The Amulet of Samarkand: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1

Fantasy series start with an antihero protagonist.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Nathaniel is entirely driven by the thirst for revenge, and his actions cause several deaths.


Plenty of fantasy violence. Nathaniel directly kills one wizard and is responsible for the deaths of others.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that 12-year-old Nathaniel's personality is unusual in children's fiction. Neither good nor criminal, he's arrogant, vengeful, power-hungry, impulsive, and not at all likable. He's not a sympathetic character, though the reader does root for him to succeed in his quest for vengeance -- but he doesn't learn any lessons.

What's the story?

In an England in which wizards are the aristocracy and run the government, and ordinary people are beginning a revolt, apprentice magician Nathaniel is humiliated by a powerful government official, Lovelace, and devotes his life to revenge. Finding his master, Mr. Underwood, weak both in character and magic, he teaches himself from books, and finds in himself a level of talent that no one else suspects.

To begin his revenge, he calls up a powerful djinn, Bartimaeus, and orders him to steal the powerful amulet of Samarkand from Lovelace, and hide it in Underwood's study. But he has underestimated both the power of his opponent and the complexity of the politics involved, and he soon finds himself in far over his head, with only his captive, restive, and contemptuous djinn to protect him.

Is it any good?


This latest heir to the Potter mantle is a worthy successor, combining a rich, complex story, a delightfully acerbic voice, and an original protagonist. Among many pleasures here is a very different system of magic, detailed by the snide and chatty Bartimaeus in a series of footnotes.

Like many other Rowling wanna-bes, the author has learned that children love reading fat books, but he hasn't learned how to pace his books. Tighter editing could have produced a book 100 or so pages shorter without sacrifice. But it's a witty, fun ride nonetheless, destined to be popular and to have fans waiting eagerly for the next installment.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the use of magic in this series. How does it compare with the use of magic in the Harry Potter series? Families can also talk about the central character, Nathaniel. Do you like the fact that he's an atypical hero?

Book details

Author:Jonathan Stroud
Topics:Magic and fantasy
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Hyperion Books for Children
Publication date:June 9, 2004
Number of pages:464
Publisher's recommended age(s):10 - 14

This review of The Amulet of Samarkand: The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1 was written by

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Teen, 13 years old Written byergie96 August 20, 2009
age 10+

Should Be Made Into A Movie

This is one of my favorite books ever. It is set in modern day London and gives a whole new spin on wizardry. You will love the djinni young Nathaniel summons; Bartimaeus is full of wit and humor. There are messages about the greed and power-hungry nature of the magicians, which become more pronounced in the second book. An excellent, page-turner, must-read that will keep you awake late into the night!
What other families should know
Great messages
Adult Written byGrainne April 9, 2008
Teen, 13 years old Written byEpicPerson July 15, 2011
age 9+

Give a hand for Stroud

Stroud's work is wonderful! A great book about magicians and spirits. Highly recommended. May need a little parent guidance, because there is a lot of fantasy violence. I praise Stroud for his work!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence


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