Monday, August 08, 2011

Books I Have Been Reading: the Bartimeaus Series

The four Bartimeaus books (two that I bought, one after the other, and the other two lent me by a kind friend) entertained me for some long hours, especially when I wasn't feeling very well, so I am feeling very affectionate towards them. I was surprised to find each book better than the last.

The Amulet of Samarkand is good, if somewhat predictable. What actually holds your interest is the character of young Nathaniel, who starts out being an extremely sympathetic protagonist--a young lonely orphan--but turns out more complex and less likeable as the book progresses. The book is narrated alternately by the djinn, Bartimeaus, and by a third-person narrator who focuses on Nathaniel. In this first book, I found the passages by the djinn a little uninteresting and frivolous, a break in the story of Nathaniel.

The Golem's Eye brings in another character who keeps the narrative interesting. As Nathaniel grows from an isolated orphan boy into a pillar of the establishment, the young Kitty Jones is as anti-establishment as they come and everything you could wish for in a heroine: smart, resourceful and independent. Bartimeaus also admires her, in conflict with his loyalty to his master Nathaniel, and shows himself to be much more moral and likeable than his master.

Ptolemy's Gate, of course, brings all the action to a fitting climax. Nathaniel confronts his own demons and somewhat redeems himself, Kitty Jones remains a brave heroine, and Bartimeaus reveals unsuspected depths in his personality.

The Bartimeaus trilogy doesn't tell a new story, but it tells it in a fresh and entertaining way. In fact, I welcomed it being a bit of a cliche, because it made it easier to remain detached from the dangers the characters faced (which again, wasn't difficult, because as a fantasy story, this one goes all out and some of the happenings are very fantastical). But it was perfect light reading.

I picked up the Ring of Solomon with low expectations: I didn't think I would be much interested in a story of Bartimeaus from Solomon's times. But I found myself actually caring for that loveable old rogue, and I found this the funniest book of the lot. The footnotes themselves are probably worth more than the rest of the book.

Overall, a very entertaining series, and I'll definitely look forward to more by Jonathan Stroud. Any of you read these books yet?


R's Mom said...

nope havent read any..lemme check if the local library has them..thanks for the review :)

Anita said...

Aha. I had read the Amulet of Samarkand a long time ago and it is indeed good light reading.

Obelix D said...

amulet of samarkand, a very long time back. Have you managed to read the hitchhiker's guide yet? M plannin to reread sea of poppies by amitav ghosh.

Unmana said...

Sorry for being late with commenting.

R's Mom: Have fun!

Anita: I actually liked book 2 better than 1, and 3 better than 2. It was a fun ride, and I wish there were more.

Obelix: Can you believe, I haven't yet? I haven't been buying books lately because kind friends have been lending them: the first time in my life that I haven't had to buy books for that reason. (The only other reason I'd ever had to not buy books was that I couldn't afford to.) Next time I buy, I'll buy the first of those and a Margaret Atwood book I've been wanting to read forever.

I recently read Sea of Poppies--my first ever Amitav Ghosh--and wasn't all that impressed. I mean it's good and all that, but for all the hype I'd expected more. A friend's lent the Glass Palace, so I'll get to that soon.

Obelix D said...

i've to reread coz i bought the sequel and csn't remember all the characters from the first. try the hungry tide. it's bit detail heavy but good. does kindle accept .txt files? if yes, let me know, i'll email the hitchhiker's guide.

Unmana said...

No, they're mobi files. I'll buy it in a couple of weeks, in my next order at Flipkart. :)

Anita said...

Just noticed your comment that you did not much like Sea of Poppies. I totally loved it (and all the other ga-ga'ing you can read on my blog

Glass Palace is pretty nice as well. Though maybe you should try The Hungry Tide first. It is more contemporary.