I originally read The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud as just that, a trilogy. Now, however, it has been brought to my attention there is a fourth book.
Due to not owning fourth book and only just being made aware of its existence, this review consists only of the first three.
The first three books follow Bartimaeus, a djinn of the fourth level and a young magician, Nathaniel (John Mandrake). When Nathaniel goes against his original master and summons Bartimaeus for matters of revenge, it is just the beginning for the two of them. Discovery of Nathaniel’s birth-name equals the balance between master and slave, something not lost on either of them. As Nathaniel grows from boy to man, it’s hard to say whether their bond strengthens. Indeed, it somewhat adapts until the explosive finale of the third book.
Their adventures are intermingled with those of a commoner, Kitty Jones. Initially a member of the Resistance, Kitty has been opposed to the magician’s since she was a child and attacked by one. Determined to get justice and see power returned to the commoners, Kitty eventually gets caught up in events that she never dreamed of happening, especially as she ultimately has to side with Mandrake in order to save London.
The books are set in the 21st Century, but London is not how we know it now. Instead, it is ruled over by magicians, all who are as corrupt as each other. Each book tackles a new threat that a rogue magician poses, all aiming to seize control for themselves. Nathaniel is swept into this world and it is only a return to his former morals and personality that allows him to escape.
Re-reading them was a trip back to my childhood. I remembered the hilarity of Bartimaeus’s humour and the way he rang rings around everyone he met. Reading it again as an adult did not diminish that humour whatsoever and on several occasions found myself laughing out loud. While the books were easy to read for me now, the fact that they could still gain such a reaction is precisely why I have kept hold of them.
For a fantasy reader, they unite magic and reality, joining together the world as we think we know it with that of magic and beings of ultimate power. The fact that this beings are nothing more than slaves just adds to the attraction of the story – the power struggle is more than just between the greedy magicians, but is based on something much bigger, something about morals rather than power.
While the series is definitely aimed at a younger audience just because of the level of reading required, they are nevertheless books that will never cease to provide pure entertainment, and the value of that cannot be overstated enough. If you’re looking for some light reading with characters that draw you in – even if they are pompous children who think they are more than they are – you find yourself rooting for the winners and eagerly turning the pages.