The Ring of Solomon (Bartimaeus) by Jonathan Stroud

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The Ring of Solomon (Bartimaeus) by Jonathan Stroud

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Prequel to Stroud's tremendously popular Bartimaeus trilogy. There's more magic and magicians this time and the setting is ancient and mythologised, far from London. Lots of twists and turns too. Fans are going to love it. Bookbag did.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: August 2010
Publisher: Doubleday
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 0385619154

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Barty is back!

Well, he isn't actually back. But we do get to revisit him. Which is good.

I'm sure you know who I'm talking about. But just in case you don't, Bartimaeus is a sarcastic, wisecracking djinni and the star of a wonderful and best-selling series by Jonathan Stroud. Whilst tied to various enslaving magicians, Bartimaeus has had a finger in many pies of world history, particularly that of London. In fact, he's saved the day almost as many times as Doctor Who has. But Bartimaeus is no Doctor Who. He's a rude, sarcastic egomaniac and unselfish behaviour isn't his byword. But he cracks an irresistible one liner. And he usually comes through in the end.

In The Ring of Solomon, we meet Barty almost two thousand years before the trilogy. He's very unhappily tied to a bullying, ambitious and psychopathic magician at the court of King Solomon. In this alternate history, Solomon isn't renowned for his wisdom at all. He's renowned for his ownership of a magical ring, which can bring forth a demon to vanquish all others. It gives him power throughout the region. And, as power corrupts, Solomon wants tributes from all neighbouring leaders, including the Queen of Sheba. Said Queen isn't at all happy about that - can you blame her? - and so she sends a female assassin to kill Solomon and retrieve the ring.

Cue unlikely alliance!

You can't help but love Bartimaeus. He's absolutely hilarious. Most of his jokes are told as asides in footnotes sprinkled throughout the novel. I think I'm the only person in the world who doesn't like this device - it disrupts my flow of reading - and Son Number One, a big fan, says I should put them into my review as a compliment, not a nitpick. So, I will say this: they are screamingly funny and I have been known to cry with laughter when reading them, but I-would-still-prefer-them-in-the-main-narrative. Son Number One will say this: the footnotes are brilliant and my mother talks rubbish. You decide!

The plot has more twists and turns than you can shake a stick at, and a great many surprises. It's easy to read and exciting with a huge cast of colourful characters. And it's light of heart, even in the midst of murder and mayhem - Stroud's tongue is never far from his cheek, and I love this about his books. Underneath, there are some more serious themes to think about, such as the corruption of power and the evils of slavery, but what The Ring of Solomon really gives you is pure pleasure of reading. In spades.

Welcome back, Barty!

My thanks to the good people at Doubleday for sending the book.

If they enjoy a bit of satire in their fantasy, they might also enjoy The Midnight Charter by David Whitley and, of course Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy. Another super-duper fantasy series prequel is Fever Crumb by Philip Reeve.

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