I was a big fan of the first in the trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand, and only held off buying this one because I worried that with one of the protagonists getting older I wasn’t sure it could be as good a book. I didn’t need to fear.
Told from the viewpoints of three characters: Nathaniel/John Mandrake, a young wizard in a prominent government position, trying to catch the resistance, and save his own skin; Kitty, a member of the resistance, trying to bring down the magicians; and Bartimaeus, Nathaniel’s quick-thinking, sarcastic djinni (demon).
The other two may propel the story but the star is undoubtedly Bartimaeus, whose rye comments and banter lift what could have been an overly dark story. The conflict between demons and magicians is played out between the two main characters, always providing entertaining tension.
They bundle from one action-packed sequence to the next, escaping by the slenderest of margins. In amongst the action is a heart though, the characters each having to fight for what they want and each having to do what must be done, regardless of whether they like it or not. None of them is a saint, none without their flaws.
Making Nathaniel’s character likable enough, yet still obviously detestable, is a thin line that is carefully negotiated, all the while poking fun at authority figures who want to appear high and mighty, but rarely are.
Praise must also go to the reader, Steven Pacey, who adds much to the characters with his subtle change of voice.
It was an exciting, excellent story packed with enough action and character to make you wish it’d never end. Luckily there’s another book in the series.