Posts Tagged ‘djinni’

After having read the first three books in The Bartimaeus Trilogy, I just had to check out this recent prequel. I remember reading references to Solomon in the first three books, where Bartimaeus often boasted of his time during Solomon’s reign. Now we get to learn why.

Story overview:
As a slave in Jerusalem (950 BC), Bartimaeus is forced to search for relics for King Solomon. His master is a careless wizard who learns a hard lesson when falling for one of the djinni’s tricks. As punishment, Bartimaeus finds himself under the rule of a more terrible wizard named Khaba.

Forced into a dangerous mission, Bartimaeus comes across a girl named Asmira who was sent by the Queen of Sheba to assassinate Solomon. It wasn’t until later that Bartimaeus learned of the girls mission, but by then it was too late—he was already under her spell.

Being more skillful than the average djinni, Bartimaeus works to bring his new master to her goal. When things begin to unfold, the assassin learns there is more to the story of her mission than originally thought. Including the true powers of the ring (worn by Solomon) and the true colors of the evil wizard, Khaba.

My thoughts:
The Ring of Solomon contains much of the same whit and character twists that The Bartimaeus Trilogy did. It was refreshing to continue in the realm of this fictional world, even if there are only two characters (Bartimaeus and Faquarl) from the original series.

Things to consider:
There are many Christians who will be offended that Solomon was used in this book. At first, even I found offense at the way he was portrayed. I know this is fictional and not meant to be taken literally, but historically he was a man of God (at least, in the beginning). Now, I didn’t give up on the book just because of this and I am glad I didn’t. Without giving away too much of the plot, know that it comes out better in the end. The biggest negative here is that the author made magic the source of Israel’s prosperity (during Solomon’s rein), not God. This, even in a fictional sense, can leave a negative impact on the believer. Still, if you can see past this as I did, you won’t be disappointed. There are no sexual situations or harsh language, however there are some disturbing situations and concepts that were portrayed in a humorous light (such as djinni discussing the best way to eat humans). I would recommend this for teenagers, both boys and girls.

Opportunities for discussion:
A key question proposed in this story is that of slavery. Whether it’s slavery in the traditional sense, or that of a deeper level—often unknown to the person who’s bound. The Bible tells us not to be slaves of this world. Be it addiction, negative habits, insecurities, material goods, money, lust, dependency, or obsession. All these things can end up controlling us, rather than us controlling it.  Read this verse to your children and ask them what it means to be transformed rather than conformed: Romans 12:2 (New American Standard Bible) “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Past reviews in this series:

1) The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1)
2) The Golem’s Eye (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 2)
3) Ptolemy’s Gate (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 3)

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TheGolemsEye_B2To my pleasure, I have finally been able to read the next book in The Bartimaeus Trilogy. Sequels are often a disappointment, but The Golem’s Eye succeeds where others have failed.

In the last book, twelve-year-old Nathanial was forced from his parents and raised by a low-class wizard named Arthur Underwood, who treated the boy with distain. After secretly growing in knowledge—so not to be chastised by his master—Nathanial was one day treated poorly by one of the man’s guests, Simon Lovelace. With the help of a djinni named Bartimaeus, Nathanial finds out that Lovelace is up to more than the boy bargained for.

Story overview:

Two years after the defeat of Lovelace, Nathanial finds himself in a prominent position at Internal Affairs. When put in charge of tracking down the Resistance, he finds himself in a bind. Not only is he unable to discover who they are, but a new mystery appears and he is stuck trying to solve it.

After many attempts to summon efficient djinni, he turns to Bartimaeus as a last resort. Since this particular djinni knows his true name, it comes as a great risk to Nathanial, however, they agree to work together for a specific amount of time (with Bartimaeus prepared to divulge the boy’s true name soon afterwards.)

Discovering that the second threat is a Golem controlled by an unknown wizard, Nathanial finds himself in a tough position. Not only does the community of wizards not believe him, but he ends up trying to prevent himself from becoming their scapegoat. Unfortunately for him, it gets worse before it gets better and Nathanial does all he can do to keep his head above water (literally.) Kitty—the last living member of the Resistance—ends up crossing paths with Nathanial and the unexpected results surprise them both.

My thoughts:

I love the twist of making wizards in general the bad guys. Something not often tackled in fantasy. Kitty seems to have taken the place of Nathanial at “good guy,” as Nathanial has gone down the corrupt and self-seeking path of wizardry. I have yet to read the third book (is there hope for Nathanial yet?) but so far, I would say this is my favorite trilogy of the year. Wonderfully creative and absolutely humorous, I caught myself laughing out loud as I did in the first book. It did seem to me as if the beginning of the book was a little slower than the first one; there is more back-story, but if you keep with it you will see how necessary it is, after all, a minor character from the first book has become a huge part of the second. Kitty even has her own point-of-view along with Nathanial and Bartimaeus. Great character interactions and storytelling. A+, five stars, I cannot say enough.

Things to consider:

Overall, a really clean story. No foul language other than the occasional mention of a character cursing, no sexual situations or inappropriate references, and nothing that a sound believer would/should consider compromising. As I mentioned in the last book, the references towards demons is purely represented as a human misconception in the story. They are a type of fantasy spirit mentioned in old tales such as Aladdin’s lamp. There are some deaths and situations of violence that may be considered a little frightful for younger children, but overall I’d say preteen (tween) plus, the plus being adults too. Good for girls and boys, this one being a little more girl friendly than the last.

Opportunities for discussion:

I believe freewill is one of the more dominant topics in this tale. Bartimaeus often finds himself being reminded of his lack of freewill and the human’s power of slavery over him. This makes it worse when he thinks of humans and the fact that they do have freewill. This is a great Biblical topic with much opportunity for discussion. I suggest starting by asking your children what they think freewill is, and then ending it with your ideas on the matter.

Past reviews in this series:

1) The Amulet of Samarkand (The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Book 1)

One final note:

I wonder if there is a chance that Kitty is Nathanial’s sister. We never hear his “true” last name, and I have a suspicion that she may be from the family who gave him up. Perhaps a long shot, but that’s my writer’s brain in action.