Book Review: The Golem’s Eye

I had posted the review of The Amulet of Samarkand quite some time back with a promise to finish the remaining two books of the The Bartimaeus Trilogy and come back with their reviews.

So, I did finish of the other two books – The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gates over the last couple of weeks. Would I recommend? Yes. But read the complete trilogy. If you have to read just one, stop at AoS, even though PG is the best. But a lot of things in PG won’t make perfect sense unless you have read the previous two books!

Let me review the second book, The Golem’s Eye first. And then, I will start reviewing PG.

Review : TGE

Golem’s Eye is probably the worst book of the trilogy, despite being far from getting classified as a bad book. The problem with TGE is that it gives you the feeling of being a filler. Something like the several filler episodes of Naruto while Sasuke is growing in strength at Orochimaru’s castle, and Naruto is growing in Konoha. To show the growth, you need to show something happening at Konoha which is helping all the Ninjas grow.



Plot (Skip this if you are planning to read the book – Doesn’t contain spoilers, but what the heck!)

Back to TGE, the book starts off a few years after book 1, Nathaniel/John Mandrake is a prominent person in the Government’s scheme of things. However, his status and safety is under threat, as a Golem is unleashed on the city of London, by God knows who! Nathaniel, under uberpressure from all angles, turn backs to the Djinn he had thought of not summoning again, and who continues to be his best bet, Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is full of his wise quips and antics as the two set out to solve the dual problems of Resistance & Golem that the city of London is grappling with.

Kitty, the cursory encounter with whom had left a deep imprint on both Nathaniel and Bartimaeus, makes a strong comeback as a Resistance member with an ideological/honest side. The resistance rises, gets crushed, and Kitty along with a couple of other people survives to set the stage for book 3 – PG.

The conspiratorial angle of magicians, power leading to corruption, and an innate honesty saving the day are still the main themes of the book. The allegories to modern day and historical politics/world are fairly visible. I am surprise how books like these find their way in the children’s section of bookstores. The hidden layers after layers of satire and metaphors is not something that I expect children to understand. Having said that, I think the story in itself is quite a generous dose of fantasy for children to enjoy!


My views

Where the book suffers is the shallowness of the conspiracy which does not get matched with the thickness of the book. The book could have been finished off in half the number of pages. It becomes a drag at times with all the details around things that sound better when narrated at a frantic pace. For instance, the scene at Gladstone’s tomb should definitely have been shortened, given the surge of emotions that every character would have been going through.

Good things about the book –

  1. Bridges the gap between AoS and PG nicely.
  2. The story has elements of fantasy which are nice (Golem, as a concept is quite intriguing)
  3. Nathaniel finally moves on from being the hero to the dark guy (for a big part of the novel).

Bad Things about the book –

  1. The pace
  2. There aren’t as many sub-plots in the story to wrote a 300 page book
  3. Could’ve explored Kitty’s character a little better
  4. The book has chapters narrated from the eyes of Kitty, Bartimaeus and Nathaniel. There can be chapters narrated from the evil guys’ eyes as well!
  5. While the book is titled the Golem’s Eye, Golem (I found Golem to be a very exciting concept) isn’t given a good amount of importance in a book which is more about the war between Magicians and Resistance

Back to my rating mechanism (mentioned in this post), the book holds true to 2 of the 4 parameters – attention to detail, loyalty to genre, and fails to deliver the ultimate punch on two of them – pace and content. I won’t go to the extent of saying it failed on the content. It’s the right content, but not sufficient!

Overall – Read the trilogy. It is very very gripping!

Book Review: Amulet of Samarkand

Its by a stroke of luck that I chanced upon the book (well, you can’t chance upon something good just like that, unless luck is on your side!)

It’s a good book for a weekend read. First of a three book series, known as “The Bartimaeus Trilogy“, its a book that you can pick up, and keep running with it unless you’re done with it. The pace of the book is so good that you will anyways end up running with it.

A fantasy novel set in London, the book operates in a world which is controlled by magicians that control djinns, afrits and imps, and their incantations, summons, curses are the source of their power. In this world, where the control of power is so important and malicious that this power, through an explicit rule, is not transferred through generations. It is transferred to someone outside the family whose previous identity is erased before he/she is molded into becoming a magician. In such a world, Nathaniel, adopted by a weak magician in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Arthur Underwood, as his apprentice, summons Bartimaeus, to avenge the insult handed out to him by Simon Lovelace. But the whole plan unravels itself as he finds himself getting deeper into a very dangerous game against a very formidable foe. Let me not spoil it all by telling you the story here.

Trivia: Surprisingly enough, the Djinn in this novel, Bartimaeus, derives his name from a biblical character of the same name. However, that Bartimaeus was a blind beggar healed by Jesus Christ, and he later became a follower of Christ.

The book can be read for its imaginative storytelling, extremely fast pace, simple characters (the author does not bother with too many sub-levels of characterizations), true to its genre, and his away from the realms of everyday reality. Yes, it confirms to my check list of what defines a good book.

But I would qualify the simple characterization bit. It holds, unless you start thinking about the book at the third or the fifth plane, as Bartimaeus would have said.

The book can be seen drawing a lot of parallels with modern world, where the commoners are being controlled by magicians (wicked politicians who can’t even be true to their master, and change loyalties at the drop of a hat), who know how to control the djinns and afrits (the powerful governmental organizations that can but never fight back because of the stronghold of charms – (money?)). Some of the more powerful afrits like Ramuthra can cause a rummage, a disturbance at elemental level (Watergate scandals, et al.). Even the mildly powerful but intelligent djinns like Barthameus (the intelligence departments) can be controlled (Late Indira Gandhi would know that!), but can cause the downfall as well. The Tower of London can crush the imaginativeness and powers of all powerfull djinns. Every powerful magician has own djinns and afrits. Pity, the novel does not talk about the commoner’s life. Though it does talk about a “resistance”.
Additionally, there are a lot of references to history (Ptolemy, Disraeli, etc.), contemporary places (Tower of London, Westminister hall) and so on.

I am sure I will discover more as I read through The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gates.

Good work Jonathan Shroud! It’s a good read.

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