I’m going to preface this review by stating that I’ve already read the original Bartimaeus Trilogy and thoroughly enjoyed it (reviews will be coming soon), and I’m going to be referencing those books a couple times since The Ring of Solomon, a prequel, was published after the original trilogy. Now to the review.
The Bartimaeus Saga is set in a world where magicians secretly rule – and have done so throughout history. Magicians have no power of their own, but instead summon demons of various levels (imps, foliots, djinni, afrits and marids) into slavery to do their deeds for them.
Bartimaeus of Uruk, millenia old djinni of mid-rank (fourth level, if it pleases you to know), is a master of all things wit. He has faced spirits far above him and triumphed (though most of the time it’s just from sheer luck and maybe a couple well placed detonations in the nether-regions). He’s served countless masters of great renown, and other masters that he refuses to mention out of sheer humility. This time, however, he serves a very oppressive master – Khaba the Cruel. Not only that, but Khaba serves Solomon – the greatest magician in the entire world. And Solomon possesses a ring of extraordinary power. A ring by which Solomon has bent nations to his will by the very thought of what the ring could do. Add into this situation a young guard of Sheba named Asmira, sent by her queen to perform the most horrific of deeds: kill Solomon and take his ring.
A Mismatched Cast of Characters
Bartimaeus is one of my all time favorite fantasy characters. His witty repertoire leaves absolutely nothing to be desired and his countless antics make me laugh every single time I read one of the novels in the series. He’s a very likable character, although he does things that would make you want to strangle him at times, and he’s generally an enjoyable read. His point of views in the novel are something that I always look forward to and am rarely disappointed with.
Asmira, the character sent off to kill Solomon and take his ring on behalf of her Queen and country, never really came alive for me. I understood her reasons for doing what she did, and I understood her passion for her actions. However, she herself never really became a real person to me until the last fifty pages or so, and even then she paled in comparison to the rest of the cast. If she could have come alive just a bit more, it would have really made this novel.
Solomon and Khaba both had interesting story lines, and it would have been nice to see more of them – but unfortunately, each one only gets a single point of view and neither features much in any of the other character’s stories.
An Interesting Plot
The idea that there is such a thing as an ultimate Ring of Power isn’t a new one – in fact, it’s rather old and overused. However, the ring itself doesn’t come much into play in this novel, and for that I was grateful. The thing that I love about the Bartimaeus novels is that they’re told from multiple points of view, which always makes it interesting for the reader. I enjoy reading about things as they happen from different perspectives, and when done well (and this is one of those occasions), it makes the plot come alive for you. You feel the emotions that each character is experiencing and it’s really a fantastic tool used by Jonathan Stroud.
Less Than Worthy of the Bartimaeus Name
As I’ve stated a few times, I’ve read the original Bartimaeus trilogy and enjoyed it quite a bit. When comparing this installment against those, it pales in comparison. It still has all of the technical aspects – a witty Bartimaeus, an interesting plot, a bit of suspense – but it just wasn’t there for me. I didn’t laugh out loud at most of the footnotes like I did with the original trilogy (although some did make me smile). The plot twist at the end wasn’t even that much of a twist at all, which was incredibly disappointing. The end scene was good, but it just didn’t make up for the first 300 pages.
Why You Should Read This Book?
If you enjoy the Bartimaeus novels, you’ll have fun reading this book. It probably won’t live up to your expectations, but it’s still a worthwhile read. There’s a lot of humor in here, as well as some more serious plot points, so there’s a bit of something for everyone. It’s really well researched and I was impressed with how well Jonathan Stroud writes. Overall, it’s a good book, but it was just a bit of a let-down for me since I definitely had high hopes for this book. I’m probably going to have to take a second look at it in a couple months to see if my opinion changes, and if it does I’ll post something about it here.