The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud is one of my favorite series so I was really excited when I found out that he wrote a companion novel for it. The Ring of Solomon is set in 950BC, thousands of years before the trilogy but it still has the obnoxious djinni Bartimaeus as one of its main characters.
Here’s the summary from The Ring of Solomon’s official website:
King Solomon the Great, ruler of ancient Israel, is admired and feared by all thanks to an all-powerful magic ring, with which he can command vast armies of spirits. One of his slaves is Bartimaeus, who (typically) is none too pleased about it, but things only get worse for him when he meets Asmira, a young Sheban girl sent to Jerusalem on a secret and deadly errand. Featuring an all-new setting, one or two old acquaintances, and Bartimaeus at the height of his powers, The Ring of Solomon is the most action-packed Bart book so far.
Bartimaeus is back, with his trademark wit, humor and impudence. In the world created by Jonathan Stroud, demons are slaves to magicians who summon them from the Other Place. They are forced to accomplish tasks that usually involve prestige for their masters. There are many kinds of demons and Bartimaeus isn’t even one of the most powerful. He more than makes up for it in his own cunning way and has even served several powerful masters. In The Ring of Solomon, he serves Khaba the Cruel, who is one of King Solomon’s seventeen magicians. Bartimaeus is in a bind because Khaba is a strict master and he doesn’t get to create mischief as often as he wants. Also, he’s stuck on earth when every demon craves to go back to the Other Place because prolonged stay on earth drains a demon’s essence. Things become even more complicated for Bartimaeus when he meets Asmira, a personal guard of the Queen of Sheba, sent to accomplish a seemingly impossible task.
Fans of the Bartimaeus Trilogy will be delighted by this installment. What’s good about it is I think it works well as a standalone. This would serve as a good introduction to anyone who’s curious about Jonathan Stroud’s work but is unwilling to take on a series. It has all the elements that made me thoroughly enjoy the trilogy – an action-packed plot spiced with plenty of humor (and lots of footnotes care of Bartimaeus’ storytelling). The story is told from alternating points of view – in this case, Asmira’s and Bartimaeus’. Asmira’s strength lies in the military arts – she’s been trained her whole life to protect the Queen of Sheba at all costs. She has very limited experience when it comes to handling demons but she has to learn how to deal with Bartimaeus when she reaches a crucial aspect of her mission. It’s funny how fascinated Bartimaeus is of certain humans – their motivations, their character, their determination – and how that fascination eventually leads to his involvement in something bigger. This one reads like a historical fantasy as opposed to the modern setting of the trilogy, which is enjoyable because you get to see Bartimaeus (and even some other comrades) in a different setting. All in all, a very satisfying read and just what I needed when I felt like reading something fun during the holidays. Recommended for fantasy fans or anyone who’s interested in hilarious narrators.