As they say, wisdom can be obtained from unlikeliest of places. This was exactly what I was thinking as I stared at the author’s note in the last page of ‘Ptolemy’s Gate’.
The trilogy was suggested to me by a certain junior of mine who happened to be a die-hard Harry Potter fan. I don’t mean to say that the Potter series is not good or anything; just that seeing an entire generation of children grow up reading only HP series (and nothing else) yet calling themselves ‘avid reader’, there’s only so much trust you can place in their judgement. But reading this series opened my eyes. Before I picked up the Bartimaeus Trilogy, I had discarded the fantasy genre from my preferred list. Reading Tolkien, Rowling and C.S. Lewis had pretty much convinced me that the good old genre could no longer surprise or amuse me. This book proved me otherwise.
The story is basically the adventures (and misadventures) of a boy, called Nathaniel, and a djinni, who calls himself Bartimaeus, set in London in an alternate history. Magic is used freely, especially by magicians, who are, thus , powerful and rule over the commoners ( those who cannot use magic ). The author, Jonathan Stroud, brings about the narration primarily through the point of view of Bartimaeus, Nathaniel and a rebel commoner called Kitty Jones. Stroud is very careful in explaining the mechanics and the nature of the magic he introduces in his work. This was the first time that I was coming across such level of detail and I was completely floored. It wasn’t about simple wand waving and muttering of magical mumbo jumbos. There were delicate rituals involved, powerful enough to grant you fabulous fortune, but even the slightest mistake would simply leave a mess with a lot of you in it.
I have never come across such detail till Brandon Sanderson. That itself should endear itself to readers fascinated with magic. But thats not the clincher. its the characters. In Bartimaeus, the entire series finds the fulcrum which every good story needs. Bartimaeus’ dry, sardonic style is one thing that no one can ever forget. He is that one reason that you simply can’t put the book away. Nathaniel’s narrative reflects the working of the mind of a guy who wants revenge, power, glory and companionship all at the same time. His character would be the most rounded among the three main characters, constantly changing and maturing along the way. Kitty is an idealist rebel who wants to do good for the commoners by freeing them from magicians. Though she styles herself as a freedom fighter she learns it the hard way that the world has no place for idealists.
Though classified as children’s fiction, I really don’t see the ‘children’ in this, other than the fact that two of the three main characters are in their teens. But what with their dark humor and characters dropping dead left and right (unlike the “real children fictions”, where teenagers carry sword and wear armour, and most importantly – no one dies other than the bad guy and his minions), anyone can read this.
I suggest you grab a copy as fast as possible, you can’t say that you have gone through your teenage and haven’t read this one.
I don’t think that I am going to rate any books hence forth, especially in numbers. Seems rather immature.