In an alternate version of modern London, a world ruled by magicians, a precocious young apprentice magician named Nathaniel summons the ancient, powerful, wisecracking djinni Bartimaeus to steal a valuable amulet. He quickly finds himself caught up in a dark world of corruption and political intrigue with the unwilling djinni in tow.As Nathaniel learns to navigate the realm of magic and politics, he crosses paths with Kitty Jones, a "commoner" with ties to the mysterious group called the Resistance. The trilogy by Jonathan Stroud:
Action Girl: Kitty, Asmira from the prequel, and some of the "female" demons, assuming they have genders.
Adults Are Useless: Not all of them, admittedly, but the Big Bads are all defeated with the brains of a kid or a couple of kids, the mentors are all fairweather and the commoner adults are generally sheep. This may be somewhat of an overstatement, though, as most of the plotting and trickery is pulled off by a djinni who is thousands of years old. Additionally, many adult commoners secretly resist the government in later novels.
Played mostly straight, with magicians, at Lovelace's party.
Age-Appropriate Angst: Averted; Nathaniel's reaction to The Call Knows Where You Live is surprisingly cold for a young boy. Also inverted to an extent. In the first book, he is devastated at Mrs. Underwood's death, but by the second, his hair takes top priority. Though also played straight in the third book where he has complex feelings about the cruelties of the government and his own part in it, culminating in his Heroic Sacrifice.
All Myths Are True: Mythology from all over the world shows up in this universe - and, if Bartimaeus is to be believed, he had a hand in most of it.
Alternate History: Gladstone in this universe led a campaign to conquer all of Europe...and was a magician.
Apothecary Alligator: Mentioned in Book 1 in the description of the magician Arthur Underwood's study. Bart notes that this is a good indication that Underwood is distinctly second rate and trying to hide it; truly powerful magicians favor a sleek, modern look.
Argument Of Contradictions: In The Ring of Solomon, Bartimaeus and Asmira get into this after he insists that her supposed great skill with magic is, in fact, all a bluff. (He's more or less correct.) After a bit of "It is not!" / "Is so too!", he takes the argument itself as another point in favor for his side, commenting "How many real magicians do you think get involved in stroppy little verbal spats like this? They'd have hit me with the Dark Scouring by now and had done with it? ... You don't even know what a Dark Scouring is, do you?"
Artistic License - Biology - Usually averted. Subverted at one point in the prequel where Bartimaeus is said to "shrug" and "frown" in the form of a moth and then snarkily replaces them with less anthropomorphic terms in the footnotes.
Bartimaeus: The lion looked sheepish. note Confusing again. Sorry.
Awesome but Impractical: Bartimaeus turns into a Lioness instead of a Lion, remarking that while the mane of a male Lion is quite flashy, it creates a blind spot. (This being something that he's learned from experience.)
Badass Boast: Bartimaeus, constantly. For example: "I am Bartimaeus of Uruk! I am Sakhr al-Jinni, N'gorso the Mighty and the Serpent of Silver Plumes! I have rebuilt the walls of Uruk, Karnak and Prague. I have spoken with Solomon. I have run with the buffalo fathers of the plains. I have watched over Old Zimbabwe till the stones fell and the jackals fed on its people. I am Bartimaeus!" However, it's just as likely to be subverted when the subject either doesn't recognize him or is simply unimpressed.
Beautiful All Along: Kitty, when Nathaniel first sees her aura. She sarcastically retorts, "Only just now?"
Bittersweet Ending: Most of the government has been killed off, much of the city is in ruins, and Nathaniel is dead. On the other hand, things are looking up for a more equal society and Nouda is dead, and all the spirits get to...go right back to being enslaved.
Also, Bartimaeus and Kitty are alive, and Nathaniel died doing the same thing Ptolemy did - saving Bartimaeus' life. Which probably earned him some points in Bartimaeus' book.
Big Bad: One for each book, but it's ultimately revealed that Quentin Makepeace tops them all.
Big Brother Is Employing You: Commoners are frequently needed for messy or difficult jobs like tutoring apprentices and manufacturing spellbooks.
Black and Gray Morality: The commoners in the Resistance aren't immune to pettiness, greed, cowardice, and prejudice.
Particularly so in the third book when the protagonists save the human race from genocide and allowed for the formation of a more egalitarian government...at the cost of ensuring djinn enslavement will continue forever.
Blatant Lies: When Ptolemy first summons Bartimaeus, Bartimaeus greets him with the following - "I know the secrets of the earth and the mysteries of the air; I know the key to the minds of women." In his footnote, he comments "Patently all lies. Especially the last bit."
Blessed with Suck: Solomon's ring is an item of unparalleled magical power, one that gives him undisputed rule of any kingdom he set his eyes on, allows him to summon 20,000 demons with a single twist, and is basically the reason for his entire success. It also causes him incredible pain to wear it, and saps his life force with every use. He can only take it off while he sleeps, because if he is ever seen without it, his circle of magicians will slay him and take the ring for themselves in a second. On top of this, due to the many miracles he worked with the ring in his youth, the populace expects him to use the ring to solve every little problem. As a result Solomon must continue to shorten his life to appease the people, and spend what little of it he has left in unbearable agony.
Book Burning: In The Ring of Solomon, Bartimaeus destroys a set of of cuneiform tablets owned by his evil master, Khaba, in a fit of rage over the fact that another Khaba's servants is about to seal him in a bottle. He then mentions in a footnote that he normally doesn't approve of burning books, "this being a favored pastime of all the worst rulers in history," but the texts of magicians are a special case because they contain the names of spirits by the thousand and thus to destroy them is to limit the opportunities of all magicians to summon other spirits.
Book Ends: Bartimaeus uses the same "special effects" for Nathaniel's first and last summonses.
Bread and Circuses: The government generally makes sure at least the basic needs of the citizens are taken care of and also provides regular entertainments and holidays, very flashy and showy, anything to keep people's senses stimulated and their brains disconnected.
Brick Joke: Early in the first book, Bartimaeus explains that the footnotes are due to the fact that he has multiple layers of conscious thought—he can go off on tangents while still thinking about the original subject. Late in the third book, when he and Nathaniel combine, he tries to do the footnotes again, but Nathaniel stops him because it feels really, really weird.
Brilliant but Lazy: Mr. Button is implied to be an incredibly powerful magician, who could easily stand up to some of the magicians on the council, but he is not interested in power; rather he is interested in knowledge. As such he remains a very low level magician.
Call Forward: Several in the prequel, most notably Khaba and his shadow, a marid, being his equal and in love.
There's a pretty grim one in the third book. At one point, Nathaniel summons Bartimaeus again, who appears with a lion's head, sans mane. He explains that manes both get clogged with blood and dirt, and they block all peripheral vision. In the final Ptolemy flashback, it's revealed that Bartimaeus, attempting to spirit Ptolemy to safety, was brought down by a Detonation that he didn't see — the guise he was in had a mane, which blocked his vision.
Cassandra Truth: Faquarl when he says it's possible for the spirits to start a revolution (though it fails, he still started one). Also, Nathaniel's theories are never believed until it's almost too late.
Cats Are Magic: Cats are the only animals naturally able to see more than one plane.
Cerebus Syndrome: The first book is noticeably lighter, shorter and has a kinder Nathaniel. That changes fast.
Chained Heat: Nathaniel and Bartimaeus in book three, while Bartimaeus is possessing and mind-linked with Nathaniel.
In The Amulet of Samarkand, Bartimaeus mentions seeing a golem's eye among Lovelace's possessions, commenting that he probably didn't know what it was when he bought it. When Lovelace is killed, the eye is stolen by Duvall.
In The Amulet of Samarkand, along with the golem's eye, Bartimaeus also sees a summoning horn in Lovelace's possessions. The summoning horn turns out to be a crucial part of Lovelace's plan to summon an Eldritch Abomination to wipe out the leaders of the government.
In The Golem's Eye Jakob makes an offhand remark to Kitty that since his family runs a printing press, they can doctor any books Tallow sends to them as revenge for assaulting Jakob. Later, when the various magicians perform a mass summoning to quell Honorius, Tallow attempts to summon an afrit. His book contained an error Jakob's family put in, and the afrit devours him whole.
It is suggested that this meddling could also be responsible for the yellow color of Tallow's skin, for which he is often ridiculed.
In Ptolemy's Gate, the Amulet of Samarkand, Gladstone's staff, and the mercenary's seven-league boots all play an important part in the heroes efforts to combat the Demon Rebellion.
First played straight and later subverted by the serpent statue in the prequel. Bartimaeus uses it to get rid of his master near the beginning of the book after being told about its powers by the spirit that had been guarding it. At the end, Solomon tries to use it on Khaba, but only succeeds in activating its anti-theft mechanisms on himself.
The Chessmaster: The magicians all attempt to be this, with reasonable amounts of success; Makepeace did a terrifyingly good job of it.
Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: Used by Ammet the marid to Bartimaeus in The Ring of Solomon. Also used by Honorius on Kitty in The Golems Eye when they loot Gladstones tomb.
Compensating for Something: Kitty accuses Bartimaeus of this in Ptolemy's Gate when he appears in the form of a hideous, roaring demon.
Bartimaeus: "Ahem." The serpent of silver plumes gave a light cough. "A-hem." Still no response. How impolite was this? You call someone up, then take them for granted. I coughed a little louder. "A-thaniel." That got a response.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Tybalt in the prequel. He normally takes the form of a harmless white mouse, but is implied to be a very powerful spirit. (Although we never get to see exactly how powerful. We don't even know what class of spirit he is!)
Crystal Ball: One method of scrying; bowls and discs are also common.
Curb-Stomp Battle: Faquarl vs. four djinn sent to capture him. (More precisely, they were sent to capture the person whose body he was residing in, and so didn't really see that coming.)
Honorius vs. The Resistance.
The Dark Side: The change from Nathaniel to John Mandrake in the second and third books.
Disney Villain Death: Duvall. After he is arrested, he tries to escape by turning into a werewolf and killing his guards, then jumping out the window. Unfortunately for him, they were five floors up.
Disproportionate Retribution: When Kitty and Jacob accidentally cause him to crash his expensive car while playing baseball, Tallow summons his djinn, who casts a spell to disfigure the two kids for the rest of their lives. Jacob's family returns this to Tallow in kind by sabotaging his spellbook, causing him to botch a summoning and suffer a terrifying death by afrit.
Faquarl and Jabor serve this role to Simon Lovelace in the first book.
Faquarl in the third book serves as this to Makepeace (in his disguise as Hopkins) and later, Nouda. Of course, he's actually weaker than Nouda, since Nouda is a force of nature.
Dragon with an Agenda: Faquarl. He engineers, by out-Chessmaster-ing Makepeace, a chance for spirits to rebel against and take revenge on humanity.
Dramatic Irony: In Ring of Solomon, Bartimaeus is horrified and disgusted at the idea of the marid loving his master. He just can't fathom such a thing, and considers it a crime worse than willingly harming other spirits for fun. How any of them can love any human master...! Of course, he hasn't met Ptolemy yet. Meeting Ptolemy might explain why his reaction to Simpkins in the first book is more pitying than revolted.
Dumb Muscle: Jabor has the personality down pat. We are never actually told he's dumb. It's possible he just can't think straight when angry. Of course, since he's almost ALWAYS angry...
Of course, it's mentioned in Bartimaeus' footnotes that Jabor is the type to "steadily paint himself into a corner" or "happily saw off the branch he's sitting on".
Most afrits are described as being this.
Dystopia: Magician-ruled England, and many other sorcerous empires.
The spirits on the higher planes, Faquarl especially. His true form (which is never described besides having tentacles) makes even other demons queasy and he even killed some ravens when he appeared to them in that form. Furthermore, Ramuthra and later Nouda appear as, respectively, a disturbance on all seven planes, only visible because he's the only area that isn't being ripped at the seams and, after inhabiting a normal human body, a mass of inhuman tentacles: barbs, horns, you name it.
Eldritch Location: The "Other Place" where all imps, foliots, djinn, afrits, and marids "live". It is possible for a human to visit, but is strongly recommended against, as it wreaks havoc on both body (staying in the Other Place too long forces the person to forget how to move their physical body) and mind (it's quite the Acid Trip Dimension, and the person will be trapped forever, absorbed by some spirit's essence if he or she does not have a trustworthy spirit to call upon and serve as a guide.)
Eleventh Hour Superpower: Subverted in the second book; Nathaniel fails to activate Gladstone's Staff and instead gets knocked out by it. Not so in the third book, where he gets the seven-league boots from the mercenary, retrieves Gladstone's Staff and is then possessed by Bartimaeus, which enhances his magical aptitude and physical ability enough so that he can go skipping across London, destroying human/spirit hybrids at every turn with the same staff he couldn't use earlier.
Enemy Mine: Bartimaeus and Faquarl in the prequel, due to sharing the same master (and equally loathing said master).
Faquarl is this to Bartimaeus. Both are djinn of considerable power and cunning and resent the spirits' slavery by magicians. However, while Faquarl sets off a violent spirit rebellion against humanity, Bartimaeus, through interactions with people such as Ptolemy, Kitty, and Nathaniel, starts to believe that both people and spirits can change for the better and ends up saving humanity.
Simon Lovelace is what Nathaniel could have become if he allowed his ambition to consume him. In the later books, Nathaniel at the lower points of his Character Development starts to resemble Simon Lovelace, which Bartimaeus points out.
Evil Is Not a Toy: The message that magicians attempt to instill in their apprentices, reminding them that if they make the slightest mistake the demon will be free to destroy them. In Ptolemy's Gate Makepeace and his conspirators believe they can control demons massively more powerful than themselves through willpower, and are taken over. Makepeace himself is particularly notable for summoning into his own body Nouda, a creature that would usually require several magicians to summon and partially control under normal circumstances.
Exact Words: Bartimaeus allows Kitty to escape anywhere but in Nathaniel's limo, because his orders were "Stop them from escaping in that car!" This is actually a recurring theme in the series, as demons are required to carry out the orders that their masters give them, but they can interpret those words with some liberty, making exact words important for loopholes.
Another great example in Solomon's Ring: At the end, Bartimaeus is ordered to drop the Ring in the ocean. When he returns (after a chase and battle), he reveals that he still has the Ring. How? Asmira didn't say he had to leave it in the ocean.
Foreshadowing: In the first book, Bartimaeus hears what appears to be a large dog pursuing the Resistance. It's not until the second book where we find out that police officers in this universe are also werewolves.
Genie in a Bottle: Used in several ways. The Indefinite Confinement spell is a punishment for disobedient spirits, and traps them eternally in whatever object the magician selects. Additionally, it is apparently possible to trap many spirits inside objects such as bottles if they enter of their own free will. However, it's also an ancient trick that is very unlikely to work.
Goggles Do Something Unusual: Magicians have glasses (though contact lenses are far more popular) that allow them to see past the guises of weaker spirits by enabling them to view up to the third plane.
Happiness in Slavery: Simpkin, a minor demon character, is happy to be a servant. Also a major theme in The Ring of Solomon, with both the human protagonist and The Dragon. Bartimaeus finds the idea of willing servitude an abomination.
Heroic Sacrifice: Nathaniel and Ptolemy. Subverted with Bartimaeus's master during the siege of Prague. He accidentally blew himself up trying to save the Emperor, and Bartimaeus calls this his finest moment since it freed Bartimaeus and thus saved his life.
Also, Bartimaeus. He doesn't die, but helping Nathaniel wipe out all the rampaging demons just ensures that he and the rest of his kin remain enslaved by the magicians. All for the sake of saving two humans he doesn't hate completely, who will be dead in a blink of his eyes owing to the screwy passage of time in the Other Place. The only real perk is that everyone thinks he died with Nathaniel so he'll get to relax for a few centuries before another scrawny dude in robes and a pointy hat summons him again through a different name.
Heel-Face Turn: Nathaniel and the junior magicians at the end of the third book.
Hypocritical Humor: Bartimaeus, at times. It's unclear how aware he is of his hypocrisy, though.
Bartimaeus: Faquarl wasn't a sly old equivocator like Tchue; he prided himself on blunt speaking. Mind you, he did have a weakness for boasting. If you believed all his stories, you'd have thought him responsible for most of the world's major landmarks as well as being adviser and confidant to all the notable magicians. This, as I once remarked to Solomon, was quite a ridiculous claim.
From the nature of his interactions with Solomon in The Ring of Solomon it seems unlikely that they ever got around to discussing Faquarl, which also brings up the subject of Unreliable Narrator.
Don't forget the part where Bartimaeus's section ends with this exchange:
"But we haven't time..."
I spoke gently to quieten him. "Just watch and listen."
I didn't show it, but I was worried myself now. The boy was right: we really had no time. *Skip to Nathaniel's part*
"But we haven't time-" Nathaniel began.
