characters. In fact, he’s pretty unbearable. Fortunately the book’s biggest flaw is covered up by the real main character: Bartimaeus.

Like so many recent books half of this book is written in first person (that is, so many books of late have been written in first person, not half in first person, just wanted to clarify that), when told from the perspective of Bartimaeus. The chapters focusing on Nathaniel are written in traditional third person limited. It’s a bit strange, to see the book switch from view points like that, almost like there’s an inconsistent narrator. If Bartimaeus narrates his point of view, then who is narrating Nathaniel’s? Is it a second narrator, or are both narrators one and the same. If this turns out to be the case then I’d think it pretty clever. Guess I’ll just have to read to find out if it is so.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t enjoy this book for the first half. It took forever for the plot to arrive, and without Bartimaeus I don’t think I would have gotten through it. But a good character can carry a lot of weight. I have a friend, who has such a character, a Butler named Wadsworth, who easily steals the show every time Jason writes him. Bartimaeus is this same kind of character. He shows up and the entire book revolves around him. And we love him for it. I want to read more about him, and frankly I’ll read the rest of the series just for because he entertains me that much. I’ve been reassured that Nathaniel improves as the series progresses, but really, I don’t think it matters so much to me anymore. I’m here for Bartimaeus, as should you be.

If you liked my review, buy the book here:
The Amulet of Samarkand (Paperback)
The Amulet of Samarkand (Hardcover)

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