Published: November 2, 2010
Pages: 398 (Hardcover)
Series: Bartimaeus #0.5
Source: Bought at a Book Tour
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
The setting is an alternate version of biblical times during the reign of King solomon, where magicians command djinni and Solomon rides herd over the known world due to his possession of an all-powerful ring that causes everyone to cower before him. The Queen of Sheba, aware that Solomon is preparing to disrupt her country's frankincense trade due to her refusal of his multiple marriage proposals, sends her most trusted guard, Asmira, to kill Solomon and steal the ring. Our beloved friend Bartimaeus encounters Asmira traveling to Jerusalem while out hunting creatures in the desert for King Solomon. How Bartimaeus ends up her servant and what they discover about the truth of Solomon's power, makes this a delightful and fascinating book, and it's likely to bring new fans to the original series.
Bartimaeus is a wonderful creation, but the new character, Asmira, is equally well rendered, with her keen ability with daggers providing her with much-needed self-defense.
I read The Amulet of Samarkand years ago and absolutely loved how witty Bartimaeus was. The original trilogy is one of my most beloved book series and I was so excited to buy the prequel! (I was also pretty excited because I got to meet Jonathan Stroud and had him sign this book and The Screaming Staircase for me). I remember driving home from the book tour just over a year ago and imagining all the adventures I would have with Bartimaeus like it was just yesterday. Unfortunately, getting a signed copy meant it became my most treasured possession and I never wanted to take it to the beach or to the pool in case someone ruined it (thise locations are where I do the majority of my reading). That being said, it took me a very long time to start this book because I wouldn’t let it leave my room. That being said, I can’t believe it took song long for me to read this book!This novel immediately brought to the forefront of my mind everything I had loved about the original series. Those characteristics being the magic and demons, historical references, and humanly flawed characters. You don’t need to read the series to enjoy this spectacular book, however the world-building was done in the original trilogy so Stroud doesn’t explain about the demon summoning and pentacles much in this prequel. What you find instead is a snarky character telling about his fast-paced adventure in 250 B.C. Jerusalem with his additional commentary in the footnotes. While is does switch to a human perspective occasionally, Asmira was quite interesting unlike Nathaniel and Kitty in the originals. Asmira is a hereditary guard for the Queen of Sheba and is sent to Jerusalem to assassinate King Solomon in order to try and save her country from an invasion from Solomon’s army. Being sent on basically a suicide mission, she is being used just as much as the djinni being summoned around her. While she refuses to acknowledge this fact, Bartimaeus and Asmira are a bit similar in that regard and the book brings up a thought provoking perspective on philosophy and psychological slavery. Not so bad for the typically shallow YA book, right?
While the reader knows that Bartimeaus can’t meet a gruesome end due to the fact that he is alive and well during Victorian England, the book was detailed and suspenseful enough to make me forget about those other books. While this wasn’t the prequel I wanted (I was looking forward to a book about Bartimeaus’s time with Ptolemy) this not only met all of my high expectations, but also went even further. 250 B.C. was a great setting and the book seemed well researched. To sum up; the plot was quite simple overall, it was your typical “girl meets boy who is actually a shape-shifting djinni who is in servitude to an evil magician who is one of the 19 powerful magicians who works for the King of Solomon who said girl is trying to assassinate to steal the most powerful object EVER”. Did I forget to mention the hippo wearing a skirt? This is definitely a book that everyone should look into if they enjoy humor, sass and a bit of history!