Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1)

By Jonathan Stroud

A child’s prank quickly grows into a deadly game.

Amulet of Samarkand

A young boy, desperate to prove himself as a magician, secretly summons Bartimaeus, and compels the djinn to steal the Amulet of Samarkand. But powerful forces pursue the jewel, and the one who stole it. Anonymity offers some protection, but when his enemies draw near, the young boy will have no choice but to face the harsh consequences of his actions.

Vivid descriptions pull audiences right in, while implied questions create an atmosphere of intrigue. Who are these characters? What are they planning? Details double as characterization, offering vague clues, guiding audiences effortlessly through the first quarter of the story. Of course, it’s not all quiet conversations and covert plans. Once in a while things do go wrong, forcing characters to scramble in a whirlwind of crisp writing that left me hungry for more. But for the most part the story is dominated by witty dialogue that pokes fun at a character clearly out of his depth.

Sadly, the charm does not last. Characters cling to their defining feature, refusing to grow. In turn their goals and relationships remain stinted; forcing later scenes to echo the issues of their predecessors. The characters insist on repeating past mistakes, ignoring the underlying questions implied by the narrative. Descriptions and dialogue remain a cornerstone of the story, with the occasional true struggle to ramp up the tension. Bartimaeus makes a valiant effort to add some wry humor, but without strong character growth, or underlying ideas to engage the audience, the story is little more than an entertaining adventure.

+Strong Description
+Strong Pacing
*Underdeveloped Characters
*Underdeveloped Plot
-Weak second half


Next Time…
Storm Front

5 thoughts on “Amulet of Samarkand (Bartimaeus #1)

  1. Hmm, I hate it when that happens. A story that had a lot of potential and some great characters, but eventually doesn’t live up to it. Even though it sounded very intriguing (and I loved the cover for it), this is a book I will pass on.

    • It was interesting. I think it’s an interesting example, and lesson, in how, even as we like something, “rinse and repeat” doesn’t work for storytelling. There must be variety, either through “other variations”, or a deepening and expansion of the one version the story focuses on.
      It was very interesting how, as questions were answered, the loss of mystery really hurt the story.

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