The Bartimaeus Sequence is a series of children’s novels of alternate history, fantasy and magic. It was written by Jonathan Stroud and consists of a trilogy published from 2003 to 2005 and a prequel novel published in 2010. The eponymous character, Bartimaeus, is a five-thousand-year-old djinni, a spirit of approximately mid-level power. The story follows the career of a teenage magician Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, whom he has summoned and nominally controls through the alternative history of the peak of London’s domination as a magical oligarchy.
As the books progress, three story arcs become evident. The largest and overarching plot line is the rise and fall of London as a global authority. The second and third are more personal: the boy changing from the pitiful, yet noble, Nathaniel, to the power-hungry, arrogant John Mandrake and finally earning back his humility and nobility; and the third, involving Kitty and Bartimaeus. In the third story arc, Kitty proves her faith to Bartimaeus by doing something only one non-demon had ever done (Ptolemy) when she goes to the Other Place. John Mandrake (Nathaniel) also shows unusual courage and loyalty as he dismisses Bartimaeus, when surely they were going to die, eventually saving the life of a demon. They end up restoring each other’s faith in their races.
Each of the three books is named for a magical artifact or spell: the Amulet of Samarkand, named after the city of Samarkand in Uzbekistan, renders the wearer invulnerable to magical attacks; a Golem’s Eye is an enchanted piece of clay in the form of an eye that when placed in the forehead of a Golem, enables one to control the golem; Ptolemy’s Gate, named for ancient Greek astrologer and mathematician Ptolemy of Alexandria, is a method that enables a human to enter the realm of spirits.
The first book in the series, published 2003, introduces Nathaniel as the gifted 12-year-old apprentice of a middle-aged mid-level magician, Arthur Underwood. He assumes a magician name John Mandrake to protect him from rivals who would wish to harm him. When the magician Simon Lovelace cruelly humiliates Nathaniel in public, Nathaniel decides to take revenge by stealing Lovelace’s most powerful possession, the Amulet of Samarkand. The Amulet makes the wearer invulnerable to magical (but not physical) attack. Unknown to his tutor, he begins the study of advanced magic in order to summon the djinni Bartimaeus and enslave him. Bartimaeus soon overhears Nathaniel’s birth-name, which greatly reduces Nathaniel’s control over him, because demons can then cast counterspells. Things soon get out of hand and Bartimaeus and Nathaniel find themselves caught in the middle of magical espionage, murder, blackmail, and revolt. Together, the two of them defeat Lovelace and his most powerful demon, Ramuthra, who was last seen destroying an entire nation. These actions ended an uneasy truce between the young magician and Bartimaeus, resulting in the demon returning to whence he came.
Published in 2004, the second book picks up two years and eight months later and features Nathaniel as a junior magician working his way up the government ranks. In this book Kitty Jones is introduced as an important character. She is a part of the Resistance movement which seeks to end the oppressive rule of the magicians. Nathaniel is tasked by his superiors to crush the Resistance and capture the members. His task is complicated when a seemingly invulnerable clay golem starts to make random attacks on London. Much to the displeasure of Bartimaeus, Nathaniel recalls the djinni to aid him in uncovering the origins of the golem and to save his own skin. In the end, the golem is revealed to have been created by Kavka, a Czech magician, and animated by Henry Duvall the London chief of Police.
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In the final book of the series, published 2005, Nathaniel is a senior magician and despite his extreme youth, a member of the ruling council, an elite class of magicians in the government. Bartimaeus is still trapped on Earth by Nathaniel and is treated with disdain, continuously weakening as he is not allowed to return to the Other Place. Meanwhile, Kitty Jones has been hiding undercover and completing her research on magic and spirits. She hopes that this will enable her to break the endless cycles of conflicts between djinn and humans. The main plot of this story is a conspiracy to overthrow the government which causes the most dangerous threat in the history of magic. Together, Nathaniel, Bartimaeus and Kitty try to save the city of London from this dangerous threat.
Bartimaeus reveals to the reader the presence of an endless cycle wherein magicians summon spirits, magicians rule over commoners, spirits spread magic throughout a city, some of the commoners gain a resistance to magic, the commoners rebel against the magicians, the magicians are overthrown and the spirits return to the Other Place until another magical empire rises to dominance. This cycle proves to be the main plot, which culminates in the overthrowing of London. Bartimaeus makes references to other magical empires, such as Baghdad, Rome and Egypt, all of which have fallen from dominance as well.
The Ring of Solomon revisits the universe created in the Bartimaeus Trilogy, although the setting shifts from modern London to Jerusalem, 950 BC. It follows the djinni’s adventures during the reign of King Solomon, who was frequently referenced in the footnotes during the trilogy. It was released in the United Kingdom on 14 October 2010 and in the U.S. on November 2, 2010. The story revolves around the troubles Bartimaeus faces after attending to one of King Solomon’s magicians, Ezekiel. Bartimaeus tricks his master into stepping out of his circle. In doing so, the magician breaks all protective barriers and is dealt with by Bartimaeus. Upon hearing this, King Solomon demands that Bartimaeus be brought to justice at the hands of Khaba the Cruel, a truly feared magician who shows no kindness to his servants. Khaba has a loyal Marid servant named Ammet who, alongside Khaba, works to overthrow Solomon and seize control of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Asmira, captain of the guard of Balkis, Queen of Sheba, has been sent by her Queen to assassinate Solomon.