It’s a good book for a weekend read. First of a three book series, known as "The Bartimaeus Trilogy", its a book that you can pick up, and keep running with it unless you’re done with it. The pace of the book is so good that you will anyways end up running with it.
A fantasy novel set in London, the book operates in a world which is controlled by magicians that control djinns, afrits and imps, and their incantations, summons, curses are the source of their power. In this world, where the control of power is so important and malicious that this power, through an explicit rule, is not transferred through generations. It is transferred to someone outside the family whose previous identity is erased before he/she is molded into becoming a magician. In such a world, Nathaniel, adopted by a weak magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Arthur Underwood, as his apprentice, summons Bartimaeus, to avenge the insult handed out to him by Simon Lovelace. But the whole plan unravels itself as he finds himself getting deeper into a very dangerous game against a very formidable foe. Let me not spoil it all by telling you the story here.
Trivia: Surprisingly enough, the Djinn in this novel, Bartimaeus, derives his name from a biblical character of the same name. However, that Bartimaeus was a blind beggar healed by Jesus Christ, and he later became a follower of Christ.
The book can be read for its imaginative storytelling, extremely fast pace, simple characters (the author does not bother with too many sub-levels of characterizations), true to its genre, and his away from the realms of everyday reality. Yes, it confirms to my check list of what defines a good book.
But I would qualify the simple characterization bit. It holds, unless you start thinking about the book at the third or the fifth plane, as Bartimaeus would have said.
The book can be seen drawing a lot of parallels with modern world, where the commoners are being controlled by magicians (wicked politicians who can’t even be true to their master, and change loyalties at the drop of a hat), who know how to control the djinns and afrits (the powerful governmental organizations that can but never fight back because of the stronghold of charms - (money?)). Some of the more powerful afrits like Ramuthra can cause a rummage, a disturbance at elemental level (Watergate scandals, et al.). Even the mildly powerful but intelligent djinns like Barthameus (the intelligence departments) can be controlled (Late Indira Gandhi would know that!), but can cause the downfall as well. The Tower of London can crush the imaginativeness and powers of all powerfull djinns. Every powerful magician has own djinns and afrits. Pity, the novel does not talk about the commoner’s life. Though it does talk about a “resistance”.
Additionally, there are a lot of references to history (Ptolemy, Disraeli, etc.), contemporary places (Tower of London, Westminister hall) and so on.
I am sure I will discover more as I read through The Golem's Eye and Ptolemy’s Gates.
Good work Jonathan Shroud! It’s a good read.