What parents need to know
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?