The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

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The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A great adaptation, making a delicious looking graphic novel from a riveting story.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 144 Date: February 2011
Publisher: Corgi Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0552563703

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When you summon a demon the last thing you want is for you to lose power over it - for the shoe to end up on the other foot. Especially when the demon shifts shape and is currently an eight-legged spider. That's what's happened to young Nathaniel, having summoned Bartimaeus for a task of vengeance. But perhaps it's worst of all when you have to rely on the same demon's help to protect you from an even greater evil - the wicked intent of a fellow man.

Nathaniel is an apprentice to a magician, and like all such is most keen to do advanced spells before he is ready for them. And when revenge rears its ugly head, when he gets Bartimaeus to steal an already-stolen amulet from a man who once slighted him, we see all of the consequences, in all their dazzling forms.

This is a modern London at one remove from the one on my map. It has a London Eye, but something very different to Eros. Apart from a few insurgents, the Empire is still thriving with the help of our magical abilities. And whether they concern shady transformations in dingy alleyways or huge rifts to open portals to other realms, these are illustrated superbly in this graphic novel. The colours are delicious - rich yet real, bright yet not busy, with realistic shading and other changes of tone.

The whole artwork is superlative, with characters - human, magical or otherwise - simply and well defined. The magic doesn't look a heck of a lot different to what we've seen before, but could not look better. It seems to have a basic graphic novel design - big guttering around every easy-to-read frame, but has some clever tricks up its sleeves, as when Nathaniel's master's house is split into four to portray the passing seasons.

That and a whole lot more suggest this book is a faithful adaptation, cherishing the original and only making it more vivid. Seeing the shapechanging in action really helps making the story accessible - and shows the humour of it when Bartimaeus becomes a frumpy old biddy. The story in either form seems one to savour with high drama, a rich plot and a character in Nathaniel that leaves stereotype behind to be his own feisty self, yet with far too many morals for Bartimaeus' liking.

With the look of this tome the standout, this is the best preteen-read-to-graphic-novel book I've yet seen, making it better than the Alex Rider, Charlie Higson young Bond, and even our co-adaptor's Artemis Fowl tie-ins. It's a lengthy book, for it doesn't appear wordy yet contains a satisfying amount of bulk. It reads fine, and looks splendid, and I have no problem recommending it.

I must thank the kind Corgi people for my review copy.

An odder London can be found in graphic form, for a slightly older audience, in Grandville by Bryan Talbot.

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Buy The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud at


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