Reviews: The Bartimaeus Trilogy

It's not as good as Harry Potter...'s far, far better! I looked through my HP books a while back and I remembered why I forgot the series after book 3: the tepid hero with a messiah complex, the god awful pace and Jordanian length, climaxes requiring little of the hero doing anything, the excessive reliance on Deus Ex Machinas and the Power of Love, everything beyond book 3.

The Bartimaeus Trilogy, however, struck me as a better told story using similar tropes and conventions. This story is also about a boy raised to be a magician but the magicians here are utter bastards who rule the country. Our main character, Nathaniel, starts off with a goal in mind; to get the better of these smug bastards. To do this he summons the djinni Bartimaeus and orders him to steal a priceless artifact off another magician. What follows is a fantasy thriller filled with suspense and intrigue. Often hilarious and witty yet also exceedingly dark, what makes this series for me is the change the characters undergo. Nathaniel starts off as the underdog but he eventually becomes the magician he hates. Bartimaeus may be a 5000 year-old untrustworthy djinni in a magical world full of bastards but even he exhibits good qualities. Kitty, a commoner, gives us perspective on what it's like being beneath class-wise under magicians.

The trilogy is best read as three volumes of the one story although each book is strong on their own right. The djinni Bartimaeus is your traditional smartass and he narrates his own chapters while Nathaniel's are told in third-person. The supporting cast aren't going to win any awards but they do the job and they don't completely overshadow the main characters. One great aspect of the story is that the author doesn't cheat when it comes to the payoff. You won't notice the foreshadowing the first time you read but it's all there in hindsight. There are Chekhov's guns ahoy but in the end it's the characters who drive the story.

And on a final note the ending is incredible. All isn't well but it's bittersweet.