Monday, April 4, 2011

The Ring of Solomon (A Bartimaeus Novel) by Jonathan Stroud

The Ring of Solomon (Bartimaeus #4)Bartimaeus, everyone's favorite (wise-cracking) djinni, is back in book four of this best-selling series. As alluded to in the footnotes throughout the series, Bartimaeus has served hundreds of magicians during his 5,010 year career. Now, for the first time, fans will go back in time with the djinni, to Jerusalem and the court of King Solomon in 950s BC. Only in this adventure, it seems the great Bartimaeus has finally met his match. He'll have to contend with an unpleasant master and his sinister servant, and runs into just a "spot" of trouble with King Solomon's magic ring...

First Look: ***** First, let me explain something.  This is actually the fourth book in the Bartimaeus series, but it takes place before the trilogy, and you don't have to have read the trilogy to understand enjoy it.  The only leg-up you get from having read the trilogy is that you know what happens at the end of Ptolemy's Gate.  That is one of the most fantastic endings ever.  Okay, enough with that...The cover is really, really awesome.  And in real life, it's shiny!  Very shiny!

Setting: *****  
I have this thing for ancient civilizations. Don't ask why; I have no idea. And I love how the spirits were incorporated into that ancient world.

Characters: *****  
I love Bartimaeus.  I really do.  How can you not love a centuries-old, seen-it-all, wise-cracking djinni?  He's so incredibly self-centered, but yet in a strange way he's selfless.  I loved how Asmira made him doubt his self-centered-ness and hatred of humans.  Have you ever read a book where the main character hates everything about humankind?  It's an interesting read, just for that reason.  Asmira also had a lot of depth, especially at the end.  The other characters were hilariously one-sided, but that was how they were supposed to be, and hey, it worked!

Plot: ***** 
I was liking it up to the end.  Then it started to fall flat and lost quite a bit of its believability.  If the ring was hurting him so much, why did Solomon hang on to it?  And then why was he so eager to give it away as soon as Asmira showed up?  What?  And then he wanted it back, or did he?  I'm not sure.  And why didn't he even care when they burned the palace?  Nobody seemed to care about that except the walls themselves.  And how could he not have noticed that false taxes his magicians were putting on other countries?  I saw that coming twelve miles away!  And then at the end, the characters all just seemed to get off too easy, and they could start rebuilding their happy little lives.

Uniqueness: ****
I've never read a book with djinnis before this series.  Especially not like these.  But let's see...a magic ring, the Ring of Power, so to speak.  It has almost infinite power.  It hurts the wearer and destroys them inside.  Hmm, that does sound a bit familiar, now that you mention it.  (Hint: not Slytherin's Locket, though that thing does get people down and make them angry.  Think about a book series that's even more epic...)

Writing: *****  
Footnotes!  That's one of the best reasons to read this book.  It's got footnotes!  They are hilarious.  And they really don't take away from the story, or distract you from it like I initially thought they would.  The author does a really good job with Bartimaeus' voice, too.

Likes:
The footnotes, as mentioned above.  And the wittiness.  

Not-so-great:
Nothing that hasn't been mentioned up there.  Although, I must say I missed Kitty.  And maybe Nathaniel.  But probably not Nathaniel.

Total Score: *****
Fans of the Bartimaeus trilogy will really enjoy this, as well as new fans.  Again, you'll still enjoy this book if you haven't read the trilogy (but if you haven't, you should!).  It was funny and clever, with a supernatural creature you don't see too often in YA books these days.  Also, there's the excitement, and the footnotes, and the utterly lovable main character, Bartimaeus.

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