May 28, 2011

Indie Reviews: The Amulet of Samarkand TPB

The Amulet of Samarkand TPB
Publisher: Corgi Books/Random House
Writers: Jonathan Stroud & Andrew Donkin
Artist: Lee Sullivan
Colorist: Nicolas Chapuis
All-ages read- $17.95

Every once in a while, a book comes along and is not only a fun read, but almost flawless. The Amulet of Samarkand was definitely one of those reads for me. The protagonist of the story is Nathaniel; well, he and Bartimaeus are both main characters. Nathaniel is a young magician’s apprentice, and has the skills to one day become a great magician, maybe even one of the elite. He summons a demon or Djinni to do his bidding. The Djinni is Bartimaeus, and he’s not very pleased that he was disturbed by an apprentice. Once Bartimaeus realizes that this apprentice is more than just a novice, he obeys the youth, and goes on his mission. The task is almost a suicide mission, though, as he is ordered to steal a magical artifact from one of the most powerful magicians, Simon Lovelace. You see, years earlier, Lovelace humiliated Nathaniel, and now, he wants revenge.

OK, no kidding, this book is all kinds of awesome. It’s like a combination of Dr. Strange and Etrigan the Demon, with Merlin as the villain. The book is very multifaceted. There is a very complex relationship between Nathaniel and his master. It seems to Nathaniel that his master will never respect his abilities, no matter how much he accomplishes. His master’s wife is another person that Nathaniel has a connection with from early on. She’s a typical mother hen type that is constantly trying to make Nathaniel’s life as comforting as possible. Even if it displeases her husband. Another fascinating bond is one that develops over the course of the book between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. Of course, at first they are at odds, but they grow to respect one another by the story’s end.

The story had some other great moments aside from the relationships, though. The part where Nathaniel takes his new name (every magician does when they reach the point of becoming a magician) was quite endearing. It signified his not only becoming a man, but his own man as well. The magical aspects of the book really blew me away, too. The writers (Stroud & Donkin) did an exceptional job at creating something not superficial, but very deep. Spells, artifacts, dimensions, levels of magical prowess, you name it, this book has it.

I must say that I was taken by surprise at a death in the book. I really didn’t think in a million years that one of the main characters would die, but then it happened, and I was stunned. I thought at first it might be an illusion, but it wasn’t. And the fact that it stood as a “real” death made this book an even better read, because it made you get attached to it on an emotional level. By the end of the book, you really do feel like the characters are not just players in a great book, but real people.

Now, as far as the artwork goes, the one word I would use to describe it first and foremost is detailed. The scenes in London are amazing, not to mention the characters themselves. The best portrayals were definitely Nathaniel’s master and wife. They were the perfect older couple and looked the part for sure. The master has an aged look about him that really makes you believe he’s been through every life experience possible. Throughout the book, Bartimaeus changed form several times. A spider, a reptile, a bird, and so forth. Every time he changed form, the artist (Lee Sullivan) nailed it. The really remarkable pages, though, were the ones of London. One in particular, of Big Ben, was absolutely breathtaking.

In closing, I would urge anyone out there that’s looking for a high quality book, that has a little bit of everything in it – humor, magic, action, and so on – to give this a chance. I couldn’t see how it would be possible to not enjoy this book. For more on Bartimaeus click here!

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.

Billy Dunleavy



  1. Nicholas

    It’s funny this was made. I thought the original novel completely read like it could have been a graphic novel. Funny ol’ world isn’t it?

  2. Billy

    @Nicholas- Great foresight! 😀

  3. This seems like a cool book. i’m going to have to check it out.

  4. Billy

    @Nick- You’d enjoy it. Anyone that enjoys well written books, with great art will. I especially enjoyed it though for the magical aspects. I actually saw part 2 in this series of novels today in a book store. I’ll wait for the graphic novel though…I need pictures, like a caveman. 😀

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