A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
A unique magical world presented where magicians are (corrupt) world leaders who derive their power from summoning and subjugating different levels of demons, including djinni (such as Bartimaeus), imps, afrits, and so on. Readers will enjoy comparing this world to those of Harry Potter, Septimus Heap, and other magical series. Bartimeaus includes much "history" about the world in footnotes and includes mentions of the Trojan Horse and Atlantis.
Shows where unbridled ambition and a thirst for power often lead. Also shows what happens when a society is so fractured -- the pompous magician haves vs. the commoner have-nots -- that a rebellion against the haves is almost inevitable.
Positive Role Models
Nathaniel is ambitious and impatient with his master to learn and be acknowledged for the smart magician he is. He also can't handle being belittled and decides to take revenge against the wrong powerful magician for it. It's through this huge mistake in judgment that he grows up very quickly. There's a part of him that wants to be honorable and save others and that comes through when he continually chooses the harder path -- he never runs away from danger. The much more magically experienced Bartimaeus often chides Nathaniel for his ambition, naviete, and impatience, and he reminds Nathaniel of how corrupt this magical world is. While Bartimaeus seems to want nothing more than his freedom from serving Nathaniel, he's also subtly rooting for him to improve himself.
Violence & Scariness
When a powerful demon is summoned, about a dozen magicians are killed, with one swallowed and the others sucked into an abyss. An explosion injures many. Nathaniel barely escapes a house fire where two people die, one of them close to him. He also causes the death of another magician who falls and breaks his neck and is upset by it. Nathaniel is beaten until he is unconscious, and he gets in a fistfight. A statue is dropped on a man who's somehow not crushed by it. Demons tussle on many occasions with explosions, stings, and traps. People are knocked unconscious. Mentions of a guard's throat being cut and a magician swept into the air by a demon and pieces of him raining down.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Bartimaeus, a shape-shifter, mentions that he may appear as a naked woman to Nathaniel just to fluster him.
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"Damn" and "hell" infrequently.
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Products & Purchases
One mention of Saran Wrap.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine and champagne. Nathaniel, 12, gets one swig of champagne. Quick mention of a woman smoking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Amulet of Samarkand is the first book in the Bartimaeus trilogy, written before the author's popular Lockwood & Co. ghost-hunter series. Since it concerns magicians who get their powers from summoning demons and there are a lot of power-hungry magicians, expect plenty of fantasy violence. Magicians die in fires and explosions, by being swallowed by a demon, and from being sucked into an abyss. One of the main characters, 12-year-old Nathaniel, is beaten until he's unconscious, knocks others unconscious, causes the death of one magician who falls and breaks his neck, and gets into fistfights. Readers will root for Nathaniel even though it's clear that he's driven too much by ambition and revenge. He's also driven by the need to save others and never takes the easy way out -- he throws himself into dangerous situations at every turn. And when his head gets too big, the sardonic djinn Bartimaeus is always there to take him down a peg.
Is It Any Good?
This 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.
As with many other Rowling wannabes, the author has learned that children love reading fat books, but he still has something to learn about pacing. 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 have fans waiting eagerly for the next installment.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.