Thursday, June 14, 2007

Revisiting the Bartimaeus Trilogy With BDT

Well, young BDT put me to shame as a reader recently.

I gave him the first and third portions of The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud and told him I had the second book, The Golem's Eye, but hadn't read it yet. It would be his as soon as I finished it.

Well, he immediately finished the first book, The Amulet of Samarkand, couldn't wait for me to read The Golem's Eye (which I hadn't even started), and ran out and bought another copy. Then, of course, he whipped through the third book, too.

Our young(er) reader thought the first book was "excellent" and the whole series "fantastic."

"Perhaps it is because I read them back to back to back," BDT speculated, "but I cannot recall another series that I thought flowed as well as this one did. The growth of the characters, especially Nathaniel, was amazingly well written."

BDT raised an interesting point. He compared Nathaniel in these books to Harry Potter. "Nathaniel was a Harry Potter with an attitude that I liked as well." In a later e-mail (He sent me three on these books.)he again compared Nathaniel to Harry "if he had Draco Malfoy's...attitude. Cocky, desperate to impress, and not afraid to backstab if need be." He also described Nathaniel as moving back and forth between Harry and Draco.

Now, at first I didn't agree with him at all because, as my faithful readers know, I'm not wild about Harry. But while I in no way want to suggest the Bartimaeus books are derivative (their world is far more inventive and unique than the one Rowling creates in her books), perhaps Nathaniel could be described as a much, much darker Harry Potter. He's a child magician on his own in a cut-throat world, one in which the magical realm isn't separate from the human realm but has taken it over and subjugated it. In the Harry Potter books, Draco is pretty much just a cardboard schoolyard bully. But in Stroud's world only a fully realized Draco could survive.

The demon Bartimaeus is the closest thing Nathaniel has to a moral guide and all that keeps him from tumbling right over into evil. Bartimaeus is a far more subtle and sophisticated character than Harry's Dumbledore.

So what did I think of the second book in the series, The Golem's Eye, when I finally read it? Well, I found the sections told from Kitty's point of view a little dull. She's a much more exciting character in the third book than she is in the second. And I thought the book was a little weak on golem, when you consider it's mentioned in the title. I found the political stuff a little murkier in this book, too.

But my reading of the first two books in the trilogy has always been undermined by the fact that I read the third, and perhaps the best, first. I can only imagine what a great experience it must have been for BDT reading these books in order.

No comments: