Friday, 11 September 2009
The Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud
This is the second book in the Bartimaeus Trilogy. The young magician John Mandrake, aka Nathaniel, has grown up a bit since his first adventure with the demon Bartimaeus. He has since moved in with a more competent magician and has risen in status and power. He’s well on his way to a successful career in the ministry. That is until the Resistance starts wreaking havoc in London and Nathaniel is forced to call up Bartimaeus to help him solve his latest problems.
Stroud does something a little unexpected with his characters in these books. You start reading them thinking that it will be the same as per usual, as in the kind of thing we all like. You’re expecting the underdog little magician to become your favourite character and you want to root for him the whole way. With Nate, you really just wind up feeling a bit like he’s an old friend who’s gone really wrong and you either want to save him, or, if that’s not possible, distance yourself from him as fast as possible. His new role in the ministry, his obvious talent and his fame have all gone to his head. He’s become pure ambition and all thoughts of altruism or morality have basically left him. Time and time again you hope he’ll do the Right thing, but he disappoints every time. You slowly start to feel like he’s a sticky bit of candy you’ve got stuck to your shoe and would dearly like to get rid of.
On the other hand, Stroud re-introduces the minor characters of Kitty, Stanley and Fred in this novel and delves into the Resistance. He shows the flip side to the wizards rule and you wind up rooting for the “enemy”. This reinforces the hope that Nate will finally get a grip on himself and realize how wrong the world has gone and do something about it.
Stuck between these two worlds is Bartimaeus. He, too, would like to like Nate and has hopes for him, but his sympathies, when he can scrape himself together enough to think about having sympathies for anyone but himself, are with Kitty and the Resistance. Still, Nathaniel manages to force him into another bargain and he must hold to his end of the deal.
I really liked this book. Again, yes, it’s a children’s book, but I think it looks at things from a fresher angle and I’m interested to see where Stroud goes with it. I’m still holding out hope for Nate, although less and less as time goes on. Still, nothing has been decided and there’s still time. Plus, Bartimaeus and his sarcasm are just really good, plus Kitty turns out to be a very likeable character.
This one gets a 5 out of 5 for me. What makes it a 5 and not a 4? I think what really kicks it up there for me is not only that it’s a good story with lots of action, excitement and interesting themes, but Stroud didn’t dumb down the vocabulary just because it’s aimed at children and young teens. I want to high five him for that alone. The best way for kids to learn is when they’re having fun and we could use more of that and not less. Go Stroud.