How much do I love this book? Well, let me put it this way: I cannot tell you what my favorite movie or music is. It changes all the time depending on how I'm feeling or thinking. And it's not like books are an exception: I can't even define my second or third favorite books to you. But even though I've read many excellent books over the years, this book right here has remained firmly my favorite book, without question, for the best part of a decade.
The Amulet of Samarkand the story of a young wizard-in-training called Nathaniel, who summons a djinni by the name of Bartimaeus to do his bidding, and that bidding is to exact revenge on an enemy of Nathaniel's by stealing something of theirs, namely the Amulet of Samarkand. But by doing so, Nathaniel ensnares them into a wider conspiracy that is well beyond what they could ever imagine.
I adore this book. You know when you hear a book summed up in such a single perfect sentence that you instantly want to know more about story? Well, picture this. Imagine if the government was made up of evil demon-wielding magicians. If that doesn't whet your reading appetite I don't what will, frankly.
One of Stroud's many skills as a writer is his worldbuilding and seamlessly filling it in with so many intricate ideas and consistent rules that within mere chapters so feel utterly engulfed in the books' world. The story has such a powerful sense of place that even now, about four years after my last reread, I can still vividly recall not just the action and the characters, but the locations. It really does feel like a living, breathing alternate dimension of London. Because it feels so completely believable and real, you completely invest in the story and action and care for what the characters go through.
But let's be honest here: the shining star in Amulet's crown is Bartimaeus. This wise-cracking demon from the Other Place is deliciously smarmy, sassy and very, very funny. I'm serious. I'm not talking about that kind of dry academic funny that most critics use when referring to books, that kind of humor you read and barely raise a smile over. No, Bartimaeus will have you literally laughing out loud. One of the hallmarks of his viewpoint are footnotes, where you can detour off of the main narrative and get some more insight from what Bartimaeus thinks on the topic. So you get some more delightful insight into the world as well as more of this witty demon's quips.
But, such is the balance and delicacy of Stroud's writing that, under the layers of snark and demon skulduggery, there is a humanity and gruff kindness to Bartimaeus that makes spending time in his presence not just great fun but genuinely engaging.
If you were to walk into a book store, you'll find these in the young adult section. For those who would turn their nose up at such a thing, I implore you to give this book a chance. There is so much going on here for older readers to enjoy: there's a biting political satire at play here, and if you read between the lines of the magician's rule, you'll find a very dark story indeed.
It genuinely astounds me that this book and the whole series has not received the same attention as Harry Potter, because not only does it share a lot of the DNA with the boy wizard but it does nearly everything Harry Potter does way better. And I don't say that lightly, because I love Harry Potter.
Let me wrap up with this. I don't reread books. I have nothing against people who reread books, I get it, but for me I'd rather move on to a new book than reread a book I already know. Except this one. This book and the sequels are the only books I have ever reread. That's how much I adore them.
Please please please, go out and get your hands on this story. I promise that you will not be disappointed.