January 13, 2011

Bartimaeus is back!

Bartimaeus: The Ring of Solomon
by Jonathan Stroud

The irreverent and irrepressible djinni  returns in an excellent prequel to Stroud's best-selling Bartimaeus trilogy.

This time, Bartimaeus is working for a magician named Khaba, who is overseeing the construction of King Solomon's temple. Ordered to build the temple without magic, it doesn't take long for Bartimaeus to mess things up and get he and his fellow djinnis fired. They are reassigned to the more miserable job of hunting bandits in the desert. While there, Bartimaeus crosses paths with Asmira, who works for the Queen of Sheba. An assassin, Asmira is to kill King Solomon to prevent his impending attack on her country. She must also try to steal his ring, which houses an immensely powerful spirit.

Asmira and Bartimaeus make a very entertaining and formidable team. Together they create enough havoc that will enamor any fan of action, magic and the supernatural. For a brief taste of Bartimaeus' appeal, here's an excerpt from his journal:

First signs of enemy action. Late-morning, I spot an imp sitting on a distant post-box, watching me scrub the porch. To my annoyance it is laughing hugely. Make a move for it, but it scarpers. Take the guise of a wasp and lurk among the camellias.

Mid-afternoon comes. The garden is hot and drowsy. Spy three suspicious butterflies flitting over hedge. Check the planes. Yep, small foliots, arms flapping wildly. Wasp rises up behind them, shoots down out of sun, zaps them with Infernos, one, two, three. Burning butterflies crash-land in pond. Alert master to my triumph. She inspects charred fragments. Her scowl deepens; turns out they were her slaves, returning with valuable information. Another Spasm.

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