Bartimaeus Trilogy · Children · Jonathan Stroud

The Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus Trilogy #1) by Jonathan Stroud


Nathaniel is a boy magician-in-training, sold to the government by his birth parents at the age of five and sent to live as an apprentice to a master. Powerful magicians rule Britain, and its empire, and Nathaniel is told his is the “ultimate sacrifice” for a “noble destiny.”

If leaving his parents and erasing his past life isn’t tough enough, Nathaniel’s master, Arthur Underwood, is a cold, condescending, and cruel middle-ranking magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The boy’s only saving grace is the master’s wife, Martha Underwood, who shows him genuine affection that he rewards with fierce devotion. Nathaniel gets along tolerably well over the years in the Underwood household until the summer before his eleventh birthday. Everything changes when he is publicly humiliated by the ruthless magician Simon Lovelace and betrayed by his cowardly master who does not defend him.

Nathaniel vows revenge. In a Faustian fever, he devours magical texts and hones his magic skills, all the while trying to appear subservient to his master. When he musters the strength to summon the 5,000-year-old djinni Bartimaeus to avenge Lovelace by stealing the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, the boy magician plunges into a situation more dangerous and deadly than anything he could ever imagine (



Nathaniel is a boy magician who becomes the apprentice of Arthur Underwood at the age of 5. As he grows up he learns a lot about magic and the other magicians. Quite a bit of time is spent on his training in the book, but the plot really begins after Nathaniel is insulted by another magician, Simon Lovelace. Wasn’t really that big of  a deal, but Nathaniel really wants to teach this magician a lesson and isn’t going to be satisfied until he has his revenge. Eventually, through a lot of reading and training behind his masters back, he is able to summon Bartimaeus, a very old djinni to do his bidding. He tells Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon not even knowing what the Amulet is or how important it really is to Simon and what he will do in order to get it back. A lot of problems develop because of Nathaniel’s actions. People are hurt, people die, and a plot by Simon is uncovered and with the help of Bartimaeus, Nathaniel attempts to stop him from using the Amulet for a terrible purpose.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed the book. For a children’s book it wasn’t at all predictable or even fast-paced. There were many action scenes, but they were spread out far enough to allow for information to be presented in an interesting manner. I was never bored by anything I read. Actually, I was engaged from the very beginning of the book. This is definitely an imaginative and entertaining novel; I really had a hard time putting it down! It started off a lot slower than I expected providing us with lots of background information and setting the stage for the rest of the book, but it was very interesting. Eventually, the story picks up and will entertain almost anyone. It is a pretty complex story so I would say its appropriate for  young adults or younger only if they are very avid readers.

The magic system in the book was interesting because the demons pretty much control all the magic, and the magicians only have to learn how to summon and control them in order to have the demons do all their bidding. That is where most of the power lies; however, the magicians do know some spells that they can use to defend or attack.

The world building and amount of detail is pretty spectacular. You really get a feel for where and when the characters are. There is just the right amount of detail that I could picture everything, but not so much that it takes away from the over all story and disrupts its flow.

A lot of issues pop up throughout the book. The biggest one I noticed was that the magicians are the ruling class and those that don’t have magic are called  “commoners” and have to follow the magicians’ rule. Not too sure yet in this book, but it appears the majority of magicians are not really all that friendly and think very highly of themselves, which seems to result in not so fair treatment of the commoners. I’m sure more of this issue will be brought up in the next couple books.


There are two main characters in this book. Nathaniel is a magician in training who may become one of the best. He is very smart and loves to learn. It doesn’t take long for him to learn how to do things that will impress even the most high ranking magicians. I don’t really like is personality very much because he appears to be just consumed by hatred. All of his problems start just because he is so focused on getting revenge for just being slightly humiliated. He never really befriends anyone, although grows attached to his masters wife over time. I have to admit that he is an interesting character because he tries to do good, but he may not be entirely good himself. I can’t wait to see how he changes over the course of the next two books.

Bartimaeus is my favorite character because he is just hilarious! I adore how he explains things and adds to them using footnotes that add more to the story. The footnotes are highly entertaining to read and I couldn’t wait to find another page with more. Bartimaeus is rather self-centered and appears to be this big, tough demon, but in reality I think there is a bit more to him than that. He may seem evil and not care about anyone; however, by the end of the book I don’t think he really wants to leave Nathaniel. Bartimaeus is a dijinni of some great power who can shape-shift, cast spells, and see on seven planes, which is something that humans can’t do. I thought his shape-shifting ability was pretty interesting as well as how he makes use of it. Anyway, I realize there is more to Bartimaeus and I hope to see him back in the next two books to see how he develops as a character.


I thought the writing was great! It flowed well and was easy to understand. There wasn’t anything that I thought was unnecessary and the footnotes provided just added more to the story (don’t have to read if you don’t want to). It was great how the story uses words that would increase any child’s vocabulary. It wouldn’t be much of an easy read for a young child or even an older one. I would say it was written more for young adults, but can easily appeal to children around 10 or 11 if they are avid readers. The sheer size of the book may prevent children from wanting to read it.

Overall Thoughts

This appears to be the beginning of a great series; however, this novel could stand on its own! I thought the plot was interesting and moved at a great pace, and the characters were perfectly developed. I don’t think I have any complaints! Great story and a must read for children 10 and older or anyone who loves fantasy, magic, and demons! The sheer size of the book and some content could be a turn-off for children younger than 10.

My rating: 5/5 stars!

View this book on Amazon and Goodreads!

Check out these reviews from fellow bloggers!

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