Book #40: The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Samarkand

If any of you have ever read reviews on Amazon you will know that some of them are just plain ridiculous. I don’t have a problem with people who don’t like something. It’s their rite and I won’t stand in their way. But what I find frustrating is when someone hates on a book without reason. When I want to figure out if I should read a book or not it doesn’t help me when a review says: “This book sucks. This was the worst book ever.” But my favorite review that I hated was for this book. To paraphrase it said that the books taught straight up devil worship with pentacles, seances, and the hole shebang. If you’ve read this series than you can understand why it made me chuckle.

After a humiliating encounter with wizard Simon Lovelace, Nathaniel wants pay back. To do so he has to learn magic far above his age and summon a djinni powerful and cunning enough to do the job. So he chooses Bartimaeous, a sarcastic and crafty entity who wants to be in servitude as much as he wants a bolt of lightning through his head. But with little choice in the matter he sets out across modern day London to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace. Little does Bartimaeous and Nathaniel know that stealing this artifact will have ramifications neither of them could ever have expected. For the Amulet is a tool of power that was in the control of the government for many years, and for good reasons.

This book is about as far from being a how to manual for satanic rituals as Harry Potter. Yes the human population within the story call them demons, but if you actually read the book this kind of argument rings hollow. They are forced from a blissful place to serve men who use them for their power. The blissful part doesn’t fit well with the idea of Hell.

This is another re-read for me and it’s been a while. I discovered them when I was a sophomore in high school. I read them all that year and loved them but never went back. I’ve thought about it for a while yet I never felt a pull strong enough to bring us together again. Now I have, and after taking some time to think about the style and perspective of the story I appreciate it more than before. About ten minutes before writing this I couldn’t justify why I liked the book. I knew it was good but my analytical mind kept saying it had a lot of faults, but I couldn’t think of what they were. Then it came to me. What makes this book so good in my mind was the perspective. Usually the djinni and demons are the cruel evil creatures but through Bartimaeous’ eyes we see that evil is never so easily isolated. I think Bartimaeous embodies the most good out of the magical creatures, and Nathaniel is the equivalent for the wizards. Through them we see humanity in it’s most carnal state, or at least all the wizards. They seek after power and control so as to have whatever they want. It provides both an inside and outside perspective at the flaws with our society.

For a book which doesn’t make it easy to like some of the main characters, it can hold together under scrutiny. The relationship between Nathaniel and Bartimaeous is another central plot theme running parallel with the main story. In a world where personal interactions and symbiotic relationships are forbidden these two go through an inner journey that adds significant depth to an otherwise average plot. Then again most plots, when you look at the shell, are hollow. It’s what takes place in the small moments that fills in the space to bring the story out of mediocrity and into greatness.

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