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I am currently working on a comedy mystery novel set in a world somewhat like ours. I can draw with either my right or my left hand, and I love to paint. I administer the blog for The Original Tree Worshippers of Rock County--rocksherlockotw.blogspot.com--a Sherlockian group I co-founded that meets in Janesville, Wisconsin, and am a founding member of The Cherry Street Irregulars, writers who gather (in groups of two or more) with laptops to create, critique, and support one another.
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The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

Book Review by Resa Haile

Welcome to London, England, over a hundred years after the death of Gladstone. The government is ruled by magicians, who ride in chauffeur-driven cars, but are dealing with trouble in the Colonies. Then there are the non-magical folk, called commoners, who are second-class citizens, some of whom accept their fate, and some of whom rebel.

This is the world of the three books of The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, a world in which the magicians have almost no powers of their own. The magicians’ power consists of being able to summon and bind spirits from the Other Place, and to enslave them. The magicians call these spirits “demons,” but this is not among the names they give themselves.

In the first book of the trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand, we meet Bartimaeus, a five-thousand-year-old djinni who has gone through many cycles of enslavement by magicians and has the sarcastic wit and world-weary attitude to prove it.

Bartimaeus is summoned to London by Nathaniel, an eleven-year-old magician-in-training who lives with his master. Magicians are not allowed to have children of their own, but are sometimes assigned apprentices by the government. (There is a reference to incidents which occurred in Italy some time previously, presumably a clever nod to the Borgias-as-magicians in this twisted history.)

Nathaniel charges an unwilling Bartimaeus with the unwelcome task of stealing an amulet of great power from a dangerous magician. Bartimaeus has no choice but to obey. All Bartimaeus wishes to do is return to the peace of the Other Place, but he keeps getting pulled back in.

Within the adventures that continue through The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate, you will find generous helpings of poetry and sarcasm, often within the same line, as well as observations on the nature of freedom, personal choice, prejudice, and the class systems that occur in almost every society.

Besides, these books are just so much fun.

Readers who haven’t yet experienced the world created here are missing a treat. If you’re wistful for Harry Potter or you just like a good adventure yarn, give Bartimaeus a try.

The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate are available in print and in very well-performed audio books.

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