Demon extraordinaire, Bartimaeus, is stuck as a spirit slave doing dead-end jobs in King Solomon’s Jerusalem. The shame of it! Solomon’s ring of legend, which affords its master absolute power, has a lot to answer for.
But the arrival of an assassin girl who has murder on her mind, things start to get…interesting. Throw in a hidden conspiracy, seventeen deadly magicians and some of the most sinister spirits ever to squeeze inside a pentacle, Bartimaeus is in trouble. He’s going to have to use every ounce of magic in his ever-shifting body to wiggle his way out of this one.
Due to other commitments, it’s taken me a while to get through this book. It became something I could leave untouched for a while, read a page or two, before forgetting about again. Mostly down to my studies (which brought with it an ever-growing reading list), but in part as a result of the setting. Although in keeping with djinn origins from Arabian mythology, I’m not on for historical-type novels. The other books within the Bartimaeus sequence (previously Trilogy), are set within the modern day, and offer a more realistic approach to modern wizards than other children’s books I could name!
This brings me to a point of contention I have with these novels. They’re beautifully written, include an extensive vocabulary with unique, witty characters. Having them side-lined purely as ‘children’s books’ limits their readership, which, given the chance, has the potential to be wide-reaching.
Bartimaeus is by far one of my favourite literary characters. He’s sarcastic, self-righteous and endlessly funny. No other protagonist has been so engaging through use of first person narrative (not to mention footnotes!) ultimately able to carry a reader through novel after novel via strength of his personality alone. Humour and character development are definitely the strengths of this novel, as the reader can empathise as much with Asmira’s plight as Bartimaeus’s – both being strong willed and assertive, while existing within a similar slave-role. Stroud is attentive to Asmira’s own backstory, and there are genuine moments of rooting for her success, while ultimately remaining on the side of our favourite djinn. I loved Ammet for being more than a stereotypically evil spirit, in the same way we are shown some insight into Solomon’s true nature. Complex characters are Stroud’s forte, bringing the story to life and ensuring fans like myself buy anything with Bartimaeus in the title, because that alone tells us it’s going to be a great read.
As mentioned already, my preference is for the modern-day setting of the trilogy, but I feel the only thing that possibly lets this novel down, is the pace leading up to the more dramatic sections of the book. Understandably character and plot development isn’t a thing to be rushed, but I felt the first half of the story could have progressed quicker, with introductions between Bartimaeus and Asmira happening sooner.
The Ring of Solomon works well as a sort of companion piece to the original trilogy. It can be read after the first three books or before, but on its own if you don’t want to commit yourself. Regardless, every fantasy lover should definitely give the Bartimaeus books a try, without question.
Loathe to give less than full marks, my rating for the Ring of Solomon is: