October 2010, Random House Children's books
448 pages, Hardback
Review copy (mine was a proof copy)
Djinns, some violence, lots of humour, plenty of mayhem, a few major peril moments, a cool female assassin, jewellery that shouldn't be worn. Ever.
Summary from Random House Children's Books
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.
Apart from the very beginning when I was a little confused, this book is a highly entertaining read. My initial confusion was when Bartimaeus disguises himself, because the pov changes. I had to reread the first few paragraphs to figure out that the other figure was himself, he just refers to himself in that way. After a while that style works.
I haven't read any of the Bartimaeus books before this one, but I read it on recommendation from the publicists. I know there probably is a bias there, but this book really is funny! I didn't realise life was so hard for djinni. They definitely have a darker side of the personality, but after reading what Bartimaeus has to put up with, with all his different masters, it got me wondering whether that darker nature is nurtured by being a slave to magicians. I mean, after hundreds of years serving different people, anyone would want to swallow them up whole, find a loophole in the contract etc. It doesn't excuse what Bartimaeus does. But by the end of the book, I was glad he was, well, who he was. Because if he wasn't so tricky, sneaky, and eager to save himself, he wouldn't have saved a whole kingdom. That is in essence what he ended up doing.
Bartimaeus definitely wasn't a character I could relate to, but I did find him rather funny (and at times disgusting. I mean, eating people? Discussing which parts of them taste nicest? Gross!). I love Asmira, the assassin. She isn't all she appears either. I love how loyal she is to her queen, the devotion she has to her task. She will do everything in her power to reach the end goal. Including deal with Bartimaeus. Poor girl. I felt sorry for her. But, strangely she struck a chord in Bartimaeus. A good thing too or she would have been eaten up. Asmira is fast thinking and quick moving (unless she gets caught up with an enchantment). She isn't scared by much, but has a temper when she gets pushed too far. I hope she features in the other Bartimaeus books, but I'm not quite sure at the moment.
Oh, there are footnotes by Bartimaeus in the book which will make you laugh a lot :)
After reading this, you'll understand why some djinni are imprisoned in bottles. It is for the good of the wider population. When it comes to creature's rights, djinni are in a league of their own. But sometimes they really need to be let loose, to save us from the madmen and evil djinni.
Be sure to check out Jonathan on his website here, where you can find out more about the Bartimaeus trilogy (this book is a standalone).