The Ring of Solomon
by Jonathan Stroud (Hyperion, 416 pp.)
Bartimaeus, everyone’s favorite (wise-cracking) djinni, is back in book four of this best-selling series. As alluded to in the footnotes throughout the series, Bartimaeus has served hundreds of magicians during his 5,010 year career. Now, for the first time, fans will go back in time with the djinni, to Jerusalem and the court of King Solomon in 950s BC. Only in this adventure, it seems the great Bartimaeus has finally met his match. He’ll have to contend with an unpleasant master and his sinister servant, and runs into just a “spot” of trouble with King Solomon’s magic ring….
I am a big fan of the Bartimaeus Trilogy (see here) so when I saw a new book featuring this great character had been released I scooped it up and read it as soon as I could (as part of a larger focus on YA fantasy as you shall see).
The challenge for a book like this is whether it can stand up to the high expectations a prequel often faces – another book in a beloved series can often feel slapped on or more about marketing than reading.
In that sense, The Ring of Solomon didn’t disappoint. It was the same great character in a new setting and with a fun new plot.
The interesting thing about this book is in fact its stand along nature. Sure, the background you pick up on magic, magicians, there interactions with the world, etc. from reading the earlier books could be helpful but is in no way necessarily. Fans of Bartimaeus will enjoy another adventure but you don’t need to have any knowledge of the trilogy to enjoy this fourth book.
An Bartimaeus is his old self: snarky, arrogant, completely incapable of staying out of trouble, and yet with a generous and compassionate streak. But it is the character of Asmira who really propels the story and ads the intrigue. She gives the book some weight that it wouldn’t have otherwise.
The story takes a while to get its bearings as it sets the scene with Bartimaeus, the other demons and magicians and the setting/time period but once it gets rolling the pace quickens and the plot thickens. The last quarter of the book in particular is great stuff.
Obviously, fans of the series will want to add this to their collection and will enjoy another adventure with their favorite djinn. But for those who haven’t yet read the longer series this would actually make for an useful introduction.
So either way a great gift for the young adult reader.
As a bonus here is the author discussing the book: