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The Amulet of Samarkand
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A seemingly omniscient narrator begins this darkly tantalizing tale set in modern-day London, ushering readers into a room where the temperature plunges, ice forms on the curtains and ceiling, and the scent of brimstone fills the air. Suddenly, the voice reveals itself as the djinn Bartimaeus, appearing in front of Nathaniel, the 10-year-old magician who has summoned him ("Hey, it was his first time. I wanted to scare him," Bartimaeus explains). The djinn thinks of himself as rather omniscient, having been present for some major historical moments (as he explains in various footnotes, he gave an anklet to Nefertiti and offered tips to legendary architects-"Not that my advice was always taken: check out the Leaning Tower of Pisa"). Debut novelist Stroud plunges readers into a quickly thickening plot: Nathaniel commands Bartimaeus to steal the Amulet of Samarkand from Simon Lovelace, a task that the djinn completes with some ease. Other factors quickly become more interesting: the motive for the boy's charge, how Simon came by the Amulet and the fallout from the theft. What these reveal about the characters of Simon and Nathaniel makes for engrossing reading. Stroud also introduces the fascinating workings of the "seven planes" (magicians can see three of them only with special spectacles), the pecking order of magical beings, and the requirements of various spells and enchantments-plus the intrigue behind a group of commoners mounting a Resistance (this loose end, presumably, will be explored in the remainder of the planned Bartimaeus trilogy). The author plants enough seeds that readers will eagerly anticipate the next two volumes. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Gr 4 Up-This graphic-novel adaptation of the first volume in the popular trilogy concerns Nathaniel, a young apprentice in an alternate-world England run by wizards. When he summons the djinni Bartimaeus to steal the powerful Amulet of Samarkand, he finds himself involved in a traitorous plot that reaches the highest levels of power. Inevitably, some of the original story is lost or minimized, yet the essence is retained, something that is sure to please fans of the prose novel. As well, the full-color artwork does an adequate job of depicting the characters and settings of the novel. Unfortunately, both the images and lettering are quite small, cramping a story that begs for a bigger, splashier treatment.-Douglas P. Davey, Halton Hills Public Library, Ontario, Canada (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Often described as the anti-Harry Potter, The Amulet of Samarkand also stars a boy wizard in a magical modern-day London. Nathaniel is a snot-nosed apprentice seeking revenge on the magician who humiliated him. To that end, he summons a 5000-year-old djinni, Bartimaeus, and forces him to steal a powerful amulet. Listen Up: Jones is a past winner of Audiofile magazine's Golden Voice Award and played Bridey in the famed PBS miniseries Brideshead Revisited. The story alternates between third- and first-person narration, with delightful asides from the not-so-easily-controlled Bartimaeus. In the text, these asides take the form of footnotes, which can interrupt the flow on the page. Jones's skillful reading smoothes out the bumps and makes this first book in a complex trilogy even more fun to listen to than it is to read.-Angelina Benedetti, King Cty. Lib. Syst., WA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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