"Just shut up and watch!" The fly was buzzing frantically around their prison. It sounded decidedly panicked.
It's left unclear as to which author is accurately portraying the scene.
From The Ring of Solomon:
"But the rest were sorry wastes of essence, Beyzer being boastful, Tivoc sarcastic, and Xoxen full of false modesty, which in my humble opinion are three immensely tiresome traits."
I Know Your True Name: Magician's birth names are closely guarded secrets as knowledge of them protects you from most of their magic, while demons can only be summoned using one of their (many) true names. Barimaeus knows Nathaniel's true name, which means that Nathaniel continuing to summon Bartimaeus would ordinarily be considered recklessly dangerous. However, the two have reached an agreement. Ptolemy told Bartimaeus his true name the first time that he asked. He, however, was unique— he never employed any punishment spells against the spirits he summoned (thus no magic to turn against him) and gained their trust through politeness and dogged persistence.
Idiot Ball: For all his intelligence, Bartimaeus gets this on occasion. For example, accidentally leading Lovelace to Underwood's house in the first book, and turning off the lights when faced with Faquarl in the third book (even though spirits can see perfectly well in the dark).
Anyone with sufficiently strong resilience becomes this.
Subverted painfully when the Resistance attempts to rob Gladstone's tomb. Also, even someone as strong as the mercenary can be brought down with truly overwhelming application of magic.
Impossibly Tacky Clothes: Nathaniel's fashionable, very tight trousers in The Golem's Eye are mocked by Bartimaeus and Kitty.
Improbable Age: Nathaniel is on the fast track to being a government minister by the time he is fourteen. Granted, he was a prodigy with high-end magical knowledge early on (though little practice), and he narrowly saved the prime minister's life. But that still doesn't explain the fact that he is held single-handedly responsible for matters of national security.
Kitty appears as the plaintiff in a court case by herself at the age of 13, with her parents explicitly refusing to have anything to do with the case.
Incoming Ham: Bartimaeus, like most spirits, enjoys making his initial materialization in the human world as flashy as possible. The first lines in the entire series are describing him doing an act that wouldn't be out of place in Religious Horror climaxes.
Insistent Terminology: Spirits really hate being called demons (or the equivalent in the local language). Additionally, in The Ring of Solomon, Asmira hates being referred to as either a "slave" or an "assassin," insisting that she's a "hereditary guard."
In Spite of a Nail: Although Gladstone was a magician who became Prime Minister by overthrowing the non-magical government of Britian and instituting a police state, he still had a famous rivalry with (his fellow magician) Disraeli; although Europe's major empire in the first half of the 19th century was Prague, London still has a Trafalgar Square containing Nelson's Column.
Interspecies Romance: Parodied and ridiculed, not that it stops the Shippers. Also, while it may not qualify as romance per se, Succubi exist and are at times summoned. In The Ring of Solomon, the Big Bad and his shadow.
Kitty: You're all callous and wicked and heartless and vain!
Nathaniel: Vain? How wonderfully hysterical. I'm just well turned out. Presentation's important, you know.
It Has Been an Honor: Oh so subverted. Played straight in the minor occurrence, also somewhat inverted in the major occurrence, based on the last sentence. Nathaniel, also, seems to have changed enough to feel it was an honor, though he refuses to admit it. He is, after all, very old-fashioned in some ways, and perhaps a tad tsundere.
Bartimaeus: One magician I worked for once called for my aid during an earthquake which was toppling his tower. Unfortunately for him, the precise words he used were: ‘Preserve me!’ A cork, a great big bottle, a vat of pickling fluid, and – presto! – the job was done.
The Juggernaut: The golem in the second book, as well as The Mercenary due to his extraordinary resilience.
Just a Kid: Particularly vile example. John Mandrake (Nathaniel) is just 14 years old and he's already Assistant to the Head of Internal Affairs. Many members of the other departments simultaneously over-load him with assignments, and then hope he fails at them, just so they can "justify" he's much too young for this sort of work. Of course, many magicians are power-crazed anyway, delighting in the failures of both their superiors (open position = more power!) and inferiors (less competition!) so maybe it's just unfortunate (see Klingon Promotion).
Kid with the Leash: Deconstructed/subverted: Nathaniel firmly believes that demons are Always Chaotic Evil, and that elaborate incantations and careful wording are necessary to keep enslaved summons in check. While this is not unjustified (Bartimaeus is very open about his willingness to free himself by killing Nathaniel and brags of magicians he has killed in the past), Bartimaeus - the demon - is often more moral than Nathaniel. He complains about being given less-than-ethical tasks, and there are hints throughout the series that both the djinni and the boy would be better off if Nathaniel had shown more trust in him. However, it is quite clear that even Nathaniel and Bartimaeus's strained relationship is unusual and that spirits will destroy their masters in painful ways given any opportunity.
Of course, even that idea is subverted - when Kitty calls up Bartimaeus with talk of friendship and mutual trust, he challenges her to step outside the bounds of the pentacle protecting her to demonstrate her trust, and when she doesn't, he remarks that it was "worth a try". Whether he would have killed her, simply left, or actually taken her up on her offer was left an open question due to the ambiguity of that statement.
Kitchen Chase: In book 1, when Bartimaeus tries to evade the Big Bad's guards by running through the kitchen, the "chef" turns out to be his old enemy, Faquarl.
Klingon Promotion: A few particularly ambitious magicians kill their mentors. Most magicians settle for completely ruining their rivals' (and, if possible, their superiors') reputations via blackmail. If the rival(s) happen to die in the process, well, that's just a bonus; they won't be coming back later for revenge.
Literal Genie: Both straight and averted. The orders spirits get function like this and magicians try to word orders to avoid problems, but spirits are rarely shown exploiting this, likely because fulfilling the letter of their order doesn't protect them from magical punishment. Bartimaeus does manage to take advantage of it at times. Also, in the third book, a rather large lampshade is hung on the fact that the spirits failed to exploit a loophole in an agreement.
Living Shadow: Khaba has one in the prequel, which is actually a marid.
Machiavelli Was Wrong: The contrast between Bartimaeus's relationship with Nathaniel and his relationship with Ptolemy.
MacGuffin: The Amulet of Samarkand, among others. (Except that they get used).
Masquerade: While magic is no secret - the government is run by magicians - "commoners" are kept from knowing that the magicians' power comes from enslaved demons; without them they are just ordinary humans.
Never My Fault: The magicians all try to push as much blame as they can onto someone else when things go wrong. Julius Tallow even combines this with Glad I Thought of It by "challenging" his assistant John Mandrake (Nathaniel) to deduce how the Piccadilly shops were destroyed, instead of, you know, examining the ruins and trying to find out for himself. He still rejects Mandrake's answer immediately and saddles him with more work, simply because he's Just a Kid and this just HAS to be the work of the Resistance, despite the attack sharing none of the signs at all.
No Blood Ties: Enforced just for the magicians, who are not allowed any biological children, but are later given an orphan as an apprentice. This is to prevent instances of Feuding Families, which apparently happened frequently enough in the past to be quite a problem.
No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: What usually happens to Bartimaeus when he goes up against a demon out of his weight class, such as a marid, in a straight fight. An example is found at the beginning of The Golem's Eye, when he goes up against Honorious and is soundly thrashed for his trouble.
Nothing Personal: Faquarl says to Bartimaeus fairly early on in The Amulet of Samarkand. Generally, with djinn, this is true, as they're only working on the orders of a human master, but somehow it always did seem to get rather personal between Faquarl and Bartimaeus, any claims of it not being so aside.
Not So Different: In the third book, by stealing magicians' bodies and setting off violent revolt against humanity, Faquarl, Nouda, and other spirits become the very thing they resented, which Bartimaeus doesn't hesitate to point out. Of course, one of the main themes of the trilogy is slavery and how it corrupts both the slavers and the enslaved. Best demonstrated in the following exchange:
Faquarl: Vengeance is our master here. It keeps us here. It gives us purpose.
Bartimaeus: 'Purpose' is a human concept. We never needed that before. This body of yours isn't a disguise anymore, is it? It isn't just a barrier against pain. It's what you are busily becoming.
Or So I Heard: Bartimaeus sometimes likes to use this to explain his knowledge of subjects he considers himself too dignified to otherwise know about, such as the crude Egyptian game "Dogs and Jackals."
if only there was an 'our police officers are different' trope.
Overt Rendezvous: Nathaniel is asked to meet the British agent in Prague at a cemetery at midnight. Complaining about the melodrama, he insists that their next meeting be somewhere more ordinary and they agree to meet in the main square around six - "Harlequin" had wanted to pick the old plague pits. He does cope with the change well, and Nathaniel receives his information in a hot dog bun he bought from the disguised agent.
Bartimaeus peppers the chapters he narrates with long, digressive, usually humorous footnotes. It is later mentioned that, as a djinni, he has the ability to carry on two or more trains of thought at once.
Bartimaeus, as part of his introduction, informs us, as an aid to our comprehension of his cranial capacity, that were the text in the book overlaid with the text of three more novels, he could observe the jumble of ink that we would see and discern the text of all four stories, and comprehend them perfectly, without any trouble whatsoever. This is the sort of IQ found in the things wizards trap in order to get their power. That's a being I'd treat with a little respect.
It's not so much IQ as actually having a multiple-track mind. While humans have one conscious and one unconscious track, spirits have several tracks. IIRC, Bartimaeus mentions that he has the ability to simultaneously make small talk, search a room for possible ways to escape, think about various things, and sneak attack the person he is talking to.
Subverted hilariously in Ptolemy's Gate, when he is telling us something in a footnote, and Nathaniel, who is melded with Bart at the time, cuts him off in mid-footnote, saying outside of said footnote, "Will you stop doing that? It's distracting!"
Parental Abandonment: Happens to all magicians, at least those of this universe's London. Parents can choose to give up their children for the government to have them trained into magicians for a hefty sum in return.
Pass the Popcorn: In Golem's Eye Bartimaeus comments, "All I need is some popcorn," as he watches Nathaniel get himself in trouble. He also does this, possibly anachronistically if he hasn't yet been summoned in the Americas, in The Ring of Solomon as he watches the spirit army summoned by the ring descend on Jerusalem.
Possession Implies Mastery: Subverted. Bartimaeus scoffs when Nathaniel tries to use the newly-retrieved Gladstone's staff to fight the golem, saying it's impossible for the boy to master such a powerful object on his first try. To his disbelief, Nathaniel seems to generate a powerful aura around the staff... which backfires, knocking Nathaniel unconscious.
Puppeteer Parasite: The demons summoned in the third book. Originally intended as a way for magicians to gain power by summoning a spirit into themselves, the spirits took over and then began forcing other magicians to summon spirits into themselves.
Ravens and Crows: A form Jakob's grandmother said that demons take. Bartimaeus and other spirits, such as the imps guarding the Tower of London, repeatedly take the form of a crow.
Really 700 Years Old: Bartimaeus is thousands of years old, but his preferred form looks about twelve.
Reverse Psychology: Bartimaeus "praises" Kitty for her "intelligence" in leaving Nathaniel to his doom. He also uses this to trick a trapped marid into revealing the secrets of Solomon's Ring, and to manipulate several of his previous masters to their deaths and...yeah, he does this a lot.
The Rival: Faquarl -> Bartimaeus; Jane Farrar -> Nathaniel.
Save the Villain: Towards the end of The Golem's Eye, Kitty saves an unconscious Nathaniel from the golem, even though he has been her Inspector Javert for much of the book and has just betrayed her with the intention of arresting her.
Saying Too Much: In The Ring of Solomon, Bartimaeus at one point wears the guise of a pygmy hippo that bears more than a passing resemblance to one of Solomon's wives. Solomon is annoyed because he ordered that none of the spirits wear unnatural guises, but doesn't notice the resemblance to that particular wife. Much later in the book, Solomon chastises Bartimaeus for his various transgressions and mentions the hippo guise and Bartimaeus protests that it looked nothing like his wife. Solomon stops him and says that what he was going to say was that it showed disrespect for the sanctity of his temple.
Shapeshifter Default Form: Bartimaeus has a plethora of guises at hand, but in the trilogy he is known to be most comfortable in the appearance of Ptolemy. Faquarl similarly defaults to the appearance of a pudgy chef with a meat cleaver.
And then there's their "true" forms. Faquarl's true form is quite the Eldritch Abomination (tentacles and everything), instantly killing several ravens who just glanced at it. Bartimaeus' true form, much to his eternal chagrin, is a much less impressive large blob of gray goop (though that may just be the form he assumes when he is severely weakened).
Shoo the Dog: Ptolemy and Nathaniel to Bartimaeus; Bartimaeus and Nathaniel to Kitty.
Shut Up, Hannibal!: In the third book, when Faquarl accuses Bartimaeus of betraying his kind, Bartimaeus angrily retorts that Faquarl is the traitor who abandoned the Other Place (where they and other spirits come from) and even encouraged other spirits to leave for the sake of vengeance.
Slave to PR: Nathaniel in the later books, once he enters politics - note that this does not necessarily make him more ethical, just more underhanded.
Smug Snake: Lovelace. Nathaniel himself in the second book. And Julius Tallow. And Duvall, seeing as Makepeace played him like a fiddle. And seeing as how Faquarl played him like a fiddle, Quentin Makepeace probably counts. Hell, just about every magician counts.
Stockholm Syndrome: Ammet to a T. Let's face it, there's no other reason anyone would like Khaba.
Summon Bigger Fish: At the end of the prequel, Bartimaeus does this using Solomon's Ring to get rid of Ammet.
Summon Magic: Magicians pretty much run exclusively on conjuring and binding demons into doing their bidding. There are also magical artifacts, but pretty much all of them work by either containing a spell inside of something, or outright trapping a demon inside an object.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Any time Bartimaeus and Nathaniel work together without a pentacle; actually a subversion, as Bartimaeus would have killed Nathaniel if there hadn't been other parts in the agreement to stop it... Or so he insist.
"You'll notice I'm calling you John Mandrake now... the boy who was Nathaniel's fading, almost gone."
In the middle of book three, Ms. Lutyens outright tells Nathaniel that he is no longer the boy who was grateful to her and leaves in disgust.
Then finally, at the end of book three, Nathaniel tells Kitty his birth name, and no longer goes by Mandrake, looking at how he used to be with disgust.
To a lesser extent, Kitty. She considers giving one of her false identities to the junior magicians... and realizes she doesn't need to.
Tricking the Shapeshifter - When Kitty tries to use this on Bartimaeus, he laughs at the idea that he would fall for one of The Oldest Tricks In The Book. He notes, however, that had the trick worked it would have been a very powerful binding charm since he would have imprisoned himself of his own free will.
Trilogy Creep: It was a trilogy, then along came the announcement of a prequel.
Two-Part Trilogy: The second and third books are more connected in theme, plot, and character than the first to the second.
Underside Ride: Bartimaeus does this in the second book, having just escaped imprisonment and needing to flee in a hurry. Made somewhat easier for him in that he can transform into a small and very spiny impling who has no trouble sticking to the car.
Unknown Rival: Twelve-year-old Nathaniel -> Simon Lovelace in Book 1.
Volleying Insults: Bartimaeus and Nathaniel at their most childish - i.e. most of the time.
Voluntary Shapeshifting: Bartimaeus and the other spirits, though the number of shapes varies,and Kitty while in The Other Place, though she's not very good at it. Djinn seem to have the most diverse forms, with lower-level spirits lacking the imagination and high-level spirits being somewhat mode-locked due to their own power.
Weak, but Skilled: Bartimaeus, relatively. Djinn are in the middle in the hirearchy of conventional, commonly summoned demons (behind afrits and marids). He's a moderately strong djinni, but is weaker than Faquarl and Jabor in an all-out fight, not to mention anything stronger. He gets by with his wits and running away at appropriate times, especially as he grows progressively less strong in Book 3 from being continually summoned. As djinn are the most powerful demon likely to be summoned, with afrits and marids being a sign of Oh Crap levels of power, he's often moderately outclassed.
Weaksauce Weakness: Spirits and silver/iron - but somewhat justified in that they are alien to earth and everything connected to it causes them discomfort (like we get from fire because we are alien to it). It's part of traditional folklore that silver and iron weapons are effective against supernatural beings.
We Are as Mayflies: Bartimaeus claims to avoid becoming attached to his human masters because he knows he will inevitably outlive them.
What the Hell, Hero?: Bartimaeus calls Nathaniel on this every time, though Nathaniel rarely seems to get the point. It is open to interpretation whether Bartimaeus actually cares or just gets his kicks seeing Nathaniel squirm.
Would Hit a Girl: Played with. In the opening of The Ring of Solomon, the magician Ezekiel grows annoyed with Bartimaeus's cheek and threatens to pummel him with a punishment called the "Essence Fist." "You'd hit a woman?" asks Bartimaeus, who is wearing a sultry female guise at the moment